2020 was a watershed year for work, life, and work-life. Within a few weeks in early 2020, most knowledge workers found themselves suddenly transformed into the world’s first-ever all-remote workforce. Nearly a year later, that workforce seems unlikely to revert to its old ways anytime soon, if ever. At the same time, the need to infuse frontline work with digital tools for communication, learning, and information sharing has never been more visibly acute.
These transitions raise crucial questions, and not just for new hires: given the absence of a physical presence, how does a company create a sense of working for that company—a feeling of culture, mission, and connection? What creates and defines the employee experience in the age of digital-first work?
For so many people, the “place” where work happens—today and here on out—is the internet. So the digital experience of working for a company is the employee experience. What this also means is it’s time for a more holistic approach to digital work—an approach that doesn’t just make up for ways of working lost to the pandemic but creates better ways for a post-pandemic future. Or in other words, it’s time for an effective employee experience platform (EXP).
The need for an EXP for a better experience
It’s no secret that business is better when people can be their best. People bring an organization’s strategy to life—they plan, execute, communicate, and innovate. To help their business succeed, organizations need to create a more meaningful employee experience that enables employees to do their best work—and bring their best selves to work.
When we talk what constitutes a more meaningful employee experience, it boils down to six key elements-Wellbeing, Connection, Focus, Empowerment, Growth, and Purpose.
However, creating a great employee experience is more challenging than ever. People feel stressed, disconnected, or disengaged. There has never been a bigger need for technology, data, and insights that are designed to improve the employee experience.
The pandemic has made the need for an EXP more urgent than ever. When workers stopped gathering in offices, it became clear just how heavily organizations relied on their physical spaces as the default means of conveying culture and sharing knowledge. When employees dispersed to their homes, companies largely fell back on stop-gap simulations of the in-person employee experience, while work became even more scattered across an array of digital platforms, many of which didn’t talk to one another. Everything from recruiting and onboarding to retention and career development were handled via ad hoc digital substitutes, if they were handled at all. Physical workplaces were also where coworkers looked after one another’s well-being. In person, it was easy to see when someone was struggling or exhausted. When everyone is working from home, the signals are harder to spot.
So, given the absence of a physical work space, how does a company create a sense of culture and connection and provide a more meaningful employee experience?
The elements of an effective EXP
Against this backdrop, you can see just how big the opportunity is to make the employee experience better. Today, organizations spend over $300 Bn a year on employee experience. That number includes employee development and training, benefits and wellbeing, and a whole host of employee experience technologies. But too often, these technologies are fragmented, hard to find, and disruptive to the flow of work. As digital tools become more crucial to a great employee experience, business leaders across every industry are embracing the opportunity to learn, and they’re re-evaluating both their spending and their approach.
So to truly empower people to feel connected, supported, and able to bring their best selves to work, we need to do more.
This is aptly summed up by V Krishnan, CHRO Havells India, who says, “With a hybrid work model, we believe that the virtual collaborative platforms will be at the forefront. The core of employee experience will be to ensure employees feel connected, informed, and involved in a virtual space similar to the physical space.”
And hence the need for organizations to invest in an effective EXP. What an effective EXP does is that it surfaces the right information and connections to the right person—and puts these at people’s fingertips, right in the flow of work. It puts people at the center by bringing together systems of work with systems of support into an integrated employee experience. It provides people with the resources and support they need to succeed and thrive, no matter their location. It helps employees identify ways to balance wellbeing and productivity and to respond to changing needs over time. It helps managers develop their teams and respond to employee needs while fostering decisions that improve team performance, work/life harmony, and wellbeing. And it helps business leaders drive better outcomes with tools to help them understand and guide how work happens.
Introducing Microsoft Viva
This is exactly what Microsoft Viva endeavors to do. It brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights into an integrated experience that empowers people and teams to be their best, from anywhere. Through its four modules: Viva Connections, Viva Insights, Viva Learning, and Viva Topics, it pulls together the once-disparate parts of the digital employee experience, which fall into one of four categories:
Connection: The experience of working for an organization doesn’t only involve the rational part of the brain. We’re all driven by emotions, and EXP strives to establish the digital feel of an organization. Especially without a physical office to help transmit values and vibe, companies need a digital experience that feels immersive and distinctive. When employees log in for the first time or the 3,000th, they should feel like they belong. Hence, Viva Connections provides a single-entry point for employee engagement and internal communications. You can think of it as a gateway to your digital workplace.
Insight: Employee burnout has surged during the pandemic. Viva Insights uses data to help employees protect their valuable time, whether it’s to focus deeply on a single task or on themselves and their families. Managers can keep better track of their connections to their teams, and decision-makers can identify trends to help them respond in a fast-changing environment.
Knowledge: Businesses have long struggled to know what they know. EXP helps unlock the knowledge that may otherwise stay stuck in people’s heads, especially when everyone is working remotely. EXP automates the knowledge-gathering process that employees don’t have time for, because they’re busy doing the work. Viva Topics enables you to harness the knowledge of your organization, and connect people to that knowledge, in the apps they use every day.
Learning: A recent report from LinkedIn found that 94 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. EXP reorients organizations’ approach to career development around “just-in-time learning.” With Viva Learning, employees can easily discover and share everything from training courses to microlearning content. And managers get the tools they need to assign learning and to track the completion of courses to help foster a learning culture.
Let’s take a deeper look into Viva Connections.
Viva Connections: Your gateway to a digital workplace
As per the Microsoft Work Trend Index 2020, nearly 60% of people say they feel less connected to their team after shifting to remote work. And it is well known that less connection means less engagement means a decline in productivity and ultimately retention. This is challenging for all of us, but especially impactful on new hires—who have never been to the office or ever met anyone face-to-face.
This is what Microsoft Viva Connections aims to address-by becoming a gateway to a modern employee experience. It helps the entire organization stay engaged and informed, giving everyone access to the tools they need.
Accessed in Microsoft Teams, Viva Connections provides a single-entry point for employee engagement and internal communications. It is built on Microsoft 365 capabilities like SharePoint to provide a curated and branded employee destination. Leaders can connect with employees via company town halls, and employees can access everything from company news, policies, and benefits to employee resource groups or communities they want to join with Microsoft Viva’s integration to Yammer. It provides a personalized feed and dashboard to help you find all the helpful resources you need from Microsoft Viva and from other apps across your digital workplace. The content can also be customized for specific roles within the company—including frontline workers—so that they have a comprehensive view of just the resources they need.
Here are three ways in which Viva Connections helps in amplifying culture and communication and bolstering a strong connection with all of your employees, wherever they are-
- Keep everyone engaged and informed-Viva Connections enables employees to easily discover relevant news, conversations, and tasks to stay engaged and informed in the flow of work.
- Curate a personalized and branded employee destination- Connect everyone, from frontline workers to information workers, to unite them around the organization’s vision, mission, and strategic priorities.
- Build on your existing infrastructure- Deploy Microsoft Viva Connections with minimal effort building on existing capabilities in Microsoft 365, such as SharePoint and Yammer.
Ultimately Viva Connections enables organizations to engage with their entire team, right from the top floor to the shop floor, creating a rich, modern employee experience. After all, the best employee experience is one where everyone feels like they’re working side by side, at their best, no matter where they are.
For further information on how Microsoft Viva can empower your employees, click here.
Know more about what’s new in employee experience at the People Matters Employee Experience India Conference on 10th June, 2021. Register Now!