Microsoft launched Viva, a new “employee experience platform” or, in non-marketing terms, its new version of the intranet sites that most large companies tend to offer their employees. This includes standard features such as access to internal communications based on integrations with SharePoint, Yammer and other Microsoft tools. In addition, Viva also offers access to team analytics and an integration with LinkedIn Learning and other training content providers, as well as what Microsoft calls Viva Topics for sharing knowledge within a company.

Since most employees know that the company spends a lot of money on internal communications and the accompanying intranet offers, it is then promptly ignored in order to get the real work done. But Microsoft argues that times are changing, as remote work is here to stay for many companies, even after the pandemic is over. Regardless of whether a small percentage of a company’s workforce remains remote or opts for a hybrid approach, those workers still need access to the right tools and to feel part of the company.

“We participated in the largest scale remote work experiment the world saw and it had a dramatic impact on the employee experience,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a pre-recorded video. “As the world recovers, there is no turning back. Flexibility in when, where and how we work will be key.”

He argues that every organization will require a unified employee experience platform that supports workers from their onboarding process to collaborating with colleagues and continuing their education within the company. However, as employees work remotely, companies now struggle to maintain their internal culture and foster community among employees. Viva aims to solve this problem.

As expected, Viva works with Microsoft 365 and all the tools that come with that, as well as integrations with Microsoft Teams, the company’s flagship collaboration service, and even Yammer, the employee communication tool it acquired in 2012 and continues to support.

Viva has several parts: Viva Connections for access to company news, policies, benefits and internal communities; Viva Learning for access to learning resources; and Viva Topics, the service’s take on enterprise-wide knowledge sharing. For the most part, that’s standard fare on any modern intranet, whether from a startup provider or an established player like Jive.

Viva Insights feels like the outsider, especially after Microsoft’s complex process around its Productivity Score. The idea is to give managers information on whether their team are at risk of burnout, for example, to encourage them to turn off notifications or set daily priorities. It is also intended to help company leaders “address complex challenges and respond to change by shedding light on organizational work patterns and trends.”

Because this is Microsoft in 2021, there is also a lot of talk about employee wellness in the announcement. For most employees, that means fewer meetings, more focus time and turning off notifications after work. Obviously, there are technical tools to help with that, but it’s really a matter of company culture and management. 

“As the world of work changes, the next horizon of innovation will come from a focus on creativity, engagement and wellness so organizations can build cultures of resilience and ingenuity,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365. “Our vision is to deliver a platform for employee experience that helps organizations create a thriving culture with engaged employees and inspiring leaders.”

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