After a yr of coping with pandemic-related points, C-suite leaders now discover themselves centered on the “worker expertise,” in response to Chuck Friedman, Microsoft’s company vp accountable for the corporate’s new Viva platform.
Microsoft Viva, which the corporate highlighted at this yr’s Ignite occasion, is designed to offer digital instruments to help distant staff. Unveiled final month, it’s an worker expertise platform (EXP), with 4 modules centered on worker engagement, well-being, studying, and information.
Although curiosity in worker expertise had been on the rise, mentioned Friedman, it took off final yr as companies switched to a largely remote-work mannequin and needed to take care of points corresponding to entry to on-line coaching and improvement, sustaining firm tradition, and even avoiding burnout.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down workplaces worldwide, “instantly we moved from a office [where] individuals may very well be subsequent to one another to a distant office the place the demand for this stuff moved to digital,” Friedman mentioned. “All of this stuff beginning to come collectively…,” resulting in Viva.
As with all areas of digital transformation, the necessity to take care of distant workforce points — every thing from HR purposes to workforce analytics and worker engagement — boomed throughout the pandemic, mentioned Raul Castanon, a senior analysis analyst at 451 Analysis, a part of S&P World Market Intelligence.
About 4 out of 5 companies (78%) see supporting distant staff as a problem over the following two years, in response to 451, with worker expertise points — corresponding to work-life steadiness, entry to know-how, workforce morale, and worker retention — amongst prime issues.
Because of this, mentioned Friedman, a problem that had largely fallen on human sources has grown in significance amongst senior enterprise leaders. “That [responsibility] has essentially modified,” he mentioned, “and your entire C-suite is now desirous about the expertise of their staff: How do they keep staff, how do they preserve morale of their staff?”
Pre-pandemic, HR was intently concerned with the worker expertise, significantly worker engagement, whereas CIOs, IT managers ,and line of enterprise (LOB) leaders centered extra on know-how adoption and alter administration, mentioned Castanon.
“What we’re seeing now post-pandemic is a convergence and a rising overlap that’s resulting in cooperation between these areas…. HR is more and more involved with productiveness, IT with worker engagement, LOB managers with each, and so forth,” he mentioned.
Matt Cain, a Gartner vp and distinguished analyst, mentioned in a report that Viva is more likely to “elevate the prominence” of worker expertise know-how in IT circles, and will result in elevated curiosity in a wide range of providers, “requiring higher ranges of IT and HR collaboration.”
At Ignite, Microsoft provided up extra particulars concerning the 4 Viva modules – Connections, Insights, Studying and Subjects. Among the many updates is the introduction of a desktop app for Viva Connections, the company-branded intranet portal that makes use of SharePoint on Yammer and offers entry to information, conversations, and different sources. The desktop app will probably be obtainable this month, with a cell model due this summer season. The Connections module will probably be obtainable at no further price to current Microsoft 365 prospects.
Viva Studying — which serves up a company’s customized content material together with sources from Microsoft’s LinkedIn Studying and third-party suppliers — will arrive as a public preview in April. Pricing and subscription particulars will probably be launched when that module turns into obtainable, mentioned Microsoft.
Viva Insights, the analytics module that mixes components of the present MyAnalytics private productiveness tracker and Office Analytics team-wide metrics, is now in public preview. At Ignite, Microsoft touted a “digital commute” characteristic obtainable in preview subsequent month, and an integration with the Headspace guided meditation app arriving later within the yr. Insights is offered at no further price to Microsoft 365 customers, with the organization-level insights accessed as an add-on through Office Analytics.
Microsoft Viva Subjects is the one usually obtainable module presently, and prices $5 per consumer every month.
Friedman mentioned early curiosity within the platform has come from firms of all sizes. Whereas Microsoft has labored intently with massive enterprises on Viva, Friedman sees the platform as a superb match for smaller companies, too.
“I believe the issue is common; small- and medium-sized companies have the identical set of challenges they usually want the identical set of instruments,” he mentioned, noting that totally different companies will gravitate to varied points of Viva.
“Frontline worker-focused firms are taking a look at studying and skilling as an actual alternative,” he mentioned, arguing that Viva Connections can maintain non-office-based staff within the loop with their wider group through their cell machine. And knowledge staff can use of Insights to handle burnout, as an illustration.
Groups as an worker expertise portal
A key side of Viva is the provision of its modules inside Microsoft’s Groups collaboration platform, which has 115 million day by day lively customers. However Friedman acknowledged the hazard of overloading customers with an excessive amount of info and too many notifications.
Microsoft labored to design a consumer interface (UI) that minimizes info overload, Friedman mentioned. He pointed to Viva Connections, which might function a front-end UI inside Groups to spotlight essential info for a consumer.
“The Connections module has the flexibility to compose the entire Viva capabilities and talk with a single voice,” he mentioned. “I am hopeful we are able to simplify among the UI inside Groups through the use of Connections as a type of entrance finish, a highlighted expertise, versus the concept of many alternative purposes attempting to succeed in the worker on the similar time.”
Machine studying also can assist choose the best time for notifications. “If you’re in the midst of an interview, it is most likely not the best time for a studying [notification] to pop up and say, ‘Hey, Chuck — do you wish to take some studying proper now?’” he mentioned. “We’re going to … use the best moments of the day to [be] proactive in communication.
“The flip facet is in the event you bury issues too deeply,” mentioned Friedman. “Studying is one other nice instance. The Studying content material exists in lots of firms at this time, however when an worker desires to go and be taught one thing new, they usually have a tough time discovering it.”
Worker analytics and privateness
With Viva Insights, Microsoft desires the analytics obtainable in Microsoft 365 to be extra accessible by staff, managers, and enterprise leaders.
Worker analytics is a rising focus for a lot of collaboration and productiveness distributors, and Microsoft’s current MyAnalytics and Office Analytics are central inside Viva.
Microsoft got here underneath hearth for an additional of its analytics instruments final yr, Productiveness Rating; it highlighted a employee’s software use to Microsoft 365 admins earlier than adjustments have been introduced to anonymize and combination information on the particular person degree.
Friedman mentioned sustaining worker privateness is essential in Viva. “We’ll construct readability into the UI round what information is proven and what information just isn’t. We’re doing many issues on the back-end to make it possible for we’re solely displaying combination information, that we’re eradicating something that is personally identifiable….Then we are going to construct reinforcement strategies into the UI and transparency round why they will belief the info, who has entry to it, that kind of expertise.”
On the similar time, Friedman mentioned there are advantages to each staff and enterprise leaders in analytics information.
“…There’s worth in transparency round issues like targets, issues like goal for the workforce,” he mentioned. “We wish to assist managers do an more and more efficient job of speaking to their groups, what their workforce is concentrated on, after which present combination sentiment by way of instruments like Glint: ‘If you made this announcement or while you introduced this set of targets on your workforce, here is what the impression was on the workforce.’”
Extra to come back?
With Viva providers at varied ranges of availability and the probability of extra modules on the way in which, Microsoft is simply getting began — and analysts see room for growth. In his report, Cain described Viva’s modules as “beginning investments, slightly than totally fledged mature providers with clear and tangible enterprise worth.”
Whereas Microsoft calls Viva an worker expertise platform, Gartner classifies it for instance of EXTech, “a various assortment of employee-facing purposes designed to affect and enhance the worker expertise and organizational tradition,” mentioned Cain.
“A totally realized worker expertise platform would have a broader top-level organizational construction, tackle a a lot bigger set of touchpoints and interactions, and meet the wants of a wide range of worker varieties, together with desk-less or frontline staff.”
Castanon mentioned Microsoft’s funding in Viva quantities to probably the most bold try to offer a unified platform for worker expertise up to now.
“We anticipate there will probably be further capabilities and modules added,” he mentioned. “Nevertheless, because it stands it’s most likely among the many most complete EXP presently obtainable.”
Unifying varied instruments might help companies adapt to distant work in the long run, he mentioned, and Viva’s complete method may very well be “instrumental for organizations seeking to deal with the challenges of the ‘new regular,’” corresponding to “managing worker productiveness and engagement for a distributed workforce, and understanding the complexities that enabling safe distant collaboration entails.
“This can require a broader organizational transformation effort; the Viva platform may very well be instrumental for enabling this transformation,” Castanon mentioned.
“We’re at this category-creation second,” mentioned Friedman. In that sense, he mentioned, Microsoft’s technique differs from that of Workplace 365, the place well-established merchandise have been packaged as a subscription. Though Viva modules rely closely on current Microsoft 365 providers corresponding to SharePoint, Yammer, and MyAnalytics, the providers symbolize a brand new focus and new modes of interplay primarily based on the worker expertise.
“I’d say we’re early on this journey,” he mentioned. “Fairly often, when Microsoft engages it is a better-established class. I do not assume worker expertise platforms as a class are totally outlined but, and that is thrilling; you may level in numerous instructions….
“We anticipate that this may evolve over time; we’re investing deliberately in being a frontrunner within the area.”