Microsoft launched their Employee Experience Platform, Microsoft Viva, in February 2021. The Microsoft Viva platform provides tools for organisations to foster a healthy work culture whilst making it easier for employees to be productive and engaged.
Pillars of a good employee experience
The tools in the Microsoft Viva suite are based on research conducted by Microsoft over many years. This research, published on Work Lab shows that the experience of an employee can be viewed as falling into the 5 pillars of connection, insight, purpose, growth and empowerment.
These pillars cover key aspects of working life that, together, contribute to a good employee experience. Other factors aside, employers which get it right have a more engaged, motivated, responsive, and productive workforce, which in turn translates to improved financial returns.
An employee experience platform gives each of us in our respective roles, be it business owners, managers at all levels or employees, the tools and information to do our part to address these areas. Some tools will give the metrics to help make informed choices whilst others will provide more concrete guidance and productivity features.
Employees have a strong connection to an organisation, when they are kept up to date and informed about organisational values, initiatives, changes and news. Employees feel part of the organisation when they are well informed and connected to the day-to-day happenings as well as the big issues. That feeling of connection translates into stronger teamwork and engagement in driving towards the core objectives of the organisation.
Leaders and managers need insight into trends in working patterns and the mood of the employees to guide the organisation and its key resource, the employees. This data driven information allows leaders and managers to strike the balance between employee wellbeing and organisational productivity. A healthy balance is needed for long term sustainability of effort and continued organisation growth as well as employee personal growth.
Motivating employees is easier when everyone understands the value and purpose of their role and the tasks they are required to do. Objectives need to be clearly defined, communicated and measured at all levels of the organisation to maximise their motivations benefit. The bricklayer parable, based on the methods used by architect Christopher Wren when working on St Paul’s Cathedral in London, show just how powerful a motivator employee buy-in to the objectives can be.
In the modern world, change is a constant. Organisations need to ensure that employees can grow and adapt to respond to these changes. This includes ensuring new employees can find information about organisational knowledge, such as products, customer, acronyms and processes. And as employees grow into new roles or even leave an organisation, it important to ensure that critical knowledge is not lost or locked away in content no-one knows about, so as not to hinder future growth.
With productivity tools such as Microsoft 365 employees are empowered to undertake their tasks. Having the right tool in your toolbox to undertake the required tasks is essential. Having clear instructions and guidance on which tool to use and how to use it, means that employees will find it easy to pick the appropriate option.
The Viva Suite
Microsoft Viva tools are available in each pillar of the employee experience and build upon existing investments organisations have made in Microsoft 365. They are accessed via the tools we use every day, primarily Microsoft Teams. By combining the tools and content in the primary communication mechanism you reduce the amount of jumping between applications needed to do the job (often called context switching), thus improving the day-to-day experience for users.Figure 1: Microsoft Viva Tools, with their product icons shown in the pillars they belong to
The Microsoft Viva platform is made up of 10 modules, split across the 5 pillars. Each Microsoft Viva module has its own focus. The combined Viva Suite alongside the Microsoft 365 productivity, security & compliance features give employers and employees a well-stocked toolbox to operate effectively in the modern world.
Connecting people, connecting organizations
The Microsoft Viva tools in the Connection pillar provide features to ensure employees are informed and included in organisational communications. These are Viva Connections, Viva Engage (formerly Yammer) and Viva Amplify.
Microsoft Viva Connections has two key roles. One is to bring your SharePoint Online intranet into Microsoft Teams, integrating it into daily work for desk-based users and which making it easily accessible to mobile device users too. Viva Connections also surfaces communications from across Viva Engage and SharePoint News in the automatically compiled Feed. Whilst the Dashboard is customised to provide access to custom business tools such as employee leave booking systems and support request systems as well as any relevant standard Microsoft 365 tools such as Approvals & Shifts. The second role Viva Connections plays is to be the starting point for navigating Microsoft Viva. Giving the custom to enable easy switching between the Viva tools as well as displaying the dashboard.
When configuring Viva Connections, the administrator can choose between the intranet or Viva Home experience as the default landing page in Viva Connections. Which ever you choose, your users can easily move between the two by using the intranet button (figure 3) and the Viva home button (figure 4) showing in the top bar.
Microsoft Viva Engage, was formerly known as Yammer. It can still be used as standalone tool or integrated with the wider Viva suite, such as displaying announcements in Viva Connections. Since becoming Viva Engage additional features have been included such as short video posts called Stories, feeds of updates from across the organisation called Storylines, feature to highlight updates from Leaders, and advanced analytics.
Answers in Viva Engage combines Viva Engage social capabilities with the knowledge features of Viva Topics. Users submit their questions via a Viva Engage post, tagging a topic from Viva Topics. The topic potentially could already contain the answer and any new answer will be added to the topic page when an answer is accepted. Users who answer questions also get awarded badges to show their expertise.
Microsoft Viva Amplify is due for release in second half of 2023 and will help corporate communicators publish their updates across all available communication channels such as email, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Viva Engage. Viva Amplify will simplify the process of publishing communications to employees and offers the ability to write an update once and share across all channels whilst taking advantage of AI driven features to reformat for reach platform as well as assist with formatting and composing updates initially. Once the update is sent Viva Amplify includes analytics to track and report on engagement to better target future communications.
How Viva helps boost productivity
Microsoft Viva Insights builds on the analytics and reminders that characterised My Analytics and Workplace Analytics. With features targeted at individuals, team leaders, managers and organisation leaders, the Viva Insights data, tips and tools are here to help you work more effectively without being overloaded. Before looking into the core features, it is important to note that Viva Insights has privacy built in. More details are available in the Viva Insights governance article.
As an individual employee the features help to keep work balance whilst improving wellbeing and productivity. Based on analysis of calendar and email data Viva Insights makes personal recommendations which are ONLY visible to the individual on wellbeing (figure 8), productivity (figure 9) and teamwork (figure 10).
In figure 8 the user is also a Team leader and has a recommendation to schedule a no meeting day for the team, as well as person insights into their working habits. The virtual commute offers a daily review of outstanding tasks and upcoming meeting/tasks for the following day. The Focus plan allows you to reserve time in your calendar to get tasks completed. Additional features in wellbeing not shown in figure 8 include focus mode timers, guided meditation from Headspace and emotional reflection tends.
If you categorize your calendar appointments the personal insights can also help you see how your appointments break down across the different categories. Additional features in this section not shown in figure 9 include summary of responses from meeting effectiveness surveys, analysis of meeting habits (such as multitasking, joining & leaving on time) and suggested tasks from analysis of email communications.
In figure 10, the use is also a team leader and so is being encourage to schedule 1:1 meeting with their direct reports. The summary of your network and communication habits also offer more detailed views so you can see who you communicate with most frequently and how much time you devote to communicating (figure 11).
Microsoft Viva Pulse is due for release in second half of 2023 and will provide team leaders the ability to gauge the mood and trend of mood of their team via short repeatable surveys. Several templates will be available for the surveys focussed on wellbeing and productivity. This tools is intended for larger teams as a minimum of 5 responses will be needed before aggregated results are available to protect the privacy of respondents.
Microsoft Viva Glint is due for release in second half of 2023 and bring the power of all employee surveys from the Glint tool to Microsoft Viva. This tool is used to undertake periodic employee surveys across the whole business. With research-based questions targeted achieving understanding of employee engagement, wellbeing and satisfaction, Viva Glint will help measure the impact of the Viva Suite and other employee focused initiatives.
Microsoft Viva Goals is based on a tool which Microsoft purchased called Ally.io. This uses the OKR (Objective and Key Results) methodology of target setting and tracking. Based on the work of Vetri Vellore Viva Goals provides a platform to record and track organisation objectives through key measurements and projects which can be at almost any level in the organisational hierarchy. By linking these back to the organisational objectives and performance targets employees understand their importance and contribution to the bigger picture.
Leverage Viva for discovery and empowerment
What makes up the body of knowledge in your organisation? Is that knowledge discoverable. Like an iceberg up to 90% of the data/information/knowledge we have is hidden (unless you are the person who knows where to look). Microsoft Viva Topics is about making the most of the information stored in Microsoft 365. Viva Topics uses AI to ingest and collate information according to its theme (or topic). The output is a topic page which subject matter experts can then edit to ensure it includes the most relevant details. Viva Topics then brings us the information we need “in the flow of work”. Which means, getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time. Or making sure people have the information in front of them as they are working with that topic by carrying out a search or using keywords in a document, on a SharePoint page, in an email or in a Teams message.
Microsoft Viva Learning brings continuous learning into the daily flow of work. Many workers struggle to find the learning opportunities and suitable content and that is where Microsoft Viva Learning comes in. With the ability to search for learning materials and recommend learning to colleagues, it makes continuous learning more social and easily accessible.
Microsoft Viva Sales is slightly different to the other tools, in that it is targeted at specific job roles rather than all employees and is licensed outside of the Viva suite, either independently or as part of Dynamics 365. Viva Sales supports customer relationship management by recording meetings, communications and content relevant to a customer without the employee needing to make the entry into the CRM system manually.
Building on Microsoft 365
Microsoft Viva is built on Microsoft 365. Using the same information stores as Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive & Teams and benefiting from all the security, compliance, privacy and risk features which govern Microsoft 365. Following this article will be a series of other articles which look deeper into the governance and administration of the Microsoft Viva tools.
Some of the features of each module are included in Microsoft 365 licenses, except Microsoft Viva Topics. You can license the modules separately or via a suite license. For more details on which features are in which licence download the comparison table from Microsoft Viva site.
What's next for Viva
Two tools in the Insight pillar – Microsoft Viva Pulse and Viva Glint – are due for release in the second half of 2023. Viva Pulse provides team leaders the ability to gauge the mood and trend of mood of their team via short repeatable surveys. Several templates will be available for the surveys focussed on wellbeing and productivity. This tools is intended for larger teams as a minimum of 5 responses will be needed before aggregated results are available to protect the privacy of respondents.
Microsoft Viva Glint brings the power of all employee surveys from the Glint tool to Microsoft Viva. This tool is used to undertake periodic employee surveys across the whole business. With research-based questions targeted achieving understanding of employee engagement, wellbeing and satisfaction, Viva Glint will help measure the impact of the Viva Suite and other employee focused initiatives.
All Microsoft Viva module updates are available on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap.
If you’re interested in more ways to understand your Microsoft 365 environment and improve productivity within it, feel free to look at Rencore Governance. The governance tool centralizes all Microsoft 365 service data – including Viva Engage – into one place and automates policy and lifecycle processes for complete governance and data understanding.