What is Microsoft Viva Learning and how can it help my business?

The launch of Microsoft Viva – a new employee experience platform accessed through Microsoft Teams – has received a lot of attention in the digital workplace and HR space, and has piqued the interest of HR departments. Announced in early-2021 and still in the process of roll-out, we believe Viva is an exciting release which will become a core part of the Microsoft 365 digital workplace.

Microsoft Viva consists of four different apps:

Viva ConnectionsViva Connections: A gateway to internal communications and company resources, including policies and HR information, as well as the ability to participate in different social communities.

Viva InsightsViva Insights: Personalised analytics and related insights for individuals, managers and leaders that support wellbeing, collaboration, productivity and more.

Viva TopicsViva Topics: A knowledge discovery platform that uses AI to source experts and resources on different topics concerning Microsoft 365 tools and other digital channels.

Viva LearningViva Learning: A learning hub that aggregates learning resources from a variety of different sources including LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, popular third-party providers and a companys own learning content.

In this post, were going to take a deeper dive into Viva Learning and explore its benefits. Well also look at the impact on customers who have introduced LMS365 – a learning platform that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams.

What is Microsoft Viva Learning?

Viva Learning aggregates personalised learning content from multiple places into one view which can then be easily accessed through Microsoft Teams. This content can reside in different libraries and collections, including:

  • Microsoft Learn – Microsofts own collection of learning content about its tools
  • LinkedIn Learning a huge source of learning and course material, previously branded as Lynda and now owned by Microsoft through the LinkedIn acquisition
  • Leading course providers including Skillsoft and Coursera
  • The Learning Platform or LMS integrations are planned with Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba, SuccessFactors and more, and APIs will be made available later in 2021 to enable other Learning Platforms to arrange integrations
  • SharePoint document libraries.

As learning content is accessed through Teams, it can also be shared in conversations and threads or accessed through tabs and channels with learning resources on different themes. To make learning relevant, suggestions are also personalised to the individual, leveraging the power of the Microsoft Graph. Another app, Microsoft Viva Topics, can also leverage Viva Learning resources to suggest learning content on different subjects.

Viva Learning is not a Learning Management System (LMS). However, managers do have the ability to assign learning to individual team members and track completion with views that report on the status of learning they have assigned; individuals can also view all the learning assigned to them. This facility can either be utilised through Viva Learning itself or through an integration with an existing LMS.

Microsoft Viva Learning is not yet fully available – it went into public preview in late April, but had to be closed due to overwhelming demand. However, we can expect it to be fully available later in the year.

What are the benefits of Microsoft Viva Learning?

We believe Microsoft Viva Learning has some real benefits that have the potential to transform learning in organisations. Lets explore some of the key potential outcomes.

Bringing learning into the daily flow of work

For far too long, learning has been on the periphery of the digital workplace. It has been focused on an LMS or e-learning platform that may have a less than satisfactory user experience, may not be available via single sign-on and may have low adoption. Viva Learning brings learning right into the heart of the digital workplace and makes learning assets far easier to view and access. Because it is experienced through Microsoft Teams – a place where employees are increasingly spending their working day – learning is brought right into the daily flow of work.

Brings in a more holistic view of learning content from multiple sources

Although learning efforts tend to be focused around a learning platform, content can actually come from multiple sources. Intranet pages, internal presentations, knowledge-sharing videos, third-party content and podcasts can all be excellent learning assets, but they may reside in different places both inside and outside your digital workplace. Microsoft Viva Learning can bring these all together into one place, presenting a more holistic and wider view of content that ultimately supports better learning.

Encourages organisations to think about learning in a more holistic way

Organisations simply do not prioritise learning as much as they should, and all too often do not take a holistic or strategic view. Consequently, training can be carried out across multiple functions such as sales, IT, professional development and so on with little or no co-ordination. When you introduce an enterprise-wide tool like Viva Learning, organisations are forced to think more strategically and holistically about learning, leading to initiatives that provide learners with more options and allow teams to deliver better training.

Ensures learning is available anytime, anywhere, any place

An emphasis on classroom-based training has tended to limit learning opportunities for many. The pandemic has undoubtedly swung organisations away from this approach, with more learning now available digitally rather than face-to-face. Introducing Microsoft Viva Topics further encourages organisations to make a higher proportion of their learning digital and provide easier access to it, meaning that learning is available anytime, anywhere and any place for a much wider set of employees. This simultaneously widens the learning opportunities for individuals and eases the administrative burden on busy training functions.

Empowers employees to take control of their learning

Learning becomes so much more powerful when employees can control it and drive their own professional development and career path. Introducing Viva Learning enables employees to start doing just that by providing easier access to content as well as encouraging the further digitisation of learning content and processes.

Brings learning and knowledge-sharing into peer conversations

Because Viva Learning is experienced within Microsoft Teams, it brings learning resources into peer conversations, making learning content more centred around knowledge-sharing and peer recommendations. This shifts the focus away from learning being a top-down activity, potentially changing the way employees feel about learning resources and kickstarting a powerful bottom-up culture of learning.

Focuses on the digital employee experience

Learning, personal growth and professional & career development are all parts of employee experience. Because Microsoft Viva Learning supports these areas, its a great technology to use as part of your overall effort to improve employee experience and prioritise those moments that matter.

How does Microsoft Viva Learning fit with LMS365?

LMS365 is an excellent learning platform and LMS that we implement for clients; its a fully working LMS with all the features that you will need, integrating completely seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams; most employees do not realise it is a separate system. This makes it the learning platform of choice for anyone with a Microsoft 365 digital workplace.

LMS365 customers already enjoy some of the benefits that Viva Learning can bring because learning is directly in the flow of work and learning assets can be shared in Teams. However, were even more excited about the potential combination of LMS365 and Viva Learning which will bring a new dimension for customers of both systems. As the LMS365 team put it themselves, learning is super-sized.

Viva Learning is not a Learning Management System, and requires one to have most impact. When you have a learning platform like LMS365 that is already integrated into Teams and Microsoft 365, it means the entire learning experience is completely integrated, end-to-end, in one highly consistent experience. With other integrations with Viva Learning you may still be handed off to other systems such as Cornerstone OnDemand, but with LMS365 you stay firmly within the Microsoft 365 or Teams ecosystem.

This means end-to-end learning from discovery, to course registration, to development planning, to actually taking the courses is completed all in one place. For existing LMS365 customers, Viva Learning adds additional features such as integration with other elements of the Viva platform like Topics, as well as the ability to collate learning resources from an ever-wider set of sources and further embed learning into everyday work. LMS365 customers will also be able to leverage the future enhancements in Viva Learning that investment will inevitably bring.

Get ready for Microsoft Viva Learning

Microsoft Viva Learning is coming later this year. We can see enormous potential for it to bring learning into the heart of the digital workplace, and when combined with LMS365, the impact will be even greater. If you want to know how you can prepare for Viva Learning, or would like to find out more about LMS365, then get in touch.

MS Build 2021: What’s new with Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Teams and Search

Today Microsoft have announced a whole raft of upcoming changes to digital workplaces across the globe. Enhancements to profiles, Teams & meetings, Search and Graph were among the top topics on display. Here is a roundup of what we are most interested in coming out of Microsoft Build 2021:

Enrich profiles with information from Workday, SAP and other Microsoft Graph connectors

thumbnail image 1 of blog post titled Profile enrichment with Microsoft Graph connectors

Long overdue are updates to profiles in the Microsoft eco-system – today Microsoft have announced a way for organisations to enrich profile cards by directly showing information from HRMS systems like Workday, SAP SuccessFactors and more using Microsoft Graph connectors.

Whilst there are a few limitations, this looks like it will deliver a much needed boost to profiles in M365.

Messaging extensions in Outlook

A feature that has become invaluable in some scenarios in Microsoft Teams will be rolled out later this year in the form of Outlook messaging extensions. These extensions allow users to create rich media cards in messages to display powerful contextual information and actions from 3rd party systems.

Visual showing example of a message extension being used in Outlook on web.

Commercialise your Microsoft Teams apps

Also on the Microsoft roadmap is a feature that will allow partner organisations to start shipping products through Teams with all licensing handled through an integrated checkout process.

Users will be able to purchase subscriptions of partner apps directly from the Teams Store and the Teams Admin Center (via invoice billing or credit card)—making it even simpler for users to acquire and adopt apps while providing partners more monetization opportunities for your solutions.

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Together mode in Teams meetings

Coming this summer, Together mode extensibility lets you create and share your own custom scenes for Teams meetings. This provides an easy design experience, within the Developer Portal for Teams, so developers can craft custom scenes to make meetings more engaging and personalised for your organization. Heres a custom scene built by the Microsoft team that you can try out today!

Visual showing a custom Together Mode scene being created.

 

A dedicated Org Explorer app that will allow employees to visualise and contextualise their organisation

In every digital workplace requirements document is a requirement for org charts. Until recently there hasn’t been great user experiences or functionality in org charts on M365. Microsoft are hoping to change this with what they are coining as an app that “enables users to contextualize, visualize, and explore people and teams around them from within Microsoft 365 apps and services”.

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Why is internal communications important?

Why do we need internal communications? Its a question we hear occasionally in meetings when the importance of internal communications as a discipline, role and department is being questioned. The argument goes that now digital workplace tools can make anyone a publisher and informal messaging tends to resonate more than formal corporate messaging, the need for internal communications has diminished. This logic may point to intranet analytics which show that most employees use the intranet to get things done rather than read news. IC teams, therefore, are no longer essential for the effective flow of communication across an organisation.

Of course, this is a thoroughly misguided view. Actually, we need internal communications now more than ever, with relying on a professional internal communication team being essential to deliver a strategy and co-ordinate effective messaging around the organisation. In this post, were going to explore ten reasons why internal communications is critical because of the value it brings to organisations and employees.

Defining internal communications

Before we explore the reasons why internal communications is successful, it helps to define the term. Rachel Miller, an influential voice across the IC community, differentiates between internal communication (the overarching view of how a company communicates) and internal communications (the tools, tactics and channels). She goes on to define IC in its simplest form as the way a company interacts with its people and they interact with it.

Internal communications is therefore about applying coherence, structure and co-ordination to the messages that go out to employees, and the dialogue that ensues. Its also about adopting a strategic view to ensure messaging has both purpose and impact, as well as taking a professional approach to internal communications and involving trained internal communicators.

The reasons why IC is important tend to fall into two different categories. The first is the general business impact that IC brings, such as increased employee engagement; the second is more about the specifics of taking a professional and co-ordinated approach to messaging.

Lets explore the reasons why IC is so critical.

1 Engaging employees and amplifying the culture

Employee engagement and the employee experience are both regarded by HR functions as critical as they have a positive impact on a variety of important areas including employee turnover, productivity and even profitability. The value of engaged employees is a huge topic that is best left for another article, but internal communications plays an important role in various aspects of employee engagement, including shaping:

  • How employees feel about their leaders and whether they trust them
  • How they fit into the overall strategy of the organisation and perceive their role
  • Whether they feel valued and listened to
  • How they perceive organisational purpose and values
  • How they relate to organisational culture
  • Whether there is an organisational commitment to transparency and accountability
  • How they feel about the future of working at your organisation.

Internal communications also plays an important role in amplifying and celebrating organisational culture that can make a company more fun and engaging to work within.

By not applying a professional and co-ordinated approach to managing internal communications, organisations are missing a huge opportunity to positively influence employee engagement.

2 Keeping everybody informed and aware

Internal communications plays an essential role in keeping everyone informed and aware of what is going on throughout an organisation. This can help equip employees with the right operational and strategic knowledge to put their daily work into perspective and be fully aware of the things they need to know in order to effectively carry out their role. Employees have a huge amount of information thrown at them every day; effective internal communications can help to make this more manageable and reduce the noise.

3 Clarity during a crisis

Theres never a stronger case for internal communications than during a crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need for clear, authoritative and unambiguous crisis communications which are trusted by employees. The role of IC teams here is not just to make sure messaging is crystal clear and consistent, but also that its properly managed, leaving no room for misunderstandings.

During COVID-19, the clarity of messaging achieved through good communications supports employee wellbeing while also minimising risks to the continuity of business operations at an incredibly difficult time. Internal communications functions have played a hugely important role during 2020 and 2021 in helping to provide clarity during a crisis.

4 Strong messaging to support change

Another example of internal communications significant impact is in change situations. This can be anything from following a new company strategy, to mergers & acquisitions, to introducing new ways of working. Change and transformation are a constant in organisations, and taking a professional IC approach is essential to bring employees along on that journey and get their buy-in.

5 Targeting messages to diverse, global workforces

Workforces are highly diverse, with different roles, locations, languages, regions, divisions and departments. Modern intranets and related channels offer opportunities to target items to these groups, making digital communications relevant and finessed to the needs of all parts of the organisation.

Internal communicators play a role here in making sure content targeting is properly applied and messaging is optimal to different groups; without an IC approach, organisations miss a massive opportunity to ensure communications resonate with all parts of the organisation. One size definitely does not fit all.

6 Making the best use of omni-channel

These days, internal communicators have a plethora of different tools and software to choose from in any given digital workplace. Intranet, email, print, social channels, apps and public-facing sites all have a potential role to play.

In a truly omni-channel environment, it takes skill and experience to coordinate messages across different channels, use different tools for the best impact depending on message and audience, and know the strengths and weaknesses of each channel. Planning a campaign, for example, needs oversight of which channel to use and when. Here, a professional internal communications approach is necessary to make the very best use of omni-channel, and ensure messaging has impact.

7 Advising on best practices for non-communicators

An increasing role for IC teams is to act as internal consultants and experts, helping to advise on best practices for the rest of the business and provide guidance to leaders. This role has real value. People within the business are not trained communicators – senior leaders need support from professionals to get their message across, and support functions need guidance on how to create and execute campaigns. Given the importance of communications to various aspects of organisational life, its essential to have an internal champion for best practices who can provide professional communications support and advice right across the organisation.

8 Managing the volume of messaging

Taking a professional approach to internal communications means there is a more coordinated and centralised view of communication flows. One area where this drives value is managing the volume of messages received by employees at any one time so they are not overwhelmed. For example, a classic problem where there is no IC control over all staff email communications means employees receive multiple single message emails, many of which are not relevant to them., and employees just end up deleting them. When this happens, messages are missed and ignored, time is wasted and employees get fed up. When there is a more coordinated approach, however, messaging is better presented, consolidated into fewer messages and consistently relevant.

9 Ensuring the right timing for communications

An underrated advantage that IC teams bring is to optimise the timing of messages. Sometimes, this is about getting a message out quickly, while other times its about planning campaigns with the right sequencing of messages, choosing the right timing relating to change management aims, and co-ordinating the timing of different messages so employees arent overwhelmed. When organisations dont apply IC approaches and the timing of messages is sub-optimal, the result can be a free for all with messages arriving at the wrong time.

10 Driving dialogue and conversations

Internal communications is not just about broadcasting corporate messages – good internal communications can drive dialogue and start conversations. This can be of enormous value, not only in driving engagement, but also in providing insights for leadership about how your workforce is feeling. When internal communications creates dialogue in some kind of structure which can be used to derive insights (and make sure conversations are finished too), this can inform better management decisions. Dialogue and listening have been especially important during the pandemic so that organisations know how to support their employees in the right way. Intranets and social collaboration platforms like Yammer provide excellent opportunities for internal communicators to foster dialogue.

Internal communications in your digital workplace

Internal communications and internal communicators bring enormous value to organisations. If youd like to discuss delivering internal communications in your digital workplace, then get in touch!

Webinar: Yammer best practice – 5 tips to help it succeed in your organisation

Update: Watch webinar video “Yammer best practices”

Webinar details

Date:  16th June 2021
Time:  2:00pm UK time

85% of Fortune 500 companies are now using Yammer, but we regularly hear about poor adoption and failed implementations. What does Yammer best practice look like? How can you ensure that it works in your organisation?

In this Webinar we’ll share our experience and insights into what makes Yammer succeed within different organisations. Including:

  • Aligning Yammer with your company strategy
  • Establishing the right roles
  • Why and how to run pilots
  • Yammer for Internal Communications
  • Yammer for Leaders

Panelists:

  • Richard Gera, a Digital Communication and Engagement Consultant with a wealth of Yammer experience. This includes rolling out and managing enterprise collaboration as an external consultant and an in-house practitioner.
  • John Scott has worked across both design and technical disciplines – a rare combination that allow him to build a bridge between the user experience and technical teams. This means that feasibility, usability, delivery and ease of maintenance are baked-into all of our solutions.
  • Joe Perry oversees the technical delivery of all Content Formula projects. He works closely with our UX consultants and clients to understand requirements and design appropriate technical solutions.

Register now!

 

Staffbase alternative & competitor

Choosing an employee app product: LiveTiles Reach or Staffbase?

 

Over the past three years, the internal communications app market has expanded significantly – there is now considerable choice for internal communication teams hoping to deploy mobile apps that can help support digital communications, engagement and efficiency. This is especially encouraging in that it has helped reduce the digital divide that previously existed between knowledge workers who sit at desks and the frontline staff who dont. At last, frontline staff can be brought completely into the digital workplace and digital communications landscape, a situation that has been particularly important during the pandemic when all staff need to be fully connected.

The depth of choice around employee apps leaves digital communications and IT teams with decisions to make – how do you decide which product is best for your workforce? In this article, were going to explore some of the questions to consider when thinking about this and, as an example, illustrate the differences between LiveTiles Reach and Staffbase.

A maturing market

Internal communication and employee engagement apps are a topic that we have explored on this blog before, for example, weve looked at the must-have features of an internal communications app or mobile intranet such as strong news delivery, access to an employee directory and appropriate digital workplace integrations. More recently, we explored different ways an app can transform your business, from enabling digital transformation for all staff, to supporting business continuity, to driving innovation.

We believe the competition in the app market is breeding better products with a wider depth of features, as well as a growing number of viable options. Clearbox Consulting publishes arguably the definitive guide to employee apps with reviews of the key players, and will be adding many more workforce apps to the next edition of their report.

The maturity in the market, alongside the range of different offerings, means there is an emerging differentiation in the type of benefits different apps deliver, as well as the organisations and relative scenarios they are a good fit for.

Which employee app is right for my organisation?

There are a number of factors that will influence which employee app an organisation will deploy, including:

  • Range of features
  • Costs both implementation project budget and ongoing costs
  • Existing digital workplace and digital communication channels
  • Required speed of implementation
  • Branding considerations
  • Workforce demographics
  • Devices in use
  • And more.

Depending on companies needs and priorities, different products are going to tick the boxes for some organisations and not for others.

What questions should I think about?

When considering if an app is right for you, here are some of the initial questions which are worth thinking about:

  • What am I trying to achieve with my employee app, and how does it fit into my digital communication strategy and digital workplace roadmap?
  • How are different groups of employees going to use the app on a day-to-day basis?
  • What is the relationship between the employee app and other digital channels and apps in use, like our SharePoint intranet or Microsoft Teams?
  • Will we have to duplicate content across our SharePoint intranet and the app or are the two well integrated?
  • What are the essential features and the nice-to-have features on the app?
  • Are employees going to access the app on personal devices as well as corporate ones?
  • Does the app satisfy technical, security and legal standards and commitments?
  • What are the costs of the apps roll-out and the subsequent ongoing costs to effectively manage it?
  • Can disconnected employees without digital identities and / or Microsoft 365 licenses access the app?
  • When do we need to deploy the app and how easy is it to roll out?
  • Are there any other dependencies that need to be in place to launch the app?
  • Does the vendor tick the right boxes and what does their support look like both at the beginning and on a long-term basis?
  • Are all our internal stakeholders going to be on board with this app?
  • What about other considerations like branding, the quality of user experience and how employees actually download it?

Comparing products: Staffbase vs LiveTiles Reach

Both the kind of things you need to consider and the market differentiation of products is well illustrated by comparing the relative strengths of two internal communication mobile apps – Staffbase and LiveTiles Reach.

Staffbase is perhaps the best known product of the two thanks to its strong marketing but both Reach and Staffbase are mature products in the space with many large global clients (as well as lesser-known ones). Reach is now part of the LiveTiles suite of digital workplace products and so can be extended if required. Staffbase is a one-product company.

In our view, both are strong products that serve slightly different market needs, with Staffbase being a significant investment (in time and money) to become the base for your digital communications, and LiveTiles Reach being a more turnkey alternative that fits in with your existing digital workplace while still delivering world-class digital communications and engagement.

Lets look at some of the similarities and differences based on areas weve already mentioned.

 

Factor LiveTiles Reach
LiveTiles Reach
Staffbase
Staffbase
Market position Strong app offered by established digital workplace tech provider Market-leading employee app with a strong reputation
Features Feature-rich with emphasis on internal communications and engagement and social interaction Feature-rich with emphasis on internal communications, engagement and social interaction
Costs Generally lower costs, both initial and ongoing Generally higher costs, both initial and ongoing
Ease of implementation Quick and straightforward can be implemented in days. Because of this its easy to set up a proof-of-concept too. Needs more planning and involvement
Existing digital channels LiveTiles Reach is designed to complement and integrate with your existing digital channels, not replace them. It can also work as a standalone channel. Although there is flexibility to be just an app, Staffbase is designed and priced to be your primary digital communication channel and employee experience provider, with both intranet and app capabilities
Microsoft 365 integration Excellent integration with Microsoft 365 and Azure AD Integrations across a library of connectors
Workplace demographic Great for frontline employees, including those without M365 licenses or digital identities. Very strong on organisations that are merging and looking for a tool to bridge two businesses Great for frontline employees, including those without M365 licenses or digital identities
User interface Good UI that end-users and authors will pick up quickly Good UI that end-users and authors will pick up quickly
Branding Simple branding options Advanced custom branding options
Supplier Well-established provider with strong reputation and global reach Well-established provider with strong reputation and global reach

Dont know what app is right for you? Visit our Reach page and get in touch!

An employee app is a powerful communication vehicle which is absolutely essential for frontline communications, but its important to invest in the right product to meet your needs.

For example, both LiveTiles Reach and Staffbase have their strengths, yet differ in their appeal. If you want an app that is highly effective, but also reasonably priced and extends the power of your Microsoft 365 digital workplace, without the need for your frontline staff needing an Office 365 license, then LiveTiles Reach is a great choice. If you have a bigger budget and are looking for something to replace your intranet and become the centre of your digital workplace, then Staffbase might work for you.

If youd like to discuss which app is right for you, visit our LiveTiles Reach page and request a demo. If you like what you see we can also arrange a trial or proof-of-concept.

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