Anywhere WorkspaceCategory5 min read

Is the Autonomous Workspace the Future of Digital Employee Experiences?

VMware Staff

The past several years evolved companies’ work models. Although many are settling into a hybrid approach, changes and challenges still abound, including:

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

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

“Organizations have to build mental fortitude but also tremendous technology resilience,” he said. “To do that, you need the right set of technologies that enable that organizational transformation into this resilient workplace culture.”

At companies like FedEx Express, the work is well underway.

FedEx “START App” Built for Employee Engagement

To customize its employee experience, the logistics company created and rolled out the FedEx START App to guide an individual’s journey from candidate to new hire and through the employee lifecycle.

Brandon Tolbert, vice president at FedEx Express and now a 25-year veteran of the company, explained to the VMware Explore session’s attendees how his own interview experience with the company jumpstarted the innovation. After one disinterested manager turned Tolbert away, a second manager engaged with him—a college student at the time—and offered him a job that started the next day.

“I felt like I had found my place,” Tolbert said. “He treated me with respect and gave me that sense of culture that 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' Brandon Tolbert talk employee culture and empowering digital employee experiences at VMware Explore U.S. in 2022.

“The challenge today is how do we bottle that second manager in a digital world? How do we deliver it to every single applicant, every single employee? That's what we've built with our with our new app,” Tolbert explained.

In a digital workspace, 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 they have the job, new employees begin to receive messages about benefits and opportunities for growth within the company.

VMware helped FedEx Express with the project by providing:

  • The secure and trusted mechanism for the company to interact with its people.
  • The action logics integration, which provides an edge on learning behavior.
  • Integration with other third-party solutions as it evolves for agility.

“The great part about this is that it has that behavioral science piece to it,” explained Tolbert. “(Employees are) leading their own journey through this, and it's not one-size-fits-all.”

The FedEx START App also includes a survey capability that allows the business to regularly take the pulse of employees. Tolbert is particularly excited about it because he believes it will give his organization “the ability to kind of be predictive, take proactive steps and play offense; to get out into the markets or the organizations within our 100,000+ employees and really solve problems before they become real big problems.”

Still early, the program leveraging VMware technology is expected to scale to every employee and make a big impact. Tolbert, who stays connected with that second manager to this day, hopes it bottles that leader’s energy.

Imagine the power that we could capture with every employee having that type of dedication and engagement within the business. The safety of our employees is going to improve, our service will improve to our customers, our profitability and efficiencies will all improve because we have a workforce who is truly engaged and feels like they are home.

Brandon Tolbert, FedEx Express

Autonomous Workspaces Drive Innovation

Not only are agility and the ability to adapt critical for organizations evolving to resilient cultures, so too are freedom of choice and preserving creative cultures. To be more innovative, companies are increasingly leaning into IT system intelligence and automation, particularly in the workspaces they’re deploying.

Iyer said, “Eighty-four percent of recently surveyed organizations1 were increasing these automation investments.” He noted the growing importance in a world where the competition for top IT talent makes it harder for companies to find the right set of 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 work is done through the intelligence of the system using data science, machine learning and classic AI technologies.”

The autonomous workspace has three characteristics:

  1. Self-configuring: It uses context and data (e.g., user, apps, devices, etc.) to automatically configure the workspace.
  2. Self-healing: It automates and remediates, for example, an experience problem with app patching.
  3. Self-securing: Depending on the context, it applies the right policies and access, helping improve the security posture of a particular situation.

Experience & Security Top of Mind for Sentara Healthcare

Three quarters of organizations recently surveyed are making digital employee experience a priority.2 The autonomous workspace is designed to help organizations find that perfect balance between experience and security.

“We trusted VMware Workspace ONE, Remote Desktop Service Host (RDSH), way early on,” said Matthew Douglas, chief enterprise architect from Sentara Healthcare, during the VMware Explore keynote. “We were the first to deploy the RDSH workspace program in healthcare. It's been so stable. It's been so reliable. And one of the things during COVID—sending all of our remote workforce, 15,000 people (clinicians and non-clinicians) home—part of it was leveraging that platform to extend that immediately for employees to go home and be out of harm's way.”

I can actually say I save peoples’ lives by being able to respond, and VMware helped us save those peoples’ lives.

Matthew Douglas, Sentara Healthcare

An early cloud evangelist, Douglas is bullish about its potential. “The coolest part of cloud is data interoperability, sharing data among everyone. Now, we're not siloed into our data center,” he said. “We have the ability to share large data sets across other healthcare organizations like the CDC, the NIH. I'm working with colleges and universities now that are doing clinical research at the point of care. Cloud is the most secure, isolated way to do data interoperability and exchange data around the world.”

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, showcased the four pillars and updates to  VMware Anywhere Workspace solutions:

  1. Unified endpoint management (UEM)
  2. Virtual apps and desktops
  3. Workspace security
  4. Digital employee experience

Successful employee experiences require organizations to broadly look at all employee touchpoints—IT, apps and services, said Rangarajan. And VMware UEM is addressing all of them with a four-pronged framework that includes employee experience delivery through Workspace ONE Intelligent Hub, measurement, derived insights and compute data such as the new Employee Experience Score, and remediation.

“This holistic approach engenders in organizations what the industry calls a shift-left culture—more of a proactive support model, detecting problems much earlier in the cycle,” Rangarajan explained.

VMware Eases Hybrid Work Model Implementations with Advanced Automation

As announced at VMware Explore U.S. 2022, innovations across virtual desktop infrastructure, digital employee experience, unified endpoint management and workspace security offerings help IT do more with less. Click here to learn more.

1. Vanson Bourne. Hybrid work research preliminary results, August 2022.
2. Forrester Consulting. “Optimizing Digital Employee Experience For Anywhere Work,” April 2022.