How to Become a Successful Change Leader in 8 Steps

Humans are hard-wired to avoid change, but you’re never going to achieve success by standing still! 

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, the difference between failure and success often lies in an organization’s willingness to change. If you fail to adapt to meet the customer’s demands and market trends, then your business will struggle to survive. 

Change can be daunting, but as a business leader it’s your responsibility to guide your team through this process. Strong leadership can mean the difference between successfully implementing long-term change, and remaining stagnant. 

To help you become a driving force for change, we’ve created an 8 step leadership plan. By following these simple steps, you can guide your team through even the most challenging of transitions, with minimal stress and disruption. 

1. Identity tangible goals 

Every business needs to adapt in order to survive, but not all change is beneficial – or even meaningful! It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that just because you’re adjusting your business processes, introducing new technologies, or making other changes, you’re innovating. 

If there’s no clear end-goal and no measurable results, then this kind of aimless, perpetual change is a surefire way to demoralize your workforce. When their workplace is constantly changing but achieving nothing tangible, your team will start to view change as a pointless endeavour. This attitude will completely undermine your current project, and set it on the road to failure. 

A solid business plan can help you avoid this kind of aimless change. When creating your plan, it’s vital to identify measurable, tangible goals. 

When you have a clearly-defined end-point, your workforce can see how each small change is bringing the business closer to that goal. It’ll also be clear when the change management project has come to fruition, and your team can congratulate themselves on a job well done. 

2. Imagine the worst case scenario 

A clear plan can set your project up for success. However, there’s always a chance that you’ll encounter problems and unforeseen circumstances along the way. 

Regardless of the challenges you encounter, as a leader it’s your responsibility to maintain control over the situation, and provide clear guidance to all team members. 

While it’s impossible to foresee every eventuality, it helps to consider the various scenarios that are likely to arise – particularly the worst case scenario! During the planning phase, it’s a good idea to consider all the different issues, conflicts, and other challenges that you may encounter. You can then explore how you might resolve these problems.

This mental exercise can put you in a strong position to navigate any issues that do occur during the change implementation process. 

3. Have the confidence to discard your plan 

A detailed, well-researched plan is essential for starting your project on the right track, but circumstances can change. For example, a sudden shift in the market may mean that your original goal is no longer as desirable as it once was. 

There’s also a human aspect to any change management project. As a leader, it’s your job to keep your staff engaged and enthusiastic about the change. 

During implementation, it’s smart to keep in close contact with your staff, including requesting their feedback and suggestions. Their input may reveal that an alternative implementation would be better accepted amongst your workforce. 

The path to successful innovation is rarely set in stone. As a change leader, you should be confident enough to adjust your plan, if the alternative promises to deliver better results. This may seem like admitting defeat, or returning to square one. However, pushing forward with a plan that’s no longer right for your business, rarely returns the best results. 

4. Share your goals with the wider workforce 

Even positive change has the potential to disrupt your business, and often results in a short-term drop in productivity. Here, clear communication is crucial for minimizing the negative short-term impact of change implementation. 

During the planning phase, you should have identified clear, measurable goals. It’s important to ensure your workforce are aware of these goals, by placing them at the heart of all your communications. This helps your team appreciate why the change needs to occur, even if it causes short-term disruption. 

When your workforce are aware of the promised results, they’re more likely to support the planned change. Getting your workforce onboard and enthusiastic about the process, is essential for driving successful change. 

By communicating these goals to your employees, you can also ensure that everyone is working towards the same end-point. This can help you avoid the misunderstandings and confusion that can derail even the best-laid plans. 

5. Involve your team every step of the way 

In all your communications, you should aim to be transparent and thorough. It may also help to walk your team through your decision-making process, so they understand the logic behind the proposed change management plan. 

These discussions are also a great opportunity to ask your team for their input. This will encourage your staff to feel a degree of ownership over the change, which can be a powerful factor working in your project’s favor.

We also recommend keeping in close contact with your employees throughout this period of transition. Over time, employee interest and motivation may start to wane. By continuously inviting your team to offer their feedback and suggestions, you can help maintain a buzz around your project. 

It also helps to keep your employees up-to-date on how your project is progressing. In particular, we recommend celebrating every milestone. This might be “low hanging fruit,” or major goals that you achieve at the six and twelve month marks. 

By communicating these victories, you can continuously reinforce the fact that your project is on track, and keep staff morale sky high. 

6. Identify and activate you change advocates 

As a leader, you’re instrumental for driving change. However, it’s practically impossible for any one person to implement meaningful organization-wide change. 

A big part of successful leadership is identifying individuals who can become your change advocates. These people are vital for encouraging other employees to get onboard with the change. These advocates can also help maintain employee morale throughout the period of transition. 

By identifying and activating your change advocates early, you can get maximum value from these key players. Wherever possible, it’s a good idea to involve your advocates in the planning process, as this will boost their feeling of ownership and commitment to the change. 

Your advocates can also help with the day-to-day practicalities of implementing meaningful change. As a leader, chances are you already have a jam-packed schedule. By delegating tasks to your enthusiastic change advocates, you can free up more time for the activities that actually require your leadership, including decision-making. 

Since you took the time to ensure your advocates felt a sense of ownership over the project, you can be confident that they’ll take their assigned tasks seriously. However, ultimately you’re still responsible for driving the change, so it’s important that you’re on-hand to answer any questions and provide guidance where required. 

7. Identity potential change saboteurs 

In an ideal world, your change advocates will have no problems motivating your entire workforce. In reality, they’ll likely encounter at least a few employees who are resistant to change. 

As a leader, it’s your job to identify these potential saboteurs and prioritize getting them onboard with your project. Here, it may help to involve them in the planning process, for example requesting their feedback. This will encourage these employees to feel a sense of ownership over the change, and a responsibility to ensure your project is a success.

After creating this initial spark of engagement, it’s important to nurture it throughout the transition period. This may involve periodically requesting the employee’s input and feedback, or tasking your change advocates with keeping a close eye on these change skeptics. 

8. Manage your expectations 

Planning is an essential part of any change management project. However, if you have unrealistic targets then you may be setting yourself up for failure. 

If your expectations are too high, then you risk compromises and low-quality work as your staff rush to meet deadlines. This sloppy approach will result in ineffective change. 

Alternatively, unrealistic targets may result in missed deadlines. This can have a negative affect on employee morale, and even your loyal change advocates may start to question your leadership. A successful leader should motivate their workforce – but also manage expectations. 

Meaningful change is almost always disruptive. This means it’s important to prepare for a short-term negative impact on your team’s performance and productivity. Here, it helps to set realistic expectations about what your team can deliver during the transition period. 

This can be a tricky balancing act. If you set expectations too high, then you risk demoralising your team when they inevitably fall short of their target. However, if you’re too lenient then your team may struggle to remain motivated. 

The key is to push your team to continue achieving good results during the turbulent transition period, without putting them under so much pressure that they begin to view the change as a disruptive force. This can be incredibly difficult to get right, so you may need to adjust your approach throughout the change management process.

3 Ways that Technology can Guarantee Return to Work Success

In many countries, people are starting to return to their physical places of work – but it’s not quite the same work environment we all remember. 

To keep your employees safe during this period of transition, you’ll need to make some changes! Some of these changes will be legal requirements, while others are crucial for helping your employees feel safe. 

In this post-pandemic landscape, employee expectations about the work environment have changed dramatically. As a responsible employer, it’s your job to meet these expectations. 

COVID-19 was a huge challenge for businesses of all shapes and sizes. However, the return to work has the potential to be just as tough. If you’re concerned about overhauling your business yet again, then we’ve got you covered. 

In this post, we’ll look at how technology can be your secret weapon in facilitating a safe return to work. We’ll even show you how to boost employee engagement, during a time where your competitors may be struggling to even navigate this challenge. 

Managing the return to work: Turning a challenge into an opportunity 

Returning to the office may be a daunting prospect, but it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate that you care about the safety and wellbeing of your staff. After so many months spent working remotely, it’s understandable that your employees may feel stress, anxiety, and uncertainty about returning to the workplace. 

According to a recent report, 88% of UK companies agree they have an emotional duty of care to their staff. By taking a people-first approach to this latest challenge, you can immediately put your staff in a more positive mindset. 

Keeping your employees happy isn’t just the right thing to do, it can also deliver tangible benefits for your business. A happy employee is going to work harder and stick around for longer, so you won’t have to waste time and money finding their replacement. Hiring a single employee can cost a business up to $4,129, so keeping your staff happy should always be a top priority. 

By using technology to support a safe return to work, you can present yourself as a responsible employer who truly cares about the health and happiness of your staff. This can be an effective way to transform your stressed and anxious employees into engaged staff members who are eager to return to work. 

Let’s look at three ways that technology can facilitate a smooth and stress-free transition into the new normal. 

1. Socially distanced scheduling made easy 

Social distancing is a big concern for many businesses. To help your employees maintain a safe distance, you may need to limit how many people are onsite at any one time. This might mean staggering the days when employees are expected to come into the office, and when they can work from home. You may even need to implement structured shift patterns. 

Creating a schedule can feel like a juggling act at the best of times. However, the added pressure of limiting the number of people onsite can quickly turn this frustrating task into an outright nightmare. 

Even worse, the concept of scheduling may be completely new to your business. If you previously offered flexible working hours, then your attempts to implement a schedule may be particularly chaotic – not to mention unpopular! 

And there’s more: with the pandemic still disrupting our daily lives, your employees may need to make last minute shift change requests. For example, if the local school closes due to a COVID-19 outbreak, then you may find yourself with a list of employees who suddenly need to work from home due to childcare commitments. This can throw your carefully-constructed schedule into chaos, as suddenly you don’t have enough onsite staff to keep your factory or shop open. 

Here, an enterprise-grade scheduling application such as Microsoft Shifts is essential. This cloud-based app has everything you need to build a schedule, and assign shifts to your employees. Your staff can then access this schedule at any time, directly from their Microsoft Teams dashboard. 

As a cloud-based application, Microsoft Shifts is accessible regardless of geographical location. By using an app such as Shifts, you can be confident that your staff can access up-to-the-minute scheduling information, simply by logging into their Teams account. 

You can also use this app to create To Do lists, which you can then assign to specific shifts. This can eliminate the need for face-to-face contact between staff and managers. With Microsoft Shifts, the employee already knows what’s on the agenda, before they even arrive onsite.

Since managers can assign work remotely, they don’t even need to be in the same location as their team members. This can be another way to reduce the number of people onsite at any one time. 

During this period of transition, there’s an increased chance that employees may need to adjust their schedules. Making lots of last minute changes to your schedule doesn’t have to be a recipe for disaster! Microsoft Shifts has a clear system for submitting and approving shift change requests. As soon as you approve a request, the schedule will update automatically and your staff will immediately have access to this new information.

By default, you can view and approve shift change requests by logging into your Teams dashboard. However, currently you may be juggling a larger workload than normal. When you’re under pressure, it’s easy to forget to check Microsoft Shifts for new requests. 

To help you respond to requests as quickly as possible, we’ve created a Power Automate workflow for Microsoft Shifts. By deploying our simple workflow, you’ll receive an email or SMS notification every time an employee submits a shift change request. This can help you identify any problems with your schedule, and then resolve them as quickly as possible, so your business continues to run like a well-oiled machine. 

2. Keep the lines of communication open (and contact-free)

COVID-19 was a huge challenge for employers and employees alike. However, after months of working remotely, the return to work is another major challenge. 

Even with the best planning and strict safety precautions, your staff may still have some concerns regarding how you’re managing the return to work. It’s important to give these people a way to voice these concerns, and provide suggestions on how to improve the working environment. 

Modern communication tools such as Microsoft Teams have everything you need to keep the lines of communication wide open. This might involve arranging regular virtual meetings where your employees can make their voices heard, or digital Q&A sessions where staff can put their questions directly to the people responsible for managing the return to work. 

However, not everyone feels comfortable raising their concerns publicly. To help encourage more people to speak out, you can create surveys and questionnaires using a tool such as Microsoft Forms. To encourage honest feedback, you might also want to make these forms anonymous. 

3. Continue to support remote working 

The concept of working from home existed long before COVID-19. However, the global pandemic has brought remote working into the spotlight in a way we’ve never seen before. 

Prior to COVID-19, 99% of employees wanted the option to work remotely. After a long period of working from home, some of your staff may be eager to return to their physical place of work, and stay there. However, others may have a newfound appreciation for working from home. You may find that some of your staff are reluctant to return to their physical places of work on a full-time basis.

To help keep your staff happy and engaged, you may want to consider giving them the freedom to choose where they work. This might involve designated working-from-home days, or you may even give your staff the freedom to completely dictate their own schedule. 

By taking a more flexible approach, you can make it easier for your staff to juggle their responsibilities. This might involve working from home when their child is ill, or when they’re waiting for an important package to be delivered. With 45% of people spending over an hour commuting to work, your employees may also appreciate being able to skip the morning commute a few times each week. All of these small benefits can add up to a more engaged and productive workforce. 

You also shouldn’t assume that all your staff will feel safe returning to the office. Some people may be waiting for their vaccine, or care for a family member who’s still considered high risk. Forcing these employees to return to their physical place of work, is a surefire way to alienate them and destroy their overall productivity. 

If you do decide to offer remote working, then you’ll need tools that support this new way of working. Cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft 365 can ensure that all of your data and applications are accessible, regardless of your staff’s location. 

By implementing a cloud-based platform now, you can empower your workforce to work from the location (or locations) where they feel safest, and happiest – no matter what the future holds!

How to Build an Automated Vendor Onboarding Platform

Navigating new relationships can be complicated. 

Vendor onboarding can be a time-consuming process that involves everything from collecting basic contact information, right through to assessing vendor compliance and risks. 

Immediately, all of this admin can cost you in terms of lost hours and productivity. While you’re stuck in the onboarding process, you’re also not generating any profit from your new partnership. If you’re working with multiple new vendors simultaneously, then it can quickly start to feel like you’re spending all of your time trying to establish these partnerships – and very little time extracting any value from them. 

A smoother, more efficient onboarding process can ensure your new partnership becomes profitable in record time. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so a streamlined onboarding process can also help both parties set off on the right foot. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to automate the vendor onboarding process. By the end of this post, you’ll have created a Power Automate workflow that collects all the necessary information from your new vendor, and then triggers an approval workflow. We’ll even show you how to automatically create a new account for each approved vendor in your Azure Active Directory (AD). 

What we’ll be building 

In this tutorial, we’ll create a SharePoint site and list. Every time you want to onboard a new vendor, you’ll add an item to this SharePoint list, which will trigger the Power Automate workflow. 

We’ll also create an onboarding form where vendors can enter information about their company, including their contact information.

Whenever you add a potential new vendor to your SharePoint list, the Power Automate workflow will email this vendor with a link to your onboarding form.

When the vendor completes this form, it’ll start an approval workflow. You can then review the information the vendor has provided, and either approve or deny their application. 

Once you’ve made your decision, Power Automate will email the vendor notifying them whether they’ve been onboarded successfully, or whether their application has been denied. 

Create a SharePoint site and list 

Let’s start by creating a Microsoft SharePoint site and list. Every time you want to onboard a new vendor, you’ll add this vendor to your list, which will trigger the Power Automate workflow: 

  1. Log into your Microsoft SharePoint account
  2. Select “Create site > Team site.” 
  3. Give your site a descriptive name; I’m using “Vendor onboarding.” 
  4. Select “Next > Finish.” 
  5. Inside your site, select “New > List.” 
  6. Select “Blank list.” 
  7. Give your list a descriptive name, and then enter an optional description.
  1. Once you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, click “Create.” 

Create the vendor onboarding form 

As part of the onboarding process, you’ll often require some information from your new vendor. We’re going to collect this information via a Microsoft Form that you can simply email to each prospective vendor. 

You can customize this form to collect everything you need to know about your new partner. However, to keep this section short we’ll limit ourselves to collecting contact information, and provide a section where the vendor can enter some more information about their business. 

  1. Log into Microsoft Forms
  2. Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 
  3. Select “Add New.” 
  4. Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 
  5. You’ll typically want to start by collecting the vendor’s contact information. For each field, click “Text,” and then enter the label that you want to display above this field. For example, I’m creating fields for the vendor’s name, email address, telephone number, and postal address. Unless you have a specific reason not to, you’ll typically want to set these fields to mandatory, using the “Required” slider.
  1. You may also want to provide a section where the vendor can enter information about their goods and services, or even a bio that you’ll display as part of your “Official partners” page. You can add this section as a “Text” field, and then give the vendor more words to work with by enabling the “Long answer” slider.
  1. Depending on the information you want to collect, you can continue adding fields and sections. You can check how your form will appear to the vendor, by selecting “Preview.” Here, you can toggle between desktop and mobile preview, using the buttons that appear along the bottom of the screen. 
  2. You can add a Microsoft Form to your website using a QR code, link, or embed code. However, we want to make our form accessible via a special URL that we’ll share directly with potential vendors. To access this URL, click the “Share” button. 

Make a note of this URL, as we’ll be needing it shortly! 

Build the vendor onboarding workflow 

Now we’re ready to create our Power Automate workflow. In this section, I’ll create a simple workflow that generates an onboarding email every time you add a new vendor to your SharePoint list. This email will contain a link to the Microsoft Form we created in the previous step. 

Once the vendor submits their information, it’ll start an approval process. You can then deny or approve this item, and the vendor will receive an email notifying them of your decision. 

To build this workflow: 

  1. Log into your Microsoft 365 account
  2. Select the “Power Automate” app. 
  3. In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.” 
  4. Search for the following template: “Onboard new vendors through a form and approval process.” Select this template when it appears. 
  5. Read the description, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Continue.” Power Automate will now open this template for editing. 
  6. Let’s start at the top, with “When an item is created.” Click to place your cursor inside the “Site Address” field. When it appears, select the SharePoint site we created in the previous step. 
  7. For “List name,” select the list we created in the previous step. 
  1. Next, move onto the “Send on-boarding form URL” section. You can now create the onboarding email that we’ll send to prospective new vendors. However, make sure to preserve the link. 
  2. Update the “a href” section with a link to your Microsoft Form.
  1. Now, move onto “When a new response is submitted.” In this section, open the “Form ID” dropdown and select the vendor registration form we created in the previous step. ● Progress to the “Apply to each” section, open the “Form ID” and then select your vendor onboarding form.
  1. Scroll to the bottom of this workflow, and you’ll see the two emails that Power Automate will send depending on whether you approve or deny the onboarding workflow. You can customize these emails to meet your unique requirements. 
  1. After creating these emails, click Save. This workflow is now ready to use! Create an Azure AD account for new vendors 

Once a vendor is approved, you may want to add that person as a new user in your Azure AD. You can achieve this with a second Power Automate workflow, which will run every time a new vendor is added to your SharePoint list. This workflow will create an approval workflow to add this vendor to your Azure AD account. 

To run this workflow, you can either create a new site and list, or connect the workflow to the SharePoint site we created in the previous section. 

  1. In Power Automate, search for the following template: “Create a new user account in Azure AD for a newly approved vendor.” Select this template when it appears. ● Read the description, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Continue.” Power Automate will now open this template for editing. 
  2. On the subsequent screen, select the SharePoint site and list that you want to use. 
  3. Next, move to the “Start an approval” section. Here, you’ll need to specify the approval type. Sometimes, you may want to share vendor information with multiple people, for example your entire HR department. 
  1. If you require sign-off from all these people, then you can select “Everyone must approve.” Alternatively, if you only require approval from a single person, you can opt for “First to respond.” You can then enter the email address of everyone who will receive this notification. 
  2. At this point, you can also provide several canned responses that recipients can use. For example, you might give the responder the option to choose between “approved,” “approved, pending more information,” or “denied.” 
  3. You can create a custom response by selecting either “Custom Responses – Wait for all responses” or “Custom Responses – Wait for one response.” You’ll then get access to all the additional options you need, in order to create an automated response. 
  1. After entering this information, you can specify who can approve or deny this item. You might specify an individual email address, a generic department email, or use dynamic content to nominate a different contact, depending on how your organization is set up.
  2. You can now scroll to the bottom of this section, and customize the email that’s sent to any vendor who won’t receive an Azure AD account. 
  1. You can also specify the information that’s added to the vendor’s Azure AD profile.
  1. Once you’re happy with how your workflow is configured, click “Create.” Now, whenever a new vendor is added to this SharePoint list, it’ll kickstart a workflow that requests the creation of a corresponding Azure AD account. 

Get more free Power Automate workflows 

Do you want to save time and money, by automating other common businesses processes? Check out some of our other Power Automate workflows: 

Do 70% of Change Management Projects Really Fail?

If you’ve performed any change management research, then chances are you’ve encountered the following claim: 

70% of change efforts fail. 

This statistic is everywhere. In fact, if you Google the phrase “70% change failure rate” then you’ll get over 102 million results. This includes many articles published in respected, peer-reviewed journals. Change is hard, so why invest time and effort into something that the experts agree is almost guaranteed to fail? 

In this article, we’ll explore where this 70% statistic comes from – and why it has little basis in reality. We’ll then share some simple advice on how to combat the negative mindset surrounding change, so you can set your next project up for success. 

Reengineering the Corporation: An unscientific estimate 

While it’s difficult to find an exact source for this statistic, the earliest articles all seem to reference the Reengineering the Corporation book. Published in 1993 and written by Michael Hammer and James Champy, this book includes the following claim: 

“Our unscientific estimate is that as many as 50 percent to 70 percent of the organizations that undertake a reengineering effort do not achieve the dramatic results they intended.” 

Here, the authors clearly state that this is an unscientific estimate, rather than a well-researched fact. However, this guestimate really took on a life of its own in 1994, when the peer-reviewed Information Systems Management journal presented it as fact. They also put a more headline-friendly spin on this unscientific guesstimate: “50 percent to 70 percent” became a firm “70 percent.” 

Since then, this opinion has been cited as fact by many respected publications, including the Harvard Business Review. Interestingly, McKinsey seems to have deleted their The Inconvenient Truth about Change Management article, where they first presented the 70% statistic as hard evidence. 

Apparently concerned that his opinion was being misrepresented, Hammer attempted to set the record straight in The Reengineering Revolution. In this 1995 book he clearly states that: 

“In Reengineering the Corporation, we estimated that between 50 and 70 percent of reengineering efforts were not successful in achieving the desired breakthrough performance. Unfortunately, this simple descriptive observation has been widely misrepresented and transmogrified and distorted into a normative statement…There is no inherent success or failure rate for reengineering.” 

Change management’s 70% failure rate: Exploring other sources 

John Kotter’s book, Leading Change, is another widely cited source for the 70% failure rate. In this book, he states:

”From years of study, I estimate today more than 70 per cent of needed change either fails to be launched, even though some people clearly see the need, fails to be completed even though some people exhaust themselves trying, or finishes over budget, late and with initial aspirations unmet.” 

Here, the 70% failure rate is clearly another estimate, although it does seem to be based on personal research and first-hand experience. 

Another frequently-quoted source is the Harvard Business Review article, Cracking the Code of Change. Here, the authors state that:

“The brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail.”

However, they don’t provide any evidence to support this claim. 

So, is there any hard evidence to support the assumption that 70 percent of change management projects fail? 

The Journal of Change Management critically reviewed five published instances that identify a 70% failure rate. They concluded that:

“Whilst the existence of a popular narrative of 70 per cent organizational-change failure is acknowledged, there is no valid and reliable empirical evidence to support such a narrative.” 

While change is difficult and some initiatives will fail, there is no reason to believe that change management projects have a 70% failure rate. 

The real-world consequences of change management assumptions 

The widespread belief that the majority of change management projects fail, is particularly damaging as it plays into our natural negative bias. 

Research from Ed O’Brien and Nadav Klein at the University of Chicago found that we all assume failure is a more common outcome than success. We’re naturally inclined to perceive negative results as proof that something was always going to fail, while we dismiss positive outcomes as a lucky fluke. 

As part of this Tipping Point of Perceived Change study, participants were presented with statistics from a star athlete who had recently recorded worse scores than usual. The participants concluded that the athlete’s career had begun an irreversible downwards spiral. However, when presented with a season’s worth of statistics from a player who was performing better than expected, the same people dismissed this as a lucky streak. 

This mindset, when combined with the widespread assumption that most change management projects are destined to fail, can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Few projects run smoothly, so it’s natural to experience delays, setbacks, and missed deadlines. However, your employees are primed to view every minor issue as confirmation that the change was never going to succeed. 

Successful change management hinges on convincing your workforce to adopt the new tools, procedures, or experiences that you create for them. If your staff are motivated and enthusiastic about the planned changes, then immediately your initiative stands a far greater chance of success. If your staff are actively looking for evidence that your project is faltering, then they’ll quickly become less committed to the change. In this environment, your change management project is almost guaranteed to fail. 

Each unsuccessful change management project will serve as yet more evidence that these kinds of projects never end well. It will be practically impossible to motivate your staff when they’re convinced that the latest change management initiative is doomed, just like the last one. At this point, all of your attempts to implement positive change will likely be met by the attitude of “here we go again.” 

How to create a more positive change management narrative 

Change management can be complex and time-consuming, full of missteps and false starts. You may need to adjust your plans, or even rethink them entirely, especially if you’re following a highly-adaptive decision making model. However, this doesn’t negate the fact that most people who commit to change will succeed to some degree – you just need to communicate that fact to your workforce! 

When creating your change management plan, it’s important to build positive messaging into your communications. This may sound simple, but the Tipping Point of Perceived Change study found that it can have dramatic results. After reminding participants that people can improve with a little bit of effort, these people were quicker to notice changes for the better and more willing to overlook changes for the worst. 

You can strengthen your positive messaging by including real world examples. The great thing about change, is that it’s happening all the time. You should have no issues finding instances where your employees have implemented change successfully. This might be something as simple as mastering a new application, or a major change such as migrating to a new platform, or completing a staff training course. 

Highlighting these personal success stories can be a powerful way to put your employees in a more positive headspace where they’re ready to embrace change. 

It’s also important to identify and celebrate success, particularly if the change will take a considerable amount of time to implement. During the planning phase, it’s a good idea to identify (or even manufacture) achievable, tangible milestones. This might be “low hanging fruit” that you can resolve within a week, or major milestones that you can celebrate at the six and twelve month marks. 

By communicating these victories across your organization, you can continuously reinforce the fact that your project is on track. For this reason, once you’ve identified a milestone, it’s always worth trying to break it into smaller milestones. By creating lots of small wins, you can create a steady stream of positive press for your project, which will help keep staff morale high.

This can also be powerful ammunition that you can use against any naysayers – whether that’s employees who may be unusually resistant to change, or key stakeholders who are considering pulling their support for your initiative. 

If you don’t communicate positive progress, then your workforce may struggle to remain fully invested in the project. Even radio silence can be dangerous! In the absence of any news, your workforce will likely slip back into the assumption that change management projects are more likely to fail than succeed. 

For the best results, we recommend giving people ownership over these milestones. Being recognized for helping your company achieve an important milestone can be a powerful motivator. It may even transform this person into an enthusiastic change evangelist who will encourage other employees to support your change initiative.

How to Transform Crisis Management into Successful Change Management

COVID-19 is easily the biggest social, health, and economic crisis in living memory. Throughout 2020, many businesses struggled to navigate the challenges associated with managing a completely remote workforce. 

For business owners, this meant ensuring their staff had access to the tools and data they needed to perform their job remotely. However, it also meant helping their workforce manage the stress, anxiety, and loneliness of living through a global pandemic. 

Now, many businesses are facing a new challenge: how to manage the return to the office. If this transition has you in crisis management mode, then you’re not alone! 

In uncertain times, traditional planning processes may not always be possible, or even advisable. How can you plan for the future, when new developments and information forces you to continuously rethink those plans? 

Thankfully, you don’t have to completely abandon traditional plans and processes – you just need to tweak your approach! In this article, we’ll help you take control of the situation. By the end of this article, you’ll have a three step plan for transforming crisis management into successful change management

Highly adaptive decision-making: The key to successful crisis management? 

During a crisis, you often need to implement change quickly, without adequate time to prepare your staff. This can lead to confusion, uncertainty, and poor adoption rates amongst your workforce. 

To maximize your chances of achieving successful, long-term change during a crisis, it’s vital that your change management activities are highly responsive. All of your activities should speak deeply to what your workforce needs right now, as this will encourage them to respond positively to the change – even if you’ve given them little time to prepare. 

In change management, this approach is referred to as highly adaptive decision-making. This is a simple, but effective process that encourages you to reflect on the current situation and identify the most effective action, while respecting the time constraints of crisis management. 

With adaptive decision-making, the goal is to identify a promising solution and implement it as efficiently as possible, while acknowledging that you may need to adjust and refine your approach in response to unfolding events and new information. You may even need to learn from your mistakes as you implement the change. 

This is in stark contrast to traditional change management. To help you get started with this radical new approach, let’s look at a simple 3 step adaptive decision-making workflow that can help you manage returning to the office. As part of this workflow, you’ll ask yourself three questions: 

1. What?

This question encourages you to reflect on the situation – what problem(s) are you currently facing? 

For many businesses, the biggest challenge is transitioning from 2020’s remote working model. Perhaps all of your staff can safely return to the office, or maybe you’re taking a staggered approach, for example giving your staff the option to work remotely a few days a week. 

Regardless of your approach, for most businesses this is a return to the workplace – and not a return to normality. There are additional health and safety measures that your staff need to follow, particularly when it comes to social distancing. This may mean using physical separators such as partitions between workstations, staggering breaks, or setting a “maximum occupancy” limit for your meeting rooms. 

To minimize contact, you may even be operating a strict scheduling system for staff who previously worked a regular 9-5 schedule. 

For your employees, all of this change represents a huge challenge. In our example, let’s imagine that your staff are struggling to meet their productivity targets while adhering to all these new guidelines. Your employees are confused by the rules, and struggling to stay motivated. 

Currently, you’re firmly in crisis management mode and responding to problems such as missed deadlines as and when they reach a boiling point. However, with uncertain times still ahead, this isn’t a short-term problem – and no business can survive in a constant state of crisis! If you’re going to navigate these turbulent times, it’s vital that you transition away from crisis management, and start taking steps to implement successful long-term change. 

As part of this what phase, you’ll need to identify the barrier that’s preventing the desired change. Here, it often helps to consider ADKAR, which is an acronym for the five elements of successful change: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. 

In our scenario, a lack of Knowledge may be to blame. For many businesses, the transition back to the office environment is uncertain and ever-changing, and your employees may be unsure how they’re supposed to act. 

There may also be confounding factors such as a lack of communication, documentation, or clear business processes about how employees can meet their targets while respecting the new health and safety guidelines. 

If you’re scheduling employees in an effort to limit social contact, then your staff may also be struggling to access this information. They may even be frustrated and confused by last-minute shift changes and miscommunications regarding when they’re expected to visit their physical place of work. 

By identifying this barrier to change, you’ll know exactly where to focus the bulk of your efforts throughout the decision-making process.

2. So what? 

Now you’ve analyzed the situation, it’s time to decide how to manage it! During this so what phase, you’ll explore the situation while being mindful of any opportunities that exist, and the potential pitfalls. 

Let’s imagine that your employees cannot access the same apps, tools, and technologies outside of the office. As with many businesses, your staff currently have the option to work from home, either permanently or on a part time basis. For example, if an employee is considered high risk or they’re waiting to be vaccinated, they may feel safer working from home for the foreseeable future. 

Immediately, this poses a problem as your staff will have access to different functionality and data, depending on whether they’re working from home, or from the office. This will damage productivity, as your staff will constantly need to find workarounds when they’re operating remotely. 

However, this can also have a disastrous impact on communication. Without access to a common platform, your team will struggle to collaborate. This can result in confusion and frustration, and damage the relationships between co-workers. 

As an employer, you can invest time and effort into creating clear documentation, processes, or a shift schedule that promises to keep everyone safe and productive. However, this is only half the battle, as your staff still need a way to access this information! If you don’t publish these resources to a modern, cloud-based platform, then your remote workers will struggle to access the information they need. This is a surefire way to remain trapped in crisis management mode. 

In this scenario, the failure to provide a common platform is causing the lack of Knowledge. To solve this problem, you need to create helpful resources and ensure these resources are accessible to all your staff. 

3. Now what? 

This step is where you determine the next best actions you should take, in order to support your staff and resolve the problem. 

If you get this step right the first time, then great! However, highly adaptive decision-making acknowledges that time pressures are an inevitable part of crisis management. Searching for the perfect next step may result in significant time delays, but when a crisis strikes you’ll rarely have time to waste! 

Highly adaptive decision-making encourages you to move quickly from conception, to implementing your ideas. This means you should be prepared to learn as you go, or even to rethink your strategy along the way. 

Continuing our scenario, you might decide to implement a new cloud-based platform. This will ensure your staff have access to the same tools, applications, and data regardless of

their geographical location. Many modern cloud platforms also provide enterprise-level communication tools such as Microsoft Teams. These tools can be invaluable for delivering your resources, while also helping co-workers collaborate during this period of transition. 

Crisis management: The next steps 

In our scenario, your staff now have access to all the tools they need to be productive, regardless of whether they’re working from home or the office. This is a great start, but providing access to a modern enterprise platform isn’t enough – your staff need to actually use it! 

After rolling out the platform, it’s possible your staff may struggle to extract value from it. They may even start slipping back into old habits, including old applications! 

In this scenario, the solution may be to organize some staff training, or identify individuals who can become advocates, driving adoption of your new platform. At this point, you’ll be unclear about the way forward, and are once again facing tough time constraints. 

Fortunately, you now have access to a three step plan that can help you identify the best next steps. Simply return to stage one of our crisis management plan, and repeat the what, so what, and now what steps. 

By diligently repeating the entire decision-making process every time you encounter an issue, you can slowly transform even the most serious and complex crisis into a successful, long-term change.

The Top 4 Challenges Facing Your Business (and How Microsoft Viva Can Help Solve Them).

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 

An engaged workforce is a productive workforce! Studies suggest that companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable and experience 41% lower absenteeism

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.

How to Build a Recruitment Automation Platform with Microsoft 365

Finding the perfect new hire can be a time-consuming process. You’ll need to collect CVs, process job application forms, and ensure you respond to the best candidates quickly – before they get snapped up by your competitors! 

In this article, we’ll show you how to automate the hiring and recruitment process with Microsoft 365. We’ll be using Power Automate, SharePoint, Planner, and Microsoft Forms to build an automated platform that’ll automatically convert each job application into a candidate profile. We’ll then use automated notifications and tasks to help you respond to each potential candidate in a timely manner. 

By the end of this tutorial, finding your next great hire will be as simple as reviewing a series of automatically-generated user profiles in a SharePoint site. 

What we’ll be building 

In this tutorial, we’ll create a job application form using Microsoft Forms

Candidates can use this form to submit their information, and even upload a copy of their CV. We’ll then create a SharePoint site where all of this information will be uploaded automatically. 

Next, we’ll connect the job application form to our SharePoint site using Power Automate. This will involve building a workflow that extracts all the data from the submitted form and uses it to create a candidate profile within our SharePoint site. 


To fully-automate this recruitment platform, we’ll explore some additional steps that you can add to your Power Automate workflow. This includes creating an email notification for every new submission, and adding a task to your Microsoft Planner. The latter can help ensure you respond to each job application, no matter how busy you get.

How to create a job application form 

To start, let’s create the job application form. You can customize this form to collect everything you need to know about a potential new hire. However, to keep this section short we’ll be limiting ourselves to collecting some basic information about the candidate, and then giving them the option to upload their CV. 

To build the job application form: 

  1. Log into Microsoft Forms
  2. Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 
  3. Select “Add New.” 
  4. Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 
  5. You’ll typically want to start by collecting the candidate’s contact information, such as their name, email address, and telephone number. To create each of these user-input fields, click “Text.” You can then enter the label that you want to display above each field, for example Please enter your email address. Unless you have a specific reason not to, you’ll typically want to enable the “Required” slider for all the fields in your form.  
  1. You may also want to verify that this candidate is permitted to work in your geographical location. To mix things up, I’ll request this information as a multiple choice question. Select “Add New > Choice,” and type your question. You can then enter “Yes” and “No” as the possible options.
  1. Now comes the main event! We’re going to create a section where the candidate can describe all their relevant skills and experience. You can add this section as a “Text” field. However, the candidate may have lots to say, so be sure to enable the “Long answer” slider. This will give the candidate more words to work with.
  1. When searching for a new hire, you’ll typically want to see a copy of each candidate’s CV. You can ask the candidate to upload their CV as part of their Microsoft Forms submission. These files will then be uploaded to a new SharePoint folder, ready for you to review. To request this file, select “Add New” and then click the little downwards-pointing arrow. You can then select “File upload.” 
  1. In the “File upload” panel, enter some text requesting a copy of the candidate’s CV. You can then specify how many files the candidate can upload, and their maximum file size.
  1. When looking for a new hire, you may want to request additional information or documents. You can expand on this form, to ensure you have all the information you need to decide whether to progress to the interview stage. 
  1. You can also test how your job application form will appear to the candidate, by selecting “Preview.” Once you’re happy with the results, it’s time to take your form public. 

Publishing your job application form 

You can add a Microsoft Form to your website using a QR code, link, or embed code. This step will vary depending on where you’re planning to display your form, and your chosen embed method. However, as an example let’s look at how you’d embed this form in a WordPress website: 

  1. In your Microsoft Forms application, select “Share.” 
  2. In the panel that appears, select “Embed.” 
  3. Copy the embed code. 
  4. Log into your WordPress dashboard. 
  5. Navigate to the page where you want to embed your job application form, and open that page for editing. 
  6. Find the area where you want to display your form, and then insert a “Custom HTML” block using WordPress’ Gutenberg editor. 
  7. Paste your embed code into the HTML block. 
  8. Publish or update this page, as normal. 

Your job application form will now appear on your WordPress website.

Create a SharePoint site 

At this point, we have a form that potential candidates can use to submit their information. The next step is creating a SharePoint site and list, where all of this data will be stored. 

  1. Log into your Microsoft SharePoint account
  2. Select “Create site > Team site.” 
  3. Give your site a descriptive name; I’m using “Candidates.” 
  4. Select “Next > Finish.” 
  5. Inside your site, click “New > List.” 
  1. Select “Blank list.” 
  2. Give your list a descriptive name, and enter an optional description. 
  3. When you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, click “Create.” 

Automatically create a profile for each new candidate 

Now we’re ready to create our Power Automate workflow. In this first step, I’ll create a simple workflow that extracts the data from each new job application, and creates a user profile within your SharePoint site. 

  1. Log into your Microsoft 365 account. 
  2. Select the “Power Automate” app. 
  3. In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.” 
  4. Search for the following template: “Automatically create a profile for a new candidate.” Select this template when it appears. 
  5. Read the description, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Continue.” Power Automate will now open this template for editing. 
  6. Let’s start from the top, with the “When a new response is submitted” section. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select the form we created in the previous section.
  1. Next, move onto the “Apply to each” section. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select the form we created in the previous step. 
  1. Move onto the “Create item” section. Click to place your cursor in the “Site Address” field, and choose the SharePoint site we just created. 
  2. Click to place your cursor in the “List item” field, and select the list we created in the previous step.
  3. In “Title,” you can assign a name to the candidate‘s profile. To ensure each profile is unique, I’m going to use dynamic content. Click to place your cursor inside the “Title” field, and the “Dynamic Content” menu should open automatically. 
  1. You can now choose the value to use for the candidate’s profile; I’ll be using the candidate’s name. 

This is all you need to extract the data from each job application, and upload it to SharePoint. However, I’m going to automate more of the hiring process, by adding a few extra steps. The following steps are all optional, although they can make for a quicker, more efficient hiring process. 

Receive email notifications 

At this point, Power Automate extracts the job application data and adds it to your SharePoint site automatically. However, you’ll still need to manually check this site, in order to see whether any new applications have been submitted. 

By adding email notifications to your workflow, you’ll be notified about each new application, and can start processing that application immediately. 

To create an email notification: 

  1. In the workflow’s “Apply to each” section, click “Add an action.”
  2. In the “Search” field, type “email.” When it appears, select “Send an email notification (V3).” 
  3. In “To,” enter the email address that you want to use. 
  4. To make the emails more informative, I’m going to use some dynamic content in my “Subject” line. Click to place your cursor inside the subject line and then select the dynamic content that you want to use. For example, you might select the candidate’s name, or the role they’ve applied for. You can also add some static text to the email subject, in order to make it more descriptive. 
  5. Finally, create the body for your email. Again, you may want to use a combination of static and dynamic content. 

Update your Microsoft Planner 

Email notifications are useful, but it’s still easy for job applications to slip to the bottom of your “To Do” list – or even slip your mind entirely. If you’re juggling a busy schedule, it may help to create a reminder that you need to reply to each new job application. 

Every time you receive an application, Power Automate can add a task to your Microsoft Planner, reminding you that you need to respond to this candidate. 

Before adding this action to your Power Automate workflow, you may want to log into Microsoft Planner and create a new plan. For example, I’m creating a “Candidates” plan. 

In your Power Automate flow, you’ll need to find the “Apply to each” section. In this section: 

  1. Click “Add an action.” 
  2. Search for the following item, and select it when it appears: “Create a task.”
  3. Open the “Group ID” dropdown and choose the plan that you created in the previous step.
  1. You’ll now need to enter the plan ID. You can find this information by logging into Microsoft Planner and opening the plan where Power Automate should create your tasks. Take a look at the URL; the plan ID is the section at the end of your URL. Copy this value. 
  2. Switch back to Power Automate, and paste the plan ID into the “Plan ID” field.
  3. You can now create a title for each task that this workflow creates. Again, you may want to experiment with some dynamic content.

Now, every time someone submits a job application, this workflow will add a new task to your planner. This ensures you’ll have no problems remembering to follow-up on job applications.

Build an Automated Shift Scheduling Platform with Power Automate and Microsoft Shift

Creating a schedule for your shift-based workers can be a time-consuming and frustrating task. If you want your business to run like a well-oiled machine, it may help to swap the traditional spreadsheets and calendars for modern scheduling software. 

Microsoft Shifts lets you build a schedule, assign shifts to employees, and even create a To Do list for each individual shift. Your employees can then access this schedule at any time, directly from their Microsoft Teams dashboard. 

In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about Microsoft Shifts. Once you’re up and running with Shifts, we’ll show you how to get more from this application, by adding powerful automation to the mix. 

By the end of this article, you’ll be managing all of your employee schedules via Microsoft Shifts. You’ll also receive notifications about important shift-related events, via two custom Power Automate workflows

What we’ll be building 

Microsoft Shifts is an app that lets you build, update, and manage your schedules, directly from the Teams user interface. You can even assign activities to each shift, which is perfect if you have little direct contact with an employee, for example if you’re managing a remote workforce, or your employees are still working from home due to COVID restrictions. 

However, sometimes you’ll need to make changes to your schedule. For example, perhaps an employee becomes ill, or has a family emergency they need to attend to. In these scenarios, Shifts has everything employees need to request swift swaps, or time off. 

By default, Shifts doesn’t explicitly notify you about these requests. If an employee needs to cancel a shift due to sickness, or two team members want to swap their shifts, you’ll probably want to know about it! 

Towards the end of this article, we’ll use Power Automate to create some simple workflows that send you an email, or a smartphone notification every time an employee submits a change request. This ensures you can respond to these changes immediately, without having to manually monitor the Microsoft Shifts application. 

How to enable Microsoft Shifts 

Before we build our automation workflow, it’s a good idea to verify that Microsoft Shifts is enabled for all users across your organization: 

  1. Log into the Microsoft Teams admin center. 
  2. In the left-hand menu, select “Teams apps > Manage apps.”
  1. Search for the “Shifts” application, and select it when it appears. 

You can now check the “Status” slider, and activate it if necessary. Microsoft Shifts is now enabled across your organization, ready for you to use. 

If you want to disable Microsoft Shifts at any point, simply navigate back to this screen and deactivate the “Status” slider. 

How to build your schedule in Microsoft Shifts 

Let’s start by creating a basic schedule, and then adding team members to that schedule. For example, you might create a schedule for a specific department, such as customer service or engineering. If you’re open for business 24/7, it might make sense to create a separate day and night schedule. Alternatively, you can monitor your entire workforce from a single screen, by creating an organization-wide schedule. 

To create your first schedule: 

  1. Sign into Microsoft Teams
  2. In the left-hand menu, click the three-dotted icon and then select “Shifts.”
  1. You can now choose the team who you’re creating this schedule for. Note that you must be this team’s owner. 
  2. When prompted, confirm your time zone. 
  3. Microsoft Teams will now generate a blank schedule. By default, all team members will be added to this schedule automatically. However, you can add more employees by selecting “Add people.” This includes employees outside of your chosen team.
  1. Typically, you’ll now want to populate your schedule by creating some shifts. You can either create an open shift that any employee can claim, or create a shift and assign that shift to an employee simultaneously. 
    • To perform the latter, double-click an empty slot next to the date where you want to create this shift, and the person you’re assigning this shift to. This will launch a window where you can enter information about this shift, including whether this shift includes any paid or unpaid breaks. 
  1. You may also want to assign a list of shift activities. This can be particularly helpful for employees who work unsupervised, such as remote staff members. Even if you do have face-to-face contact with an employee, providing a To Do list can help avoid misunderstandings, and boost productivity
    • To create an activity list, click “Add activity.” This will launch a popup where you can create the employee’s “To Do” list.
  1. Alternatively, you can create an open shift, which any employee can claim. This can be particularly useful if you offer optional overtime, or work with freelancers or contractors who don’t have a fixed shift pattern. 
    • In the “Open Shifts” row, double-click an empty slot for the date and time where you want to create the open shift. You can then create this shift as normal, for example specifying a start and end date, and adding a list of shift activities. 
  1. This open shift will now be added to your schedule, ready for an employee to claim. Alternatively, you can assign an open shift to an employee at any point, by clicking the three dots that appear alongside the open shift. You can then select “Assign open shift,” and choose the lucky employee. 
  1. You can now rinse and repeat to create more shifts, and build your completed schedule. 
  2. Your employees can’t access this schedule until you share it with them. When you’re ready to go live, select “Share with team” in the upper-right corner. Now, all team members will be able to view this schedule directly from their Microsoft Teams dashboard. 

How to enhance Microsoft Shifts with Power Automate workflows 

Out-of-the-box, Microsoft Shifts provides everything you need to coordinate your shift workers. However, you’ll need to access the Shifts application in order to view any changes that have been made to the schedule. This means it’s easy to miss important developments, such as an employee requesting emergency sick leave.

To ensure every shift runs smoothly, you may want to add some automation to the mix. By combining some simple Power Automate workflows with Microsoft Shifts, you’ll receive a notification everytime someone makes a change to the schedule. This helps you monitor your schedule, without having to manually check the Microsoft Shifts application. 

In this section, we’ll create two simple automated cloud flows for Microsoft Shifts. Both of these flows start exactly the same: 

  1. Log into your Microsoft 365 account
  2. Select the “Power Automate” app. 
  3. In the left-hand menu, click “Create.” 
  4. When prompted, select “Automated cloud flow.” 
  1. This launches the “Build an automated cloud flow” window. The next steps will vary, depending on which Microsoft Shifts flow you want to create. 

Never miss another vacation or sick leave request 

Employees can request time off directly from the Microsoft Shifts user interface. This includes vacation days, parental leave, and sick days. To request leave, an employee can simply select the “Requests” tab, followed by “New request.”

In the subsequent popup, the employee can then select “Time off” and create their request.

You can review these requests, by launching the Microsoft Shifts user interface and then selecting the “Requests” tab. You can then approve or deny each request.

However, this requires you to periodically check the “Requests” tab. This can result in frustrating delays for your employees. You may even fail to notice that an employee is unable to attend their scheduled shift! 

In this section, we’ll build a simple Power Automate flow that’ll send you an email every time an employee requests time off. 

To create this workflow:

  1. In the “Build an automated cloud flow” popup, give your flow a descriptive name. I’m using “Time off notifications.” 
  2. For your trigger, type “Shifts.” When it appears, select the following trigger: “When a time off request is created, updated, or deleted.” 
  3. Select “Create.” This creates a new workflow with your chosen trigger.
  1. Click to place your cursor inside the “Team” field. In the subsequent dropdown, select the team that you want to monitor. 
  2. Click “New step.” 
  3. In the “Choose an action” panel, type “email.” 
  4. When it appears, select the following: “Send an email notification (v3).” This adds a new panel to your Power Automate workflow.
  1. Click to place your cursor inside the “To” field. 
  2. You can now enter your email address. 
  3. To create a more informative email, I’m going to use some dynamic content. For “Subject line,” click “Add dynamic content.” This will launch Power Automate’s dynamic content menu.
  1. I want my subject line to specify whether the time off request has been created, updated, or deleted. Click “Change Type.” 
  2. You can now add any necessary supporting text to this subject line. 
  1. Next, click to place your cursor inside the “Body” field. You can now write your email. IMAGE microsoft-teams-email 
  2. Click “Save.” Your workflow is now live! 

Now, anytime an employee creates, updates, or deletes a time off request, Power Automate will send you a notification via email. You can then react to this change immediately. 

Get shift swap notifications sent to your smartphone 

Sometimes, your employees may need to request a shift swap, for example due to changes in their childcare, or other responsibilities. 

To request a shift swap, employees can select “New request” and then open the “Swap” tab.

The employee can then enter the necessary information, and submit their request. You’ll need to approve or deny this request directly from the Microsoft Shifts dashboard. However, you may benefit from receiving notifications outside of Shifts. 

Since we covered email notifications in the previous section, let’s focus on mobile notifications this time around. Assuming that you’ve installed the Power Automate mobile app (Android or iOS), this workflow will push a notification to your smartphone or tablet every time a swift swap request is created. 

To create this workflow: 

  1. In the “Build an automated cloud flow” popup, give your flow a descriptive name. I’m using “Shift swap notifications.” 
  2. For your trigger, type “Shifts.” When it appears, select the following trigger: “When swap shift request is created, updated, or deleted.” 
  3. Select “Create.” This creates a blank workflow with your chosen trigger. ● Click to place your cursor inside the “Team” field. In the subsequent dropdown, select the team that you want to monitor. 
  4. Click “New step.” This adds a “Choose an action” panel to your workflow. ● In this panel, select “Notifications > Send me a mobile notification.”
  1. You can now create your mobile notification. I’m going to add some dynamic content, so click “Add dynamic content.”
  1. I want to specify whether the swift swap request was created, changed, or deleted. To include this information in your notification, select “Change Type.” 
  2. At this point, you may want to add some static text to your notifications. 
  1. You can add more information to your mobile notification, such as a link to Microsoft Teams. When you’re happy with how your notification is set up, click “Save” to publish your workflow.

Now, every time a swift swap request is created, changed, or deleted, you’ll receive a notification on your mobile device. 

Want more Power Automate workflows? We’ve published a step-by-step guide to building a vacation approval platform, an expenses approval system, and even a Microsoft Teams virtual commute feature.

How to Drive Change Management in the Remote Working Era

COVID-19 has kickstarted a remote working revolution that’s forced many businesses to rethink every part of their operations. 

Although many countries are starting to roll out their vaccine programs, there’s evidence to suggest that remote working is here to stay. Many businesses are already planning to give staff the option to work remotely, post-pandemic. 

There are many benefits to working remotely, including improved employee satisfaction, higher job retention rates, and lower operational costs. However, remote working also poses some challenges, particularly when it comes to change management. 

At a time when many businesses are looking to implement change, remote working is making change management more difficult than ever before. 

In this article, we’ll share a detailed, step-by-step change management roadmap that you can perform remotely. By following these steps, you can drive meaningful, long-term change amongst your remote workforce – at a time when it’s vital that your business adapts, in order to survive. 

Phase 1: Consider the impact 

Before you enter the planning phase of change management, it’s important to consider the impact the change will have on your team. In particular, it’s vital your remote workforce has access to the equipment and software required to implement the planned change. You also need to ensure they have everything they need, in order to remain safe and productive in their working-from-home environment, after implementing the change. 

As part of the change management process, your employees may need to request new equipment. In this scenario, you can use a tool such as Power Automate to build an automated request and procurement platform. This can remove a significant amount of pressure from your HR and financial departments. It can also encourage your remote workers to reach out, and request any equipment they may be missing. 

You should also ensure your remote workforce has access to all the software and digital tools they need to implement the change. Here, we always recommend using a cloud-based platform, such as Microsoft 365. By opting for modern cloud technologies, your employees will have access to the exact same tools and data, regardless of their geographical location. This can remove much of the complexity associated with driving change management remotely. 

These are the major factors that can impact your remote change management. However, change management is notoriously complex, and there are many factors that are difficult to quantify.

In particular, it can be difficult to predict the people aspect of change management. There’s a chance that some team members may be highly resistant to change. Friction between departments can also completely derail your change management initiatives. 

These issues can affect any change management project. However, they can be particularly difficult to manage when you’re trying to implement change remotely. 

To give your project the best possible chance of success, you should strive to identify these personal, miscellaneous issues early in the process. Here, it may help to ask employees for their input. You can use a tool such as Microsoft Forms to ask your employees the tough questions. This can help you predict the impact the proposed change will have on the individuals within your organization. 

By understanding the people side of change, you’ll be in a strong position to identify any potential roadblocks. You can then start planning mitigation strategies to minimize, or possibly even completely avoid these roadblocks. 

Phase 2: Build your execution roadmap 

This is where you’ll define your execution roadmap. This phase involves identifying your business outcomes, and your requirements. You’ll then create a strategy for driving your remote workforce towards your desired business outcomes. 

During the roadmap phase, it’s a good idea to conduct regular meetings with key stakeholders and change agents. This is where a robust, reliable digital communication platform is essential. A tool such as Microsoft Teams can help you communicate with everyone involved in the change management process, regardless of whether they’re working in the office, or from home. 

If you opt for Microsoft Teams, you’ll have the option to record all your meetings. Change management can be a complex process, and potentially involves a team of stakeholders. By recording all your meetings, you can help minimize misunderstandings and confusions that can occur over time. 

To enable the screen recording feature: 

  1. Log into the Microsoft Teams admin center
  2. Navigate to “Meetings > Meeting policies > Add.” 
  3. Give your policy a name and a description. 
  4. Find the “Allow cloud recording” slider, and push it into the “On” position.
  5. Save your changes. 

You can now record your Microsoft Teams meeting, by clicking the three-dotted “More actions” icon and then selecting “Start recording.”

Once you’ve finished, end the meeting as normal. Your recording will be automatically processed and uploaded to your Microsoft Stream account. You can now review this recording at any time, or even share it amongst your wider workforce. 

Phase 3: Document the change 

Here, you’ll take all the information and input from the previous phases, and create your change management roadmap. After building your roadmap, it’s important to ensure your staff have all the information they need, in order to follow that roadmap. 

When you’re driving change amongst a remote workforce, it often helps to create self-help resources that employees can access online. This might involve documentation, video tutorials, FAQs, wikis, or knowledge bases. 

If you’re using Microsoft 365, you can upload and host any file via Microsoft Teams. Your staff can then access these resources directly from their Teams dashboard. This approach is particularly useful if different departments or groups require access to different information. By creating unique self-help resources for each team, you can ensure your staff have access to all the information they need, without overwhelming or confusing them with irrelevant information. 

To share any file, simply choose your channel and then select Microsoft Teams’ “File” tab. You can then drag and drop this file into Teams. This file is now accessible to all channel members. 

Alternatively, you can create a wiki for each channel. Whenever you create a channel, Teams generates a wiki automatically, so you already have the foundations for creating a comprehensive change management wiki. 

To turn this blank slate into valuable change management documentation, select the channel in question and then click the “Wiki” tab. You can now add a headline, and start writing your first wiki page.

Alternatively, you can create a new wiki by clicking the “+” tab, followed by “Wiki.”

Microsoft Teams will generate your wiki’s first page automatically. You can add more pages by clicking the little lined icon and then selecting “New Page.”

Your change management initiative may be deadline-based. For example, your roadmap may involve deliverables or goals that you want to achieve by a specific date. 

To ensure everyone is working to the same schedule, you may want to enter all this information into a cloud-based tool, such as Microsoft Planner. Your workforce can now follow along with your schedule, regardless of geographical location. 

Phase 4: Implement your roadmap 

This is where you’ll execute your change management plan. During this phase, employees should refer to your change management documentation for the information they need, in order to implement long-term change. 

However, even with all the documentation you created in the previous step, your employees may still have the occasional question, or encounter issues along the way. 

Once again, a digital communication tool such as Microsoft Teams is essential. Your remote employees can use Teams to connect with their manager, team leader, or any other key stakeholders who can provide the assistance they need. 

To encourage your employees to reach out, it may help to create a designated point of contact for anyone who’s struggling to implement the change. 

During this phase, it’s also important to keep in close contact with supervisors, managers, team leaders, and any other key stakeholders. These people are at the frontlines, which means they’re in a strong position to gauge how well the change is progressing, and identify any issues that need to be resolved. 

It’s a good idea to schedule regular Teams meetings with these key stakeholders. You should also encourage key stakeholders to relay any questions or requests for assistance that they receive. If you notice a pattern, this suggests that something’s missing from your change management documentation. By updating your documentation with the missing information, you can ensure that your staff don’t keep encountering the exact same problem. 

Stage 5: Keep your employees involved in the change 

Just because you’ve made a change, doesn’t mean your employees won’t be tempted to slip back into old habits. 

To maximize your chances of long-term success, it’s important to keep in contact with key stakeholders, even after you’ve implemented your change initiative. These stakeholders can share feedback and raise any concerns in the weeks, or even months following the change. 

It’s also a good idea to regularly request feedback from your staff. This can help you monitor how well the change has been received, and identify any issue that may unfold slowly, over the long term. 

Even the simple act of asking employees for their feedback, can set your change management initiative up for long-term success. Change can be hard to maintain. However, by making your staff active participants you can encourage them to uphold these changes over the following months, and even years. 

You can request employee thoughts and feedback using a tool such as Microsoft Forms. For example, you might use this tool to create an employee questionnaire, and then either publish this questionnaire to your employee portal, or distribute it via email.

Will Business Travel Return to Normal After Covid-19?


In 2020, Business travel came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with countries starting to roll out their vaccines programs, many businesses are now looking tentatively to the future and wondering: 

Was all that business travel really necessary?

According to a recent report, 89% of employees expect international business travel to be significantly reduced for at least the next three years. Even Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has waded into the debate, by stating that he expects 50% of business travel to disappear in the post-pandemic economy

In this article we’ll explore why so many businesses are rethinking their approach to business travel. We’ll then share four compelling reasons why you might want to replace traditional business trips with a modern digital alternative. Finally, we’ll introduce you to a technology that can provide that invaluable, face-to-face experience with zero travel required.

Bill Gates: “My prediction would be that over 50% of business travel will go away”

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed every part of our lives, including the way we work. 

Throughout the pandemic, many essential workers continued to head into their physical place of work. However, businesses outside of these essential services were forced to find new ways of working

For many of us, 2020 was the year we embraced digital communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, and cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft 365. Far from being a poor alternative, many businesses discovered there were some areas where technology has the edge over face-to-face interaction. 

But does that include business travel? 

Speaking at the New York Times’ Dealbook conference, Bill Gates gave his predictions. After so many months spent working remotely, Gates imagines there will be a “very high threshold” for conducting business travel, in the post-pandemic business landscape. 

Is it time to rethink our approach to business travel? Let’s look at four reasons why you might want to join Microsoft’s co-founder, and replace at least some business trips, with digital alternatives. 

1. Minimize your carbon footprint, while maximising your positive PR

The environment is a huge topic, with many businesses actively taking steps to become more sustainable. This includes Microsoft, who recently pledged to become carbon negative by 2030.

With commercial air travel generating 2%-3% of global carbon emissions, there’s no denying that airline travel is a huge contributor to global pollution. However, there’s an environmental impact associated with all travel. Even if your staff only travel locally, every car journey contributes towards global emissions. 

By replacing business travel with digital meetings, you can minimize your company’s carbon footprint. 

Sustainability is a great cause that every business should care about. However, conservation is also a huge buzzword, particularly amongst millennials. Consumers are increasingly looking for businesses who share their ethical viewpoints. By reducing your business travel, you can appeal to today’s environmentally-conscious customer. 

Sustainability can also be a great way to generate positive PR. Microsoft was recently praised for their plans to purchase jet fuel made with waste oil. This fuel is made from waste sources such as cooking oil, and then blended with traditional jet fuel. Microsoft plans to distribute this fuel amongst Alaska Air planes at Los Angeles International Airport, as these represent their staff’s most frequently-booked routes. 

Eco-friendly initiatives are generally received well by the press, and the public. However, this positive PR can quickly turn sour if you’re discovered to be promoting environmental issues – while also taking unnecessary business trips. 

Leonardo DiCaprio was famously lambasted by the media back in 2016 when he flew 8,000 miles to accept an award on climate change. More recently, Prince Charles took three private jet flights in 11 days, expanding his carbon footprint by 16,000 air miles, before meeting climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

It’s unlikely your business trips will feature in the tabloids or gossip columns. However, these celebrity stories demonstrate how negatively the general public views environmental hypocrisy. If you have any plans to speak about environmental issues in the future, it’s vital you minimize your business trips. 

2. Save $2,600 per business trip  

Corporate expense specialists Certify estimates that domestic travel costs businesses $111.7 billion every single year. If you travel further afield, it’s estimated that companies spend $31.6 billion each year on international travel. 

This is already a hefty amount, but business trips often incur additional expenses. This includes eating out, local travel such as taxi fares, travel insurance, and overnight accomodation. When you factor in these additional expenses, Certify estimates that the average domestic business trip costs $949 per person, while the average international trip comes in at $2,600.

It’s also important to remember that time is money. Each business trip takes your employees away from their regular place of work and responsibilities. While dedicated employees may still answer work emails on their smartphone, or check in with the occasional phone call, business trips will always have an impact on employee productivity. 

Depending on the business trip, the employee may lose hours or even days to travelling. You might be tempted to recoup this lost time by encouraging your employees to travel outside of their regular working hours. 

While this may help productivity in the short-term, this rarely works in the long-term. An employee who’s in the office full-time and travelling in their “free” time is going to be unhappy, stressed, and unmotivated. They may even question whether they might be happier with a less demanding job (and a more reasonable employer!) 

When you consider the cost, it becomes more difficult to justify the average business trip. Replacing expensive, unnecessary business trips with a digital alternative could save your business a considerable amount of money. 

3. Minimize the risk to health and safety, and avoid expensive lawsuits  

Health and safety is a huge concern for many businesses. As a responsible employer, you’ll likely have strict health and safety policies in the work environment. However, travel exposes you employees to lots of additional risks. 

If your employees suffer an accident while travelling, you could face expensive legal action. One solution is to invest in staff training. This can provide your workforce with the skills they need to remain safe while travelling. 

However, regardless of whether you create or commission these training materials, it’ll cost time and money. You may also struggle to create training for all the situations your employees might conceivably encounter while out in the field. 

By minimizing the number of business trips, you can also minimize the risk to your employees. This can keep your staff safe, while protecting your company against expensive and reputation-damaging lawsuits. Despite the health and safety risks, some travel may be unavoidable. However, it’s easier to create training for a small number of necessary trips, compared to creating training for a long list of different situations. 

4. Promote a better work-life balance

Business trips can be a great opportunity to experience new cultures and countries. Many regular business travellers enjoy this part of their job. However, there is a point where a hectic travel schedule can start to take its toll.

1 in 5 businesses travellers admit they feel stressed about upcoming trips. According to the same study about 30% struggle to stay healthy while traveling for work. Close to half of respondents also feel they don’t get enough sleep due to business trips. 

Regular travel can also negatively impact the traveller’s personal life, by taking them away from their friends, family, and other responsibilities. Anyone in a parental or care-giving role may find it particularly difficult to juggle their responsibilities with regular business trips. Even Bill Gates admits he has a “simpler schedule” now that COVID-19 has made business travel impossible. 

By reducing the number of business trips, you can help your employees achieve a healthier work-life balance. This can benefit your bottom line, as a happy workforce is a more productive workforce. Employees who enjoy their job are also less likely to go job-hunting. 

When considering the impact that business travel has on your employees, it’s also important to factor in the stress and anxiety surrounding COVID-19. Many countries are making good progress with their vaccines, but people remain understandably cautious about resuming normal activities, including business travel. 

Even someone who has received their vaccine, may be concerned about transmitting the virus to their friends and family. Other people are concerned about news reports regarding new variations of the coronavirus. In this climate, even necessary business travel may cause your employees a significant amount of stress. 

Business travel: What’s the alternative?

At Systems Assurance, we believe that the majority of expensive, time-consuming, and stress-inducing business travel can be replaced by advanced digital solutions. 

In recent years, we’ve seen huge advancements in “mixed reality” solutions such as VERTX Remote Support. Many frontline workers and engineers are already using these mixed reality applications to communicate with co-workers, partners, and customers remotely. 

With solutions such as VERTX, you can explore the end-user’s surroundings in real time, using their smartphone or tablet’s built-in camera. You can then personally guide the end-user through any task using voice and annotations. This might involve helping them resolve the issue themselves, or working with them to assess a problem before deciding what the next steps should be. Both of these actions would typically require an in-person visit, potentially racking up considerable travel expenses, and reducing employee productivity. 

Request a trial and see for yourself how “Remote Assist” by Systems Assurance will help you save costs by eliminating all your business travel.

 Request your 30 day, 3 user trial – Free of Charge – call us on 0114 292 2911.