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Microsoft Viva integrates with the productivity and collaboration capabilities in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. Picture: SUPPLIED/MICROSOFT
Microsoft Viva integrates with the productivity and collaboration capabilities in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. Picture: SUPPLIED/MICROSOFT

Keeping people connected has been a recurring theme over the past year amid the shift to an increasingly distributed and digital work environment. But rather than focusing on the traditional concept of productivity, there’s a shift towards the employee experience and helping people be the best they can be.

Employees want to engage, collaborate, learn, understand what’s going on, and build knowledge capital. But now this must happen without the social structures of an office environment. By investing in people and the employee experience, companies can directly affect engagement, retention, customer satisfaction and profitability. When people thrive, business thrives.

According to Microsoft’s “Work Reworked” research published at the end of 2020, 88% of leaders at large enterprises in SA expect they will adopt a more hybrid way of working permanently. It’s estimated that people will spend almost half their time (42%) outside a traditional office setting. One of the reasons employees still want to go to the office is to maintain bonds with their colleagues.

Maintaining engagement

More employees are returning to the office, albeit in limited volumes, but their expectations have changed and extreme flexibility will define a post-pandemic workplace. Microsoft believes hybrid work is the future and that every organisation will need a new operating model for a hybrid environment. The need to maintain employee engagement will be of utmost importance. After all, engaged employees are happier, perform better, and are less likely to leave the organisation.

The employee experience must incorporate several essential components that help maintain the wellbeing of individuals at a time where physical contact is not always possible. Employees want to feel part of a team, but they also want to understand what success looks like in this hybrid environment. They must feel empowered by the technologies and tools available to them, while still having scope to grow by upskilling themselves for the requirements of hybrid work. Combining engagement, learning and wellbeing is the cornerstone of this new era. 

Business leaders must understand that this is not about individual technologies, tools and collaboration. Instead, it entails tying everything together in the employee experience and thinking about people holistically.

Beyond the technology

The challenge with increased remote working has not been related to business continuity or productivity. Rather, the issue is about ensuring teams continue feeling tight-knit and connected to the pulse of a company’s culture. More than a third of SA business leaders admit to struggling with creating a strong and unified team culture as remote work becomes more common.

Of course, technology is important. But more than that it is the organisational thinking that must change to better understand the requirements of a hybrid environment, the expectations of employees, and how to integrate this to deliver on a better employee experience. It is very much a case of bringing this experience into the tools employees use daily and tying people operations (think human resources) into the entirety of the business.

Culture first

The focus has been on creating a culture of resilience after the impact of last year, but it must be sustainable. This is where a holistic approach to work is essential, one that creates a sense of culture and connection for employees in the absence of a physical presence in a workplace. It now becomes about empowering the employee to do and be their best. Part of this involves centralising the employee experience and enabling teams to self-organise in ways that solve business challenges in more dynamic ways. By doing so, employees gain autonomy without losing the sense of shared purpose.

Microsoft Viva is the first employee experience platform to bring tools for employee engagement, learning, wellbeing and knowledge discovery, directly into the flow of people’s work. Viva is designed to help employees learn, grow and thrive, with new experiences that integrate with the productivity and collaboration capabilities in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.

This is a journey towards establishing a platform that will become a new enterprise software category in much the same way that the likes of customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning have become. Technology will be the enabler to integrate what was once a fragmented workplace environment into one that deals more effectively with the flow of work. Now the focus is entirely on the daily needs of people at work to help the organisation create a thriving culture with engaged employees.

For more information on Microsoft Viva, the employee experience and engagement platform, visit the Microsoft website.

About the author: Colin Erasmus is modern workplace business group lead at Microsoft SA.

This article was paid for by Microsoft SA.

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