For many organizations, COVID-19 has triggered a remote working revolution. While there are many benefits to working remotely, there are also plenty of drawbacks.
If your business is going to thrive in this new era of remote working, change is essential. For many organizations, this means introducing new tools, applications, and experiences that are designed to promote employee productivity, wellbeing, and communication regardless of whether your staff are working from the office, or remotely.
To help support this new way of working, Microsoft has just announced their Viva employee experience platform (EXP). This platform aims to improve the employee’s experience across many of the key areas where businesses are currently struggling.
In this article, we’ll explore four of the biggest challenges facing employers and employees in 2021. We’ll then show how each of Viva’s modules are designed to help you tackle this specific problem, and rise to the challenges of navigating the post-pandemic economy.
1. Lack of Employee Training
No company wants to lose their best employees, but replacing any member of staff comes at a cost.
The Society for Human Resource Management estimates the average cost of replacing an employee is between six and nine months of that person’s salary. If an employee is earning $60,000 per year, you can expect to run up a bill of $30,000-$45,000 in recruitment and training costs.
There are many factors that can influence an employee’s decision to stay with your company. However, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would be willing to stay in their job longer, if you offered them learning and development opportunities.
By investing in employee training, you can potentially save your business thousands of dollars. However, finding the time to dedicate to staff training isn’t always easy. Currently, the average employee spends only 1% of their working week on training and development.
Microsoft Viva’s Learning takes a unique approach to this problem. This Viva module makes training resources available in the locations where your employees already spend a good portion of their working day – inside Microsoft Teams.
Viva Learning turns Microsoft Teams into a learning hub. This provides a centralized location where your employees can discover, share, and access content libraries that would otherwise be spread across your organization.
Viva also promises to help managers identify and address the skill gaps within their teams. These managers can use Viva to assign learning to their staff and then track the status of those assignments without ever leaving the Teams UI.
By making learning a natural part of the employee’s work day, Viva promises to make learning accessible to even the busiest employees. This can help you create a company culture of continuous staff training, and ensure you don’t lose your best employees to your biggest competitors.
As part of their Viva Learning initiative, Microsoft is partnering with some of the leading staff training providers. In addition to your company’s existing training materials, Viva Learning integrates with Skillsoft, Coursera, Pluralsight, and edX. You can even play LinkedIn Learning courses directly in Microsoft Teams using the LinkedIn Learning embedded player.
Learning management system providers Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba, and SAP SuccessFactors have also announced their intention to integrate with Viva Learning. If you’ve purchased content from any of these learning management providers, your staff will be able to access this content from the familiar Microsoft Teams interface.
In addition to providing a standard search function, Viva Learning displays recommended content in a personalized view. This View uses insights from Microsoft Graph to locate content that’s relevant to that specific employee. This promises to put a wealth of highly relevant training at every single employee’s fingertips.
Viva Learning is due to be released later this year, but you can sign up now to learn more about this project.
2. Vital company data spread across multiple platforms
Chances are that your company is generating a wealth of valuable information. However, this data is often spread across multiple sources, for example in wikis, SharePoint websites, Excel Online documents, and inside Microsoft Teams conversions.
When information is scattered across disparate sources, your employees may struggle to locate the information they need. According to research, 60% of employees have difficulty accessing data that’s vital for their work. This can have a disastrous impact on productivity.
Viva Topics is an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solution that promises to help your employees find relevant, actionable information. These AI algorithms automatically identify content and conversions in the applications that your employees use every day. Viva Topics will then automatically organize this information into related topics, such as products, processes, customers, and projects.
You also have the option to guide these algorithms, by creating a topic manually. Viva will then attempt to populate these topics with relevant content. This can be a great way to ensure that Viva’s AI algorithms are searching for exactly the information that matters to your organization.
Regardless of whether a topic is created manually or automatically, you can update any of Viva’s topic cards and pages. This means that your staff can work alongside Viva’s AI algorithms and machine learning capabilities, to co-author high-quality, informative resources.
To help your employees access this information, Viva Topics will display topic cards inside relevant Microsoft 365 applications. This should help your staff discover knowledge in the context of their natural workflows, rather than having to refer to a separate application or searching an external resource such as a knowledge base.
Data collection and sharing applications such as Viva Topics can raise concerns regarding privacy. To help you retain control over your data, Viva Topics has built-in security and compliance features. This includes the ability to apply restrictions on the scope and availability of information that’s shared by Viva Topics.
3. Low levels of employee engagement
Keeping your employees engaged has always been vital to running a successful business. However, the COVID-19 pandemic means that your workforce may have spent the majority of 2021 working remotely. They may even be working from home for the foreseeable future, due to ongoing restrictions or concerns regarding health and safety. In these challenging circumstances, businesses need to work harder than ever before to keep their employees engaged.
The Microsoft Viva Connections module is designed to help promote a positive company culture, encourage connections between your employees, and improve overall employee engagement.
Microsoft describes Viva Connections as a “modern engagement experience.” This innovative solution provides each of your employees with a personalized, company-branded location. Here, they’ll find tools, news, and conversations that Viva has chosen specifically for them.
Similar to other Viva modules, this content appears in the applications that your employees use everyday. Rather than requiring your staff to check an external resource or master a new application, Connections attempts to make engagement a natural part of the employee’s working day.
Microsoft is expected to roll out Viva Connections in Spring 2020. If you want to boost employee engagement today, check out these three Power Automate workflows for improving communication amongst your remote teams.
4. Burnout, stress and poor mental health
Working from home has many benefits. However, there are some drawbacks particularly the blurring of work and home life. According to a recent survey, 51% of respondents said they worked outside of their contracted hours during the pandemic. This has inevitably taken a toll on employee well being.
According to experience management experts Qualtrics, nearly 70% of employees have reported rising stress levels and 40% suffered from reduced mental health throughout 2020. If left unaddressed, this can result in employee burnout – in fact, a recent study found that 76% of US employees experience burnout.
As a responsible employer, you have a duty of care to your employees. However, there’s evidence to suggest that promoting a positive work-life balance isn’t just the right thing to do. Companies that prioritize the employee experience are 25% more profitable and twice as innovative compared to businesses that don’t invest in their staff’s emotional and mental health. Businesses that work to enhance wellbeing also significantly outperform their peers in both earnings and stock appreciation.
The Viva Insights module aims to help businesses improve overall productivity and wellbeing. This module provides data-driven, privacy-protected insights and recommendations regarding employee habits and behaviors.
For employees, Viva Insights will identify ways that the individual can change their work habits, in order to support their emotional and mental wellbeing. For example, Viva will provide actionable recommendations on how the employee can adjust their schedule to accommodate regular breaks. Over time, these recommendations can encourage your employees to develop better work habits.
For managers, Insights will highlight behaviors that are putting their team at risk of stress and burnout. This includes regular after-hours work, and meeting overload.
For business owners, leaders, and other key stakeholders, Insights can provide de-identified aggregate data. This information can help these stakeholders identify opportunities to improve wellbeing and productivity across their organization, and can also highlight any serious business-wide problems.
You can install the Viva Insights application in Microsoft Teams today. An initial set of personal insights is also available in public preview for Microsoft Exchange Online. Manager and leader insights are available in public preview for licensed Workplace Analytics customers.
In addition to providing insights in Microsoft Teams, there are plans to integrate Microsoft Workplace Analytics and Microsoft MyAnalytics. According to Microsoft, you can expect additional wellbeing experiences in the coming months. This includes an integration with meditation and mindfulness experts Headspace, and the previously-announced virtual commute feature. At Systems Assurance, we understand that many businesses are eager for ways to promote a positive work-life balance during these challenging times. To help combat the blurring between work life and home life, we’ve published a Power Automate template that emulates the upcoming Microsoft virtual commute feature. This workflow can help your staff prepare for work, and wind down after a busy day.