Is the Autonomous Workspace the Future of Employee Experience?

Business models have evolved over the past few years. Although many are opting for a hybrid approach, there are still numerous changes and challenges, including:

  • Always available connectivity.
  • Robust security.
  • Ensuring employee well-being and productivity.

“One salient word is resilience,” said Shankar Iyer, senior vice president and general manager of VMware’s End-User Computing Group, to the audience gathered for the Explore the Future keynote at VMware Explore 2022.

“Organizations need to build mental toughness, but also tremendous technological resilience,” he said. “To do that, you need the right technologies that enable that organizational transformation into that resilient workplace culture.”

At companies like FedEx Express, the work is in full swing.

FedEx “START App” designed for employee engagement

To customize the employee experience, the logistics company developed and launched the FedEx START app to guide an individual’s journey from candidate to hire and through the employee lifecycle.

Brandon Tolbert, vice president of FedEx Express and a 25-year veteran of the company, shared with attendees at the VMware Explore session how his own interviewing experience with the company fueled innovation. After a disinterested manager turned Tolbert away, a second manager — then a college student — got involved and offered him a job starting the next day.

“I felt like I found my place,” Tolbert said. “He treated me with respect and gave me the sense of culture I was looking for and I’ve never looked back.” Tolbert wants that for every FedEx employee.

VMware’s Shankar Iyer (left) and FedEx Express’ Brian Tolbert discuss employee culture and empowering digital employee experiences at VMware Explore US in 2022.

“Today’s challenge is how do we fill that second manager in a digital world? How do we deliver it to every single applicant, every single employee? We built that with our new app,” Tolbert explained.

In a digital workplace, the company now regularly reaches people with the information they need, when they need it. For example, candidates receive messages about where they are in the application process. Once in the position, new hires begin receiving messages about benefits and opportunities for growth within the company.

VMware assisted FedEx Express with the project by providing:

  • The secure and trusted mechanism for how the company interacts with its employees.
  • The action logic integration that provides an advantage in learning behavior.
  • Integration with other third-party solutions as we continue to evolve for agility.

“What’s great about it is that it has this behavioral science piece to it,” Tolbert explained. “(Staff) lead their own journey through this, and it’s not one size fits all.”

The FedEx START app also includes a survey feature that allows the company to take employee pulses on a regular basis. Tolbert is particularly excited about this because he believes it will give his organization “the ability to look ahead, take proactive steps and play the offensive; to go into the markets or into the organizations of our 100,000+ employees and really solve problems before they become really big problems.”

The early-stage program leveraging VMware technology is expected to scale to each employee and have a major impact. Tolbert, who remains linked to this second manager to this day, hopes he is jeopardizing that leader’s energy.

Imagine the power we could gain from each employee with that kind of dedication and commitment to the company. The safety of our employees will improve, our service to our customers will improve, our profitability and efficiency will all improve because we have a workforce that is truly dedicated and makes you feel at home.

Brandon Tolbert, FedEx Express

Autonomous workspaces drive innovation

Not only agility and the ability to adapt are crucial for organizations developing into resilient cultures, but also freedom of choice and the preservation of creative cultures. In order to be more innovative, companies are increasingly turning to IT system intelligence and automation, especially in the workspaces they employ.

Iyer said: “84 percent of the companies surveyed recently1 increased those automation investments.” He noted the growing importance in a world where competition for top IT talent is making it harder for companies to find the right technologists.

Within VMware end-user computing, the “North Star” is the autonomous workspace, Iyer said. This next-gen platform “will help an organization essentially move to a model where a lot of the work is done by the intelligence of the system using data science, machine learning, and classic AI technologies.”

The autonomous workplace has three characteristics:

  1. self-configuring: It uses context and data (e.g. users, apps, devices, etc.) to automatically configure the workspace.
  2. self-healing: It automates and fixes an experience issue with app patching, for example.
  3. Self-locking: Depending on the context, it applies the right policies and access, thereby helping to improve the security posture in a given situation.

Experience and safety come first at Sentara Healthcare

Three-quarters of recently surveyed companies prioritize the digital employee experience.2 The Autonomous Workspace is designed to help organizations find the perfect balance between experience and security.

“We trusted VMware Workspace ONE, Remote Desktop Service Host (RDSH) early on,” said Matthew Douglas, Sentara Healthcare’s chief enterprise architect, during the VMware Explore keynote. “We were the first to introduce the RDSH workspace program in healthcare. It was so stable. It was so reliable. And one of the things during COVID – sending all of our remote workers, 15,000 people (clinicians and non-clinicians) home – was part of using this platform to immediately expand it to have the staff go home and can get out of the way.”

I can actually say that I save people’s lives by being able to react, and VMware has helped us save those people’s lives.

Matthew Douglas, Sentara Healthcare

As an early cloud evangelist, Douglas is optimistic about its potential. “The coolest part of the cloud is data interoperability, sharing data between everyone. Now we’re not isolated in our data center,” he said. “We have the ability to share large data sets with other health organizations like the CDC or the NIH. I now work with colleges and universities that do clinical research at the point of care. The cloud is the most secure and isolated way to establish data interoperability and share data globally.”

From left: Bharath Rangarajan, VMware GM and VP of End-User Computing Products, joins Matthew Douglas, Sentara Healthcare Chief Enterprise Architect during the VMware Explore keynote.

To deliver the autonomous workspace, Bharath Rangarajan, vice president of products and general manager of the VMware VDI business, presented the four pillars and updates for VMware Anywhere Workspace solutions:

  1. Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)
  2. Virtual apps and desktops
  3. job security
  4. Digital employee experience

Successful employee experiences require organizations to take a holistic view of all employee touchpoints — IT, apps, and services — Rangarajan said. And VMware UEM addresses them all with a four-pronged framework that includes employee experience delivery via Workspace ONE Intelligent Hub, measurement, derived insights and computational data such as the new Employee Experience Score, and remediation actions.

“This holistic approach is creating what the industry is calling a shift-left culture in organizations — more of a proactive support model that catches problems much earlier in the cycle,” Rangarajan said.

VMware facilitates hybrid work model implementations with advanced automation

As announced at VMware Explore US 2022, innovations in virtual desktop infrastructure, digital worker experiences, unified endpoint management and workspace security offerings are helping IT do more with less. Click here to learn more.

1. Vanson Bourne. Preliminary results of hybrid work research, August 2022.
2. Forrester Consulting. “Optimizing the Digital Employee Experience for Work Anywhere,” April 2022.