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Engage Remote Employees With Microsoft 365

Engage Remote Employees With Microsoft 365

Silicon Reef is all about connecting and creating employee engagement with remote and flexible teams. We find they bring distinct advantages: the creation of cost and time efficiencies, increased employee happiness, reduced staff churn and recruitment costs.

With the right tools and organisational culture, remote and flexible strategies in place, team productivity and performance can shoot up. A 2017 YouGov survey of British business and employees found 89% considered flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity – particularly when a sense of being part of a team is created, as most of us yearn for person-to-person interactions.

Research by Gallup finds that with job flexibility, including remote working, there are also higher levels of employee engagement. In an article entitled, ‘Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes’, Adam Hickman, PH.D. and Jennifer Robison write:

“Leaders and managers need to be aware that, as working remotely becomes more common, companies that can’t accommodate it will become unusual. And those cultures, over time, may also struggle to keep their in-house workers engaged…As decades of Gallup research shows, when employees are engaged their performance soars: Highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability.”

Engagement is essential

Engagement with remote workers is essential. Without it they can begin to feel disconnected from other team members and managers. They may also find it harder to work effectively with in-office teams. This disconnection can also impact on customer relationships, sales and profitability. Engagement therefore begins with people, process and then technology to enable team connectivity.

We therefore know at Silicon Reef that one of the fundamental needs of any business, no matter its size, begins with promoting positivity, supporting, nurturing and rewarding its workforce. Before implementing any kind of technology, there is also a need to understand the business needs of the organisation, and so we take pride in helping clients to improve their remote worker engagement.

Positive experiences

Our guide, ‘Creating O365 Employee Engagement’, addresses how creating a positive employee experience breaks down any real or perceived barriers to emotional engagement. When they are removed, employees and managers connect, and with the aid of technologies such as Microsoft Yammer and Microsoft Teams, productive collaborations can begin to thrive.

The challenge of change

Improving engagement is also about using tools that blur the line between the technology we all use at home and at work. The aim is to make everyday digital experiences the norm. However, HR News reports that HR managers find that “technology is delivering and disrupting in equal measure”.  It brings with it both advocates and critics.

Change often meets resistance when employees feel a loss of control and competence, shock or a lack of understanding of the need for change – often created by poor communication; leading to fear, resistance to change and poor morale and engagement. Obstacles to change are typically created by the introduction of new tech, new processes, new corporate cultures and shifts in leadership.

Breaking barriers

Effective communication, change management, employee engagement and training are therefore crucial. It also has to be a two-way process, involving employees. The Microsoft ecosystem of tools and solutions aid this process. How they help you? We know it’s difficult to see how Microsoft solutions such as Office 365 (O365), Yammer and Teams can help, but they can.

Silicon Reef has overcome many of these challenges, and so we are well placed to make choosing the right solutions less daunting. The O365 suite is ever evolving too. Microsoft now integrates Yammer with Teams (which has 20 million daily active users), and they offer considerable improvements. Yet they can initially cause some confusion. We can help to ensure they are used effectively, clarifying their differences and how best HR, team managers and marketers can use them to manage campaigns, to develop and run training programmes, to motivate and to engage with remote working teams.

Solution purpose

Our latest report, ‘Connected Remote Employees with Yammer and Teams’, discusses the difference between the two solutions and talks about how they meet the challenges remote workers face head on: i.e.  the challenges of communication, productivity, visibility and recognition.

Microsoft Teams is a communications tool, designed to foster small collaborations – created for what Microsoft calls ‘inner loop’ communications. It is often used to group together a team to work collaboratively on a project. For example, a marketing department may use Teams to organise and discuss marketing campaigns, projects, to organise team meetings and other events.

In contrast, Yammer is a social networking service. Its purpose is to facilitate communication within the wider organisation. Microsoft therefore considers Yammer to be an outer loop communications tool. It is typically used to convey messages or information to a wider audience than Teams does. So, an HR department or a CEO could use Yammer to communicate information about their company that all employees – remote working or otherwise – must know about.

Both tools are used to convey information and they both have the purpose of increasing team and employee engagement. Yet they serve different collaborative purposes: Teams sets a tone for informal communication, while Yammer’s tone is often a mixture of informal and formal communication. Users of Teams will know each other, and they rely upon it for quick answers. In contrast Yammer can get managers and employees engaged by, for example, asking their opinion on a topic.

So, which one should you use?

If your organisation is using Office 365 already, then the likelihood is that you’ll have access to Teams and Yammer. So, Silicon Reef can help you to use them to bring people together wherever they work. Unilever is doing it, and so can you.

The company is connecting their research and development (R&D) team of 5,000 – working across continents to manage vast ranges of existing and developing products. Through Microsoft 365 they are driving community and project engagement with Yammer and Teams.

To achieve the team’s ambitions, Silicon Reef created an engagement and communications approach, which involved selecting and educating Yammer and Teams Champions to remove any resistance to change with the aim of positively impacting on productivity, community engagement on and individual and project recognition, as well as on improving communication.

The biggest advocate of our approach remains the vice-president of the Hair team who engages through the daily channels – posting, commenting and sharing documents and content. The outcome: an inspired, active and successful community. You can achieve much the same; it’s good for teams, team managers, employees, customers and it’s definitely good for business too.

Yammer and Teams are also not just for global R&D teams; they can create high levels of engagement for every department – including for HR, sales and marketing teams – making their managers more effective and efficient in the way they manage and engage with their remote workers to achieve their corporate, departmental, team and individual goals and objectives with great results.

In partnership with & written by Graham Jarvis, Freelance business and technology journalist

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