One of the most exciting initiatives out of Microsoft this year is Microsoft Viva. What makes this effort so interesting is that Microsoft and employee development have historically been an oxymoron. Employee care and development didn’t seem to be a priority for the company for much of its existence but, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that employees need more care and consideration than they are currently getting. Microsoft might be the biggest beneficiary of this effort because, historically, Microsoft had one of the harshest work cultures in tech. This week Microsoft had an update on Viva, and I remain impressed by this effort.
My Bachelor’s degree is in manpower management, which focused on an older set of tools like Viva that we were developing to do many of the things Viva does. Still, the effort lacked the support of a company like Microsoft to drive it to market. And, at the time, the mainframe technology and its reliance on MIS (which would become IT) crippled many of these early efforts.
Now that the technology is ready, Microsoft is serious about this space. The result should be far better employee engagement, productivity, loyalty, and far less employee burnout in the companies that correctly deploy tools like Viva.
The Stats Behind the Change
Microsoft reports that their surveys, surveys that justified the creation of Viva, show that companies that engage their employees have 21% higher profitability. This result is because employees in these companies are more likely to be doing things they enjoy. Management is more engaged in employee development and advancement. The employees are less likely to feel they have forgotten cogs in a massive uncaring machine.
Forty percent of employees right now are planning to change jobs because they feel that they aren’t appreciated and are being forced back to the office when they don’t want to go. Ninety-four percent of employees indicate they wouldn’t be in that 40% group if their company just invested in their education, helped them advance, and protected their long-term prospects.
Employees in large companies want to be cared for like employees in smaller firms but, until recently, the tools to do that just weren’t adequate for the task. An excessive focus on profitability coupled with an inadequate focus on the care and feeding of employees has resulted in a near-unprecedented level of employee disloyalty.
One of the discussions that should be more public is the large amount of resumes generated because people don’t want to go back into the office. Most companies are completely clueless to what looks like a giant resignation wave that they might not economically survive.
The Benefits of Microsoft Viva
The employee management decoupling problem is what Microsoft viva is designed to address. It is a tool that connects employees to their performance information. It then aggregates that information so that managers can do a better job helping their employees perform, advance their skills, and even prepare for future jobs as technology or circumstances obsolesce the jobs they currently have.
The four components of Viva are: Viva Connections, Viva Insights, Viva Topics, and Viva Learning.
Viva Connections is a gateway to the employee experience in a company. Connections is a curated MSN-like experience but with a focus on company content. Think of Connections as a dynamic company newsletter where employees can get relevant information with internal connections to collaborative products like SharePoint and Yammer. This hub can be customized to the needs of the company, department, or employee as needed. Employees often feel they are out of the loop concerning critical information about their job and company; this is focused on fixing that problem.
Viva Insights is focused on individual productivity and wellbeing, arguably where firms need the most immediate help given the planned departure of many employees. This component is the set of tools that helps employees stay focused, gives feedback in real time on their performance, and provides aggregated information to managers to help them understand and provide what their employees need to be successful and advance.
Managers can’t remediate problems unless they are aware of them. This tool provided indications of burnout, personal problems, and issues that the employee may be having that management would typically see. It’s not spying, but more of an indicator that an employee has a problem. This allows the manager to approach the employee with offers of help without violating that employee’s privacy. I know a tool like this would have made me a better manager had it been available when I was one.
Viva Topics identifies and categorizes knowledge across the organization so that employees, who often feel isolated and alone, particularly during these work-from-home times, can find and use the available resources. It fosters collaboration and information sharing and provides a beneficial path to new employees who don’t yet know where to look or ask for information critical to their effective performance. I would have killed for this tool when I first went to work for a large company as no one had the time for me. I spent nearly three months thinking I was going to be fired because I had no clue what my job was as it changed right after I was hired.
Viva Learning may be one of the most critical components of this tool because changes in technology, advancements in AI, and automation improvements are going to eliminate and create jobs at an incredible pace. Pushing and enabling employees to reskill will be critical during this time. This component will allow companies to encourage and support employees in expanding their skill sets and provide resources for proactive employees who see these changes coming or move to more fulfilling jobs without having to work someplace else.
Making the “Great Place to Work” List
I’m fascinated as much about Microsoft going in this direction as I am impressed with this effort. Microsoft has realized that a product like Viva isn’t just critical for the market. Any company, including Microsoft, must assure retention and productivity while helping its employees improve and enjoy their jobs over time.
Were I looking for a job, one of my criteria now would be to make sure a tool like Viva was being used by the recruiting company. Only then could I assure myself that I would enjoy the experience once I started. I’m a big believer in “Great Place To Work” efforts; tools like Viva are critical to ensuring any company makes that list.