I’ve been consuming all things Copilot lately. Partly because it’s in every conversation I have with Microsoft, but also so I can understand how it will benefit our customers now and in the future.
What I often find with new tech from Microsoft is that it can be hard to strip away the technical jargon and translate it into your own context. This is especially true with the internal comms professionals I speak with, who don’t spend much time in Microsoft circles. There’s often a feeling of “Okay great, I get what it is. Now what does that mean for me? For our people? Where does this fit in with our big vision?”
Of course, that looks different for every organisation and I can’t answer all of those questions here. But what I hope to do is paint a picture of my vision for the future of Copilot, internal comms, and employee experience (EX).
What is Microsoft Copilot?
At its core, Microsoft Copilot is an AI assistant. I’m sure we’ve all played with ChatGPT by now, either to help with work or just for a laugh. Imagine that experience, but embedded in your work environment. In Windows, Outlook, in Word, in PowerPoint, in Teams…
What makes it even more powerful is that it uses all the content and information that already exists within your organisation. Your documents and files, data on employee productivity or engagement, intranet content…Copilot can use all of this to help create new content that goes beyond the generic output you get from many AI assistants. Copilot can create content that’s relevant, on-brand and personalised.
This isn’t to say that everything Copilot gives you will be spot on first time. Microsoft has openly admitted that Copilot will sometimes get it wrong. But it will give you a better starting point than starting from a blank slate. It’s about creating relevant, engaging content faster. Working smarter, not harder.
What does Copilot mean for Internal Comms?
It means a shift in how and where you spend your time. Instead of spending hours on writing and editing content, you can focus more on strategy, planning, and measurement. It gives you more time and freedom to experiment with new formats and styles. Instead of being reactive and transactional, you can be proactive and transformational. You’ll have more time for strategic campaigns and activities aligned to business goals.
Does that mean Copilot will replace some of the internal comms function? Personally, I don’t think so. Instead, Copilot will empower IC teams to do their best work and focus on the things that matter and are aligned to the business strategy.
As with any AI assistant, Copilot will only give as good as it gets. This image sums it up nicely…
Whilst the image refers to data, the same is true with giving Copilot prompts for content creation. If you don’t know what to ask Copilot for, or the right tone of voice, or the right format, the content you get will have little value.
That’s where internal communicators will really be able to show their expertise. Knowing the business inside and out, knowing your people, how to reach them, what messages they want to receive and when. And using Copilot to harness all that knowledge that AI can’t replace to create better content, quicker.
Copilot will help reduce the ‘busywork’. It’ll help you make sense of data, generate ideas, write first drafts, spark your imagination. But, it’ll still need the mind of a comms professional to refine, enhance and perfect.
What’s the big EX picture?
Employee experience isn’t defined by your tech alone. But having the right tools set up correctly and being used in the right way does play a huge role in how employees experience your organisation.
When it comes to Copilot, it won’t be the magic switch that revolutionises your EX overnight. But, when combined with other Microsoft tools like Viva and SharePoint, it’ll certainly become a core component. Similarly, EX can’t sit solely on internal comms’ shoulders. It’s important for leadership, IT, HR and internal comms to work together to define your big EX vision – and then use tech to bring it to life.
So let’s say you have all of that. In three years time, you’ve got your solid SharePoint foundation in place with Viva and Copilot layered on top. You’ve got a strong EX committee in place, with IT, HR and IC all working closely together. What does that look like for your organisation and your people?
Let’s take a use case that applies to most organisations I speak to. The annual employee survey.
Using Viva Glint, Microsoft’s employee listening tool, internal comms and HR can set up the survey. Using existing data from within your organisation, Copilot can give you recommended questions on key areas of concern. IT can support with any technical road bumps.
Once your survey is set up, Copilot can draft an announcement to share on your SharePoint intranet, or via email. Using the questions from your survey, Copilot can automatically pull out the key themes to help set the context for employees’.
Once the survey is launched, employees can provide their feedback via Viva Glint. Copilot can assist by sending automated reminders to employees who haven’t completed the survey, via SharePoint, Teams or Outlook.
Copilot will play a crucial role in the analysis phase. Copilot can easily interpret the data from your survey and turn it into tangible trends, themes and results without needing to spend hours lost in an Excel spreadsheet. But more than that, Copilot can also bring in other data from across the organisation to help paint a broader picture. For example, looking at community conversations in Viva Engage, feedback from quick surveys in Viva Pulse and data from Viva Insights like employee-manager relationships or burnout.
This will help IC and HR teams give more context to the survey results. In turn, the data can help guide internal comms strategies by offering clarity on where messaging or channel mix might need fine tuning.
Once the survey is wrapped up, Copilot can help internal comms teams draft multiple content pieces for different purposes. A news story for your SharePoint intranet, a set of talking points for a Town Hall, a PowerPoint deck of the results…
It’s easy to see in this quick example how tools like Viva and Copilot can enhance the work internal comms teams are already doing. By saving time on the collection, analysis and communication of data, internal comms and HR will be freed up to focus on the activities that really make a difference. For employees, it helps drive towards a culture of transparency and continuous improvement.
But, there’s work to be done before we get there.
As I mentioned above, Copilot is only as good as the data it has. And that starts with SharePoint.
SharePoint is the foundation that all of this more exciting stuff sits on top of. If you focus on one thing in 2024, it should be sorting your SharePoint out.
Getting a clean, engaging design, a user-friendly navigation, a well organised structure, documents stored in the right place with the right level of access. There’s lots more technical stuff too, but I won’t go into that here.
Without all of that, Viva and Copilot will serve little value. The worst thing to do is to dive headfirst into this exciting new tech without having your foundations ready, seeing a poor outcome, and losing buy in from your stakeholders.
So start with SharePoint to sort out your data. Then layer on Viva to understand how people work. Then Copilot to use the AI assistant to work smarter. But even when you’re starting small with your SharePoint foundation, it’s important to know the big picture. To know what you’re aiming for and why all of this matters.
And that comes down to doing more for our people. Making our organisations better places to be. Delivering exceptional employee experiences through tech. To me, that’s Work Happy.