We have been eagerly awaiting what we knew to be a big announcement from Microsoft – and today, the leaders in enterprise software from Redmond did not disappoint. At a web-streamed event, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, unveiled Microsoft Viva – an employee experience platform focused on learning, wellbeing and knowledge discovery.

Building on the power of Microsoft 365 and Teams, in particular, Viva will unify the employee experience across four key areas: engagement, wellbeing, learning and knowledge.

Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft said: “We have participated in the largest at-scale remote work experiment the world has seen, and it has had a dramatic impact on the employee experience. Everyone will require a unified employee experience from onboarding and collaboration to continuous learning and growth. Viva brings together everything an employee needs to be successful, from day one, in a single, integrated experience directly in Teams.”

In practice, what this means is by drawing on a growing network of partners, there will be four areas which the platform will be accessible and discoverable to users:

Viva Connections

Over the course of the last 12 months, it has been documented that employees feel 60% less connected to their teams. Viva Connections is offering a solution to this by providing a personalised gateway to the digital workplace where employees can access internal communications and company resources like policies and benefits and participate in communities like employee resource groups. Accessible via an app in Microsoft Teams, Viva Connections will be available on desktop in the first half of 2021 with a mobile app coming out later in the year.

The launch of Viva is great news for internal communications, according to Marc Wright, founder of simplycommunicate:

“For too long internal communications was associated with SharePoint, Microsoft’s least-loved product. Viva offers a portal experience that puts the user at the centre of a range of products that can be called upon seamlessly to help us communicate, connect and collaborate.”

Jonathan Phillips, simplycommunicate’s head of consulting says: There is significant friction in many current digital workplace landscapes: Intranet for news and documents, Teams for collaboration and some files and Yammer for community updates. We have long advocated for investment in the digital employee experience and Viva Connections, in aggregation, is creating that singular location. Making this a Teams experience cements that application at the heart of employee work.

Viva Insights

With employee wellbeing high on the organisational agenda, and a combination of a permanent shift to hybrid/ flexible working, understanding how people are feeling and what they’re doing will be required in order to drive a positive employee experience.

Viva Insights is designed to provide insights to encourage action. Individual data visible only to the employee, the dashboard will enable managers and leaders to identify trends at a team and organisational level, providing recommendations to support productivity and wellbeing.

Microsoft Viva users will also be able to incorporate data from third-party services like Zoom, Slack, Workday and SAP SuccessFactors. The Viva Insights app in Teams and the new Glint and Viva Insights dashboard are now available in public preview.

 Jonathan continues: “We have voiced concerns about the increased volume of data which has become accessible to Microsoft. There is the potential cause for people to be concerned about what data is being shared and to whom, but providing its use is carefully managed, communicated well and line managers are told how to use the data, then it should be ok – just have a plan in place should there be an employee breach of data.

Viva Learning

95% of employees will stay longer within an organisation if their learning and development is invested in. Microsoft’s Viva Learning makes L&D resources available to users via its collaboration with a growing number of third-party partners including Skillsoft, Coursera, Pluralsight and edX; as well as an organisation’s own content library. LinkedIn Learning is also incorporated into the platform – moving its content firmly into the Microsoft stable. From traditional learning courses to microlearning content, users can discover, share, assign and track a wide variety of learning as a natural part of the workday.

 The Viva Learning app is now available in private preview. Starting later this year, Viva Learning will offer integrations with leading learning management systems, including Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba and SAP SuccessFactors.

Jonathan Phillips says: “This is a smart move. We know how important L&D is to employees, but the enterprise e-learning experience is inferior when compared with the consumer experience. Viva Learning surfaces existing resources in a single space – improving the digital experience – but also creating a route for its own LinkedIn Learning to gain a foothold.”

“It looks like Microsoft are not trying to compete head on with learning management systems but are taking an integrative approach.  Yet, artificial intelligence, a key Microsoft strength might make other, dumber platforms redundant,” suggests Marc Wright.

Viva Topics

Viva Topics is a bit like an internal wiki. It delivers a knowledge discovery experience that helps people connect to information and experts across the company.

Using Microsoft’s Syntex AI technology, by hovering over a topic, people can get a summary of it. It lists key documents and key experts. Topics automatically surfaces topic cards within conversations and documents across Microsoft 365 and Teams. Clicking on a card opens a topic page with related documents, conversations, videos and people – plus there is the added ability to integrate knowledge from a variety of third-party services such as ServiceNow and Salesforce.

Analysts estimate the nascent Employee Experience Platforms (EXP) to be worth $300 billion in annual spend. EXP spans what is today a fragmented market of services, infrastructure and hundreds of tools, many that go undiscovered and underutilised by employees at the companies that have invested in them.

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

Headspace, the wellbeing meditation tool that Microsoft bought last year, will be baked into Viva and will be rolled out in the months to come. It will be interesting to see how taking time for some introspection will compete with the pressures to open Outlook.

Lisa Pantelli, head of content and community at simplycommunicate said: “Great employee experience is built on all the interactions an employee has with their employer. It starts from the moment they apply for a role, until long after they’ve left. Employee experience has been fragmented over the last year for obvious reasons – we’ve all had to adapt to new ways of working which have been forced upon us.

 However, we know from the data around us, that there is a permanent shift in working practices. This means, previous mechanisms we used to do our jobs are no longer fit for purpose. Microsoft 365 users will know that most of our working day is spent within Microsoft Teams. Far from adding more noise and locations for us to go when we’re working, the clear strategic decision to fuse Microsoft Viva with Teams cements its use and application at the heart of the enterprise – and employee world.”



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