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WFH growth makes «employee experience» a top priority for executives, says Microsoft CEO Viva

WFH growth makes "employee experience" a top priority for executives, says Viva, head of Microsoft

After a year of addressing the pandemic issues, senior leaders are now focusing on the «employee experience,» according to Chuck Friedman, Microsoft’s vice president responsible for the company’s new Viva platform.

Microsoft Live , which the company highlighted in Light the event this year , is designed to provide digital tools to support remote workers. Presented last month , is an employee experience platform (EXP), with four modules focused on employee involvement, well-being, learning and knowledge.

Although interest in the employee experience grew, Friedman said, it grew last year when companies switched to a largely remote work model and had to deal with issues such as access to online training and development, maintaining the company’s culture. and even avoiding exhaustion.


Chuck Friedman, Microsoft vice president in charge of Viva.

As in all areas of digital transformation, the need to to deal with remote workforce issues From human resource applications to workforce analysis to employee employment, it grew during the pandemic, said Raul Castanon, a senior research analyst at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market. Intelligence.

About four out of five companies (78%) consider supporting workers at a distance to be a challenge in the next two years, according to 451, with employee experience issues such as work-life balance, access to technology, team morale and employee retention. among the main concerns.

As a result, Friedman said, a problem that has largely fallen on human resources has grown more and more among business leaders. «That [responsabilidad] It has changed fundamentally, «he said,» and all senior management is now thinking about the experience of their employees: how do they keep their employees, how do they maintain the morale of their employees? «

Prior to the pandemic, human resources were closely involved in the employee experience, especially employee involvement, while CIOs, IT managers and business line leaders (LOBs) focused more on technology adoption and change management, Castanon said.

«What we see now after a pandemic is a growing convergence and an overlap that leads to cooperation between these areas.» HR is increasingly concerned with productivity, IT with the involvement of employees, LOB managers with both, etc. «, He said.

Matt Cain, Gartner’s vice president and distinguished analyst, said in a report that Viva «will increase the prominence» of technology in employees’ experience in IT circles and should generate increased interest in a variety of services, IT and collaboration in the field of human resources. «

Availability Viva

At Ignite, Microsoft provided more details about the four Viva modules: Connections, Insights, Learning, and Topics. Updates include the introduction of a desktop application for Viva Connections, the company’s intranet portal that uses SharePoint in Yammer and provides access to news, conversations, and other resources. The desktop app will be available this month with a mobile version this summer. The Connections module will be available at no additional cost to existing Microsoft 365 customers.

Viva Learning, which provides personalized content from an organization along with LinkedIn resources from Microsoft and third-party vendors, will arrive as a public preview in April. Pricing and subscription details will be released when that module becomes available, Microsoft said.

Viva Insights, the analysis module that combines elements of the existing MyAnalytics personal productivity tracker and values ​​from the entire Workplace Analytics team, is now in public preview. At Ignite, Microsoft next month promoted a «virtual journey» feature available in preview and integration with the Headspace guided meditation app that will come later this year. Insights is available at no additional cost to Microsoft 365 users, with organization-wide statistics accessed as a supplement through Workplace Analytics.

Microsoft Viva Topics is the only module generally available today and costs $ 5 per user each month.

Friedman said the initial interest in the platform comes from companies of all sizes. While Microsoft has worked closely with large companies on Viva, Friedman believes the platform is a good fit for smaller companies as well.

«I think the problem is universal; small and medium-sized enterprises have the same set of challenges and need the same set of tools, ”he said, noting that different companies will gravitate towards different aspects of Viva.

«Front-line companies see learning and training as a real opportunity,» he said, arguing that Viva Connections can inform out-of-office workers about their wider organization through their mobile device. Information workers can also use Insights to solve exhaustion, for example.

Teams as an experience portal for employees

A key aspect of Viva is the availability of its modules within the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform, which has 115 million daily active users. But Friedman acknowledged the danger of overloading users with too much information and too many notifications.

Microsoft has been working on designing a user interface (UI) to minimize information overload, Friedman said. He pointed to Viva Connections, which can serve as a front-end user interface within Teams to highlight important information for a user .

«The Connections module has the ability to compose all Viva capabilities and communicate with one voice,» he said. «I hope we can simplify part of the user interface within teams using connections as a kind of interface, a remarkable experience, as opposed to the idea that many different applications try to reach the employee at the same time. «

Machine learning can also help you choose the right time for notifications. «When you’re in the middle of an interview, it’s probably not the right time for an interview to appear. [notificación] and he says, ‘Hey Chuck, do you want to learn something now?’ «, he said. «We will … use the right times of the day to [ser] proactive in communication.

«Flip side is if you bury things too deep,» Friedman said. «Learning is another great example. Learning content exists in many companies today, but when an employee wants to go learn something new, it is often difficult for them to find it. «

Employee confidentiality and analysis

With Viva Insights, Microsoft wants the analytics available in Microsoft 365 to be more accessible to employees, managers, and business leaders.

Employee analysis is a growing approach For many productivity and collaboration providers, MyAnalytics and Microsoft Workplace Analytics are essential to Viva.

Microsoft was criticized for another analysis tool last year, Productivity score ; pointed out the use of the application by a worker for Microsoft 365 administrators before the changes were announced for anonymization and aggregation of individual data.

Friedman said maintaining employee privacy is important to Viva. «We will create clarity in the user interface about what data is displayed and what is not. We do a lot of things in the back to make sure that we only display aggregate data, that we remove anything that is personally identifiable … Then we will create methods of strengthening the user interface and transparency about why they can trust us. date. , who has access to it, this kind of experience. «

At the same time, Friedman said there are benefits for both workers and business leaders to analytical data.

«… There is a value in transparency in things like goals, things like the team’s goal,» he said. «We want to help managers work more and more effectively by communicating to their teams what their team is focusing on and then showing additional feeling through tools like Glint:» When you made this announcement or when you announced this goal set for your team, here is the impact on the team. ‘

It follows?

With Viva services at different levels of availability and the likelihood of having multiple modules on the way, Microsoft is just beginning and analysts are seeing room for expansion. In his report, Cain described the Viva modules as «initial investments, rather than full services, with clear and tangible business value».

While Microsoft calls Viva an employee experience platform, Gartner classifies it as an example of EXTech, «a diverse collection of employee-oriented applications designed to influence and enhance employee experience and organizational culture,» he said. Cain.

«A fully realized employee experience platform would have a broader top-level organizational structure, address a much larger set of contact points and interactions, and meet the needs of a variety of employee types, including desktop and desktop workers. . First line».

Castanon said Microsoft’s investment in Viva amounts to the most ambitious attempt to provide a unified platform for the employee experience to date.

«We expect additional capabilities and modules to be added,» he said. «As it is, it’s probably one of the most comprehensive XPs available today.»

Unifying multiple tools can help companies adapt to long-term distance work, he said, and Viva’s comprehensive approach could be critical for organizations looking to address «new normal» challenges, such as productivity management. . And the commitment of employees to a distributed workforce and the understanding of the complexities involved in allowing secure collaboration at a distance.

“This will require a wider effort of organizational transformation; the Viva platform could be essential to enable this transformation, ”Castanon said.

«We are currently building categories,» Friedman said. In this regard, he said, Microsoft’s strategy differs from Office 365, where well-established products were packaged as a subscription. Although Viva modules rely heavily on existing Microsoft 365 services, such as SharePoint, Yammer, and MyAnalytics, the services represent a new approach and new ways of interacting based on employee experience.

«I would say we are at the beginning of this journey,» he said. «Very often, when Microsoft participates, it is a more established category. I don’t think the employee experience platforms as a category are still fully defined, and that’s interesting; you can point in many directions …

«We hope that this will evolve over time; we are intentionally investing in being a leader in space. «