Why Microsoft is creating ultimate employee experience platform

The recent announcement of Microsoft Viva Pulse promises to empower and energize employees while helping managers and team leaders obtain confidential feedback about their team's experience from the workflow.

As we approach the time of the year when we begin to reflect on life in 2022, it's easy to forget how the workplace has changed in the last three years. First, the global working-from-home experiment paved the way for the rise of workplace surveillance which felt like a digital upgrade of micromanagement that arguably contributed to the great resignation and the so-called act of quiet quitting.

Many businesses have since settled into a more hybrid working setup which helped employee experience (EX) achieve buzzword status. As a result, Microsoft quietly moved away from its controversial Productivity Score tool. But the bigger question is, what is the employee experience, and why is it so important?

Redefining and enhancing the employee experience with technology

There is already a disconnect between how employers and employees will define the employee experience movement. HR often associate it with new shiny HR tools or tech solutions that make it easier for staff to sign into their account from any device and share company data. By contrast, employees want to feel supported to reach their full potential in an inclusive environment where they feel a sense of belonging and the ability to learn new skills.

However, what unites everyone is the fact we have all experienced a workplace where culture and employee experience made everyone feel like they could make a difference. But on the flip side, we will equally have many war stories and experiences that made us want to explore other opportunities.

Ultimately, enhancing the employee experience with technology should not include analyzing every mouse movement and keystroke or providing a productivity score. Fortunately, many business leaders now accept that monitoring every action merely leads to a game of productivity theatre and digital presenteeism that decimates productivity rather than encouraging it.

HR technology works best when it builds trust, seamless collaboration, and open communication. This can increase employee retention, productivity, morale, and even the entire culture within a company. It’s time to rethink what we want the future of work to look like.

Rethinking employee communication and connection

At this year's Cisco Live, Jeetu Patel advised businesses that from this moment forward, 98% of the meetings will have at least one participant that's not in the office. It was also reported that 92% of employers have prioritized enhancing the employee experience. These stats highlight the need to think differently about EX and redefine the concept to make it fit for a digital world, whether working in the office, remotely or hybrid.

MIT recently highlighted the importance of collaboration, creativity, and empowerment in any employee experience initiatives. It can be notoriously tricky to achieve, but those who get it right are destined to outperform their competitors around innovation, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Even though the wealth of communication tools promised to ease the burden on our inboxes, we are still no closer to reaching the mythical island of inbox zero. But it remains the most convenient communication tool for most workers. So, to bridge the disconnect and finally retire productivity paranoia, Microsoft's Work Trend Index Pulse Report suggests the answers to all our problems could be in the new capabilities it's adding to its EX platform, Microsoft Viva.

Since its launch last year, Viva has been on a mission to reduce onboarding time, improve worker productivity, and reduce employee attrition through various tools.

It is hoped that Viva Pulse will bridge the disconnect by empowering teams to use their voice to help their managers understand what is working and what isn't without fear of reprisals. The system will then provide suggested learning or actions on relevant topics to help managers proactively address the needs of their staff.

Elsewhere, Viva Engage has built a reputation for bringing people together through digital communities and virtual events. But Microsoft recently announced additional capabilities, such as a Leadership Corner feature that encourages open dialog across teams through Ask Me Anything (AMA) events and surveys. Ultimately, it provides a dedicated space to guide difficult discussions and use dashboards to track employee sentiment in real time.

Answers in Microsoft Viva is another recent announcement aimed at connecting employees to the answers they need by opening up the ability to crowdsource knowledge from across the organization. The conversational experience is designed to break down silos and allow anyone to ask experts questions. It also leverages natural language processing to match queries with any existing answers.

As the evolution to hybrid work moves at breakneck speed, Microsoft also announced that People in Viva uses AI to recreate those moments of serendipity that used to occur at the water cooler or drinks machine. The new release will enable information across interests, knowledge, and goals to help improve collaboration by creating meaningful workplace connections that unlock insights across people and teams.

Although some of these tools will not be available until early 2023, the time to explore the overall vision for Microsoft Viva and the continuously growing set of employee experience-focused apps should begin now. Whether you adopt Viva Goals to align employee workflows to business outcomes or take advantage of the integration between Viva Learning and LinkedIn Learning to access content from the LinkedIn Learning Hub will all depend on your unique requirements.

The bigger talking point is that we are finally moving away from a one size fits all cookie cutter approach to employee experience. This year, the elephant in the room is that hybrid work has delivered many positives, but it has also created a disconnect in the workplace.

The employee experience has broken through the fourth wall and outgrown the office space. The solutions that every business will be looking for next year will be around improving working from anywhere and making every employee feel engaged and connected no matter what device or network they are connected to.

The good news is that Microsoft, to its credit, is moving away from controversial productivity scores and rethinking what the future of work looks like. Giving every business leader a toolbox of many different apps that provide virtual spaces for teams to break down silos and seamlessly collaborate is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Microsoft has set out its employee experience stall early, and many others are likely to jump on the trend in 2023 as the future of work continues to evolve.

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