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Employee Experience: Why it Matters and How IT can Help with Microsoft Viva

Employee Experience: Why it Matters and How IT can Help with Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva is part of the growing and increasingly important focus on improving employee experience. But its unfortunate launch timing and uncompelling messaging left many in IT ambivalent to it. We look at what it is, the issues it helps address, its licensing, and ease of enablement.

Microsoft Viva was launched in February 2021. Then, we were in the midst of the UK’s third national coronavirus lockdown. Those in IT were preoccupied with sustaining business as usual as best they could. These were bruising times for national and company finances alike, and Viva seemed far more ‘nice to have’ than ‘must have’ technology. Three years on, its perhaps time to reevaluate the worth of Microsoft Viva.

What is Microsoft Viva?

Viva’s launch marked Microsoft’s entry into the burgeoning market for employee experience platforms. It’s grown to be a full, and ever improving, suite of tools supporting culture, communication, and learning.

There are currently eight Viva apps, each focused on a specific aspect of employee experience. They provide the sort of capabilities that are likely to interest and excite your organisation’s internal comms (IC), HR, and/or people and culture teams.

This isn’t the place to go through every app, but it’s worth introducing a couple. Viva Connections provides employees with a customised dashboard of relevant news, resources and discussion within Microsoft Teams. While Viva Engage replaces, and builds on, Yammer. Providing a social media style platform where staff can post stories, or announcements, tag colleagues, follow topics, and join virtual events. Its Answers function enables employees to easily crowdsource knowledge by easily seeking answers and solutions from throughout the business. Viva Engage is a fantastic first step in enabling bi-directional communication with an otherwise ’disconnected’ workforce.

For IT, Viva is already built into Microsoft 365 and Teams, greatly simplifying integration and enablement.

Why Employee Experience Matters

Intuitively you’ll already know that employee experience is very important, and there is a lot of research and a variety of stats supporting this. In essence, the better the employee experience, the healthier, happier, and more motivated employees are. This positively impacts staff retention, and therefore recruitment and onboarding costs, as well as performance and productivity, providing a strong business rationale.

You’ll also know of the growing importance of Gen-Z in the workforce. As a group, they’re more demanding of flexible working, work-life balance, and that their employers’ values reflect their own. It’s a group that’s also characterised as having difficulties with in-person communication, asking for help, and collaborating.

We can also look at this from an economic perspective. Here, a key component of growth is increasing productivity: which means increasing output. Manufacturers can achieve steps changes in productivity by investing in more efficient equipment that produces more, faster. But in a services economy, and we’re largely a services economy, increasing productivity isn’t as straightforward. While technology can automate some processes, we also need to help individuals to be more productive – and this is where the right employee experience tools can help.

Thankfully, delivering on all, or even some of this, isn’t your responsibility. But providing a fit for purpose technology toolset is.

Microsoft Viva is just that. It already has the functionality to meet the needs of IC, HR and people/culture teams and is, in typical Microsoft fashion, being continually strengthened. It offers a variety of entry points, via Teams, browser, PC, tablet, and mobile, suiting most roles and working styles. It is also very IT friendly. It avoids the complexities and challenges of introducing a new platform and is easy and for most its cost-free to get started (see below).

How Microsoft Viva Can Help

Viva’s apps have been designed to address challenges businesses are facing. Making it easier to effectively communicate company culture, values, and goals. Providing the insights to promote healthy working habits. Gathering and analysing employee feedback and making them easy to act on. Helping employees crack the assumed knowledge prevalent in most organisations, to tap into bite-sized training content, and to engage with others.

The apps are tightly integrated with Teams and SharePoint, and don’t place big demands on IT in terms of enablement, management, and support.

Microsoft Viva Licensing

While Viva is built into Microsoft 365 and Teams, don’t confuse that with it being free of charge. That said, Microsoft is encouraging Viva Connections use by making this freely available to all with an Enterprise subscription and Microsoft Teams licenses. Similarly, those with Business, Enterprise and more importantly Frontline Worker subscriptions are already licenced for Engage. Elements of Viva Insights and Viva Learning are also included as part of Microsoft 365, however an additional subscription is required to enable enhanced features and other apps.

Premium functions are offered via three packages. The internal comms focused ‘Employee Communications and Communities’ bundle provides Viva Connections, Viva Engage, and Viva Amplify for £1.64 per user per month. The ‘Workplace Analytics and Employee Feedback’ package provides Viva Insights, Viva Glint, and Viva Pulse for £4.90 per user, per month. While the full, eight app, suite is £9.90 per user per month. For further detail its worth visiting Microsoft’s Viva licensing page.

Is Microsoft Viva Worth It?

The Viva suite provides a great set of tools capable of greatly improving employee experience, if used well. Yes, it needs enabling correctly. And internal comms, HR, and/or people and culture teams need to be keen to make good use of relevant apps. But above all, the things that Viva can facilitate need to be important to, and supported by, executive leadership.

Where leaders value communication, connection, clarity, collaboration and wellbeing Viva helps put these things at the centre of employee experience.

Getting Started: Enabling Viva

Many businesses start by using Viva Connections and/or Viva Engage. Often this is initiated by interest from their internal comms team.

If you are already using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, its relatively straightforward to enable Viva Connections. Microsoft’s learning pages contain a useful overview, planning notes, and guidance on Microsoft 365 admin centre set-up. In essence, set-up involves the following: preparing your SharePoint home site, structing the Viva Connections Dashboard, enabling Viva Connections in the Microsoft Teams admin centre, creating an app package, and then pinning the app for easy access. Plus, of course communication and training, but this may be something the internal comms team take on.

Enabling Microsoft Viva Engage is also straightforward, providing your organisation already uses Microsoft Teams. Although, specific steps vary dependant on prior use of Yammer.

The alternative is to take a more strategic approach. Assessing your organisations employee experience needs, the goals of internal comms, HR, and culture teams, and which Viva apps have a role to play in achieving them.

Regardless of the approach you take, Silicon Reef can both smooth the process and help your organisation to optimise the value of Viva apps.

So, three years plus from the launch of Microsoft Viva, where are we now?

‘Employee experience’ is a growing area, because it is helping successful businesses to address real challenges. Improving communication, engagement, understanding, and productivity.

In Microsoft Viva IT has at its disposal a powerful and ever improving set of apps. Used correctly, they can enable IC, HR and people/culture teams to improve all facets of employee engagement. Viva apps have the virtue of being tightly integrated with Microsoft 365 and sidestep the learning, integration and security challenges associated with some other solution. The likely starter apps, Connections and Engage, are straightforward to enable and, for most, already licenced for use.

Put simply, if there’s an internal appetite for Viva and/or improving employee engagement why on earth wouldn’t you support the use of Microsoft Viva?

Learn more about how Microsoft Viva could help your organisation

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In partnership with the Institute of Internal Communication.

Front cover of the Internal Comms Guide to Microsoft Viva

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