How do you improve digital employee experience?

Employee experience is an important topic for senior leaders and HR functions, but also for digital workplace and intranet teams. Digital channels and workplace technology continues to have a prominent influence in how employees experience their work, particularly since the start of the pandemic and the increase in remote working. The projected future of hybrid working patterns means that improving digital employee experience will be a key objective for digital workplace teams going forward. Opportunities created by Employee Experience Platforms (EXP) such as Microsoft Viva also mean that there has never been a better time to start thinking about digital employee experience.

In this article, were going to explore some of the ways teams can improve digital employee experience. In reality, there is no single magic ingredient that improves digital employee experience; you need a combination of different tactics, underpinned by joined-up thinking, to make a difference. Improvement also doesnt necessarily happen overnight its about taking a longer-term, strategic view of the digital touchpoints that impact employees.

What is digital employee experience?

Recently, we tried to define employee experience and digital employee experience. We concluded that the term concerns the way employees experience workplace technology, and that it takes in a more a holistic and strategic way of thinking about the role of technology at work.

However, there is no exact consensus on the definition, and the term can incorporate different meanings and   vary from organisation to organisation. For example, some define it as the equivalent of digital customer experience, while others place more focus on the lifecycle of an employees time at an organisation.

Lets explore some of the different ways digital workplace teams can improve digital employee experience.

1 Align with your organisations strategic view of employee experience

You cant improve digital employee experience without knowing what your organisations strategic view of employee experience is. What are the key elements of employee experience within your organisation? What is important for employees in your organisation? What are your strategic objectives around employee experience? What are the priority areas? Even if the strategy is not necessarily called employee experience, there will   usually be some kind of equivalent which you should analyse.

The strategy and roadmap for digital employee experience must align with the overall strategic view of your organisation and follow it, otherwise your efforts can lack focus, might not get the necessary support from other stakeholders or   may prioritise the wrong areas. Improving the digital employee experience is a huge topic and there is a great deal you can do to achieve it, meaning its   sometimes   hard to know where to start.   Aligning and following the wider employee experience strategic view should help define your digital employee experience strategy and the related areas for prioritisation.

2 Involve the right stakeholders

Digital workplace teams will know the importance of involving key stakeholders in your digital workplace strategy and roadmap – the same is true of digital employee experience. Here, you absolutely need to involve HR for the employee experience element, and both IT and HR for the digital aspect. HR are going to be driving your employee experience strategy forward, and HR tech including your HR system of record like Workday, employee onboarding solutions, learning platform and more are going to be   integral parts of your digital employee experience. You need consensus and joined-up approaches with these stakeholders to ensure you are working towards a common vision of digital employee experience, leading to a collaborative effort which can   direct the specific tactics and measures that can enrich your strategy.

3 Focus on the moments that matter in the employee lifecycle

A common focus for improving digital employee experience is the employee lifecycle, following the journey from the time an employee is first hired to when they leave. Throughout the lifecycle, there are some key moments that matter that make a real difference to the employee; these include the onboarding experience, learning and development, internal career moves and being supported through key life moments such as starting a family. Identifying these moments and then optimising the digital employee experience around them can be a good way to prioritise and focus actions. Employee onboarding, for example, is often ripe for a better digital employee experience, and is an area where improvements deliver substantial value for organisations in helping to reduce employee turnover.

4 Understand your employees

You cannot improve digital employee experience without a thorough understanding of employees. If youre a regular reader of our blog, you wont be surprised by this, as we advocate undertaking user research for any digital project. Never design or build a digital solution based on assumptions! You need to understand the way employees work, their pain points, how they use technology, their information needs and what is important to them.

This is particularly important for a digital employee experience strategy that considers the wide series of factors that are combined to form the overall employee experience. Of course, there are numerous ways to undertake user research including surveys, interviews, workshops, quick polls, analytics, observation and more.

5 Craft individual experiences around different groups

Understanding employees will inevitably mean bringing in a diverse set of needs that reflect not only the diversity of a workforce, but also individual perspectives and circumstances. One of the major challenges of digital employee experience is trying to design solutions that will meet everybodys needs. Of course, thats not always going to be   possible, but incorporating principles such as personalisation, targeted content and experiences, the ability for individuals to configure their experience around their needs,   flexibility and choice will help.

Flexibility and choice are hugely important in the hybrid workplace, allowing employees   to work from anywhere and at any time, giving them autonomy in defining their own employee experience.

6 Keep on involving employees to ensure better solutions

Improving digital employee experience must involve employees. Information and insights from ongoing employee feedback and input is like gold dust, and helps align your digital workplace to employees real-world experiences. Here, it is best to apply some kind of structure to gathering feedback, doing so through:

  • Creating feedback mechanisms and channels to capture ongoing input
  • Establishing formal groups of employees who are prepared to provide ongoing feedback over a prolonged period
  • Building employee feedback into project delivery and product management processes
  • Committing to more agile and iterative approaches to workplace technology.

In introducing these sorts of measures, you also need to clearly communicate and demonstrate that employee feedback is valued and makes a difference in order to encourage ongoing input.

7 Take an empathetic and human-centred view

Improving employee experience means thinking about the range of factors that impact our experience of work. This goes way beyond user-centred design, interface design or improving productivity. We need to think about elements such as health and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, flexible working, personal development, career growth, employee engagement and more.   We also need to contemplate the needs of different groups in terms of roles, locations, culture, background and demographics. On top of that, we must consider the scenarios and conditions people work in, including frontline employees who are on-the-go, knowledge workers sitting in an office and remote employee working at home.

This sounds straightforward on paper but   is actually pretty complex, and   an empathetic and human-centric view is needed to improve digital employee experience. This is especially true as we come out of the pandemic and senior leaders are more focused on peoples needs.

8 Measure in the hybrid workplace to drive continuous improvement

Using metrics to measure different aspects of digital employee experience is a prerequisite for introducing continuous improvement, gaining insights to make meaningful changes, and then testing the impact through further measurement.

Measuring for digital employee experience requires different approaches to looking at adoption or the success of internal communications, alongside a wide range of measures right across the hybrid workplace. People analytics, for example, is starting to look at the connection between health and wellbeing and the time spent on different systems. Using more creative and broader approaches to analytics is necessary, although this is an area where new practices are still emerging.

9 Properly resource your efforts

Digital employee experience is of strategic importance and requires adequate investment, not only in the technology solutions but also in ensuring there are people in place to launch, manage and improve these solutions. Investing properly in an employee onboarding solution, as well as in people to provide stewardship of that system, can have a significant impact on reducing employee turnover. All too often, organisations fall short on digital employee experience because they are simply not resourcing their efforts properly; unfortunately, ensuring availability of the right level of investment and resourcing is sometimes out of the hands of the digital workplace team.

Improving digital employee experience

Improving digital employee experience is an important area, and we hope this article has given you some ideas. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your digital employee experience, get in touch!

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.

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!

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.

12 internal communications tools/software for your company

In any average digital workplace, the tools and channels available to internal communicators are becoming increasingly complex. Having options and choice surrounding your digital communications is, of course, a good thing, but managing communications consistently in a joined-up way has its challenges. Defining an omnichannel strategy with relative processes is the easier part, while actually making it work can be more difficult, especially when some communications are not carried out by IC professionals.

One thing that helps is having an overview of the tools, channels and formats that are available to you and your stakeholders. Considering your internal communications landscape and the relative characteristics of each tool and channel can then help you define the processes around core news, crisis communications, leadership communications, campaigns and more informal engagement activity. It also means you can issue guidance and offer support for leaders, managers and teams who need to communicate but are not IC professionals. Here, creating a digital communications matrix that aligns message purpose, audience, channel and content format can support consistent approaches.

In this article, were going to explore the different internal communications tools which are available, particularly for organisations who have a digital workplace based on Microsoft 365. We hope this will provide some useful background for anyone considering their digital communications strategies and tactics.

1 Email and email newsletters: Outlook

Email and email newsletters remain an important channel for internal communicators. There are advantages in this, but also many disadvantages, with the potential for missed messages and information overload. Email communication remains important for significant announcements and important reminders where everybody needs to be reached. The ability to be able to confirm an open receipt can also be important here.

Most internal communicators drive focused policies on the use of email for communications, and leverage the power of other digital workplace channels to reduce the number of single communication emails sent. They also use newsletter formats to consolidate messaging and drive traffic to other channels like the intranet. For example, a weekly intranet wrap-up email or newsletter that points employees back to the intranet is a tried-and-tested tactic.

2 Employee mobile app: LiveTiles Reach app

An employee mobile app where employees can access news and updates is now a critical channel for internal communicators, especially in broadcasting messages to frontline employees or a workforce who are on-the-go. In some industries like retail, manufacturing, travel and leisure, an employee mobile app with an emphasis on communications is crucial.

One of the most important aspects of an employee app is that it can be accessed via personal devices and, ideally, reach an audience who may not have a corporate digital identity or Microsoft 365 license. Here, an app like LiveTiles Reach can prove a highly valuable and cost-effective option.

An app can deliver all kinds of messages and updates, both formal and informal, although briefer messaging is sometimes better for reading on a mobile device. Its also worth noting that these apps are popular with both frontline and knowledge workers . There can also be some overlap between an employee communications app, an intranet app and a Microsoft app like Yammer or Teams.

3 Company Intranet: LiveTiles Intranet

Despite what some commentators say, intranets remain very much a key channel in the digital communications landscape. While older, traditional intranets which act as static content repositories are gradually becoming a relic of the past, modern intranets deliver a range of business benefits and can be highly effective for internal communications.

One of intranets strengths is their ability to deliver a range of messages and communications that recognise the complexity of global organisations. Personalisation should enable content targeting to different roles, divisions, locations and more, while within an intranet, there should be several different communication formats such as global news, blog posts, video and so on. For example, the LiveTiles intranet software includes attractive publishing templates to deliver more formal news, but also the Noticeboard feature to roll up decentralised news from multiple sites; staff can be opted into Noticeboard channels or subscribe.

4 SharePoint: SharePoint communication sites, hub sites and home sites

Of course, SharePoint is not a generic internal communication channel, but if you have Microsoft 365, it is an option to deliver communications and create experiences that are similar to an intranet.

SharePoint communication sites offer a template to deliver communications from a team, department or function, along with the ability to create news and provide an effective microsite. Multiple communication sites can then be connected via SharePoint hub sites and even a SharePoint home site, creating a more coherent intranet experience by aggregating some of the news.

Communication sites are advantageous in that they can be created and managed without IC or central help. The intuitive and pleasant experiences of modern SharePoint are far better than the administration baggage that came with classic SharePoint. Conversely, communication sites entail a lack of central control, and they often dont meet the more sophisticated news publishing needs of IC teams.

It is now possible to create an enterprise intranet using SharePoint out-of-the-box that can be a critical digital communication channel, but this still requires some skill to pull off, and comes with hidden ownership costs. Our view is that using intranet software like LiveTiles will be a much better fit for IC teams.

5 Social collaboration: Yammer

Social collaboration tools like Yammer are now important internal communication channels, allowing for a more personal and informal approach to comms. Here, you can create opportunities for feedback, boost and reinforce more formal messaging on other channels, and broadcast quick, informal updates which can be targeted to different groups. A tool like Yammer is an important part of driving engagement and supporting any campaign that involves discussions and listening to employee sentiment. Its also a great place for senior management to engage in conversations.

The beauty of Yammer is that it can also be easily integrated into other parts of Microsoft 365, including Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, meaning that employees can interact with Yammer right across your digital workplace and conversations can be placed into context with content.

6 Team collaboration: Microsoft Teams

In many organisations nowadays, team collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack are where work happens – employees use them for much of their working day. Because of this, they are a tempting channel for internal communicators to use in reaching their audience, even though Microsoft Teams is not necessarily designed as a communication channel in its own right.

Microsoft Teams introduces multiple options, including creating all company Teams and channels to deliver internal comms, or embedding Yammer feeds into different channels. Here, it also now possible to enable access to a LiveTiles intranet, ensuring that internal communications are integrated more directly into the daily flow of work.

7 Corporate website

You might be surprised that weve classed your corporate website as an internal communications channel, but it is not uncommon for employees to read your website, particularly frontline employees who may have less straightforward access to your intranet. Some large companies like Walmart and the Royal Mail even have semi-open intranets where the line between intranet and website is blurry. Many intranets also feature a feed from the company website, so this should always be considered in the mix of your overall digital communications channels.

8 Employee Experience and HR platforms: Microsoft Viva Connections

Employee experience is a term and concept growing in use across the digital workplace, and some tools focused on the employee lifecycle and HR processes are now being marketed as employee experience platforms. This includes some intranet software or digital assistants that integrate different applications to present a single, integrated user experience; this even arguably includes core HR systems like Workday. More recently, Microsoft has launched Microsoft Viva, a suite of tools accessed through Microsoft Teams that covers learning, knowledge management and more. All these tools provide options for internal communicators, especially for more HR and learning-focused communications.

Microsoft Viva Connections looks set to become a significant offering for internal communicators. Part of the Viva suite that has yet to be launched, it offers an aggregated view of communications, conversations and more across different channels. Well be exploring Viva Connections in more detail in due course.

9 Digital signage

Digital signage is another important channel that was getting more attention prior to the pandemic. Of course, the growth of remote working since has meant that this has had less prominence recently, but it remains an important outlet for broadcasting in physical workplaces.

10 Live events: Microsoft Teams Events

Live events such as virtual all hands meetings, town halls and even conferences have become increasingly important during the pandemic as places to drive engagement and key messages that reach a wide audience. The launch of Microsoft Teams Events makes this more achievable for everybody.

11 Video sharing platform: Microsoft Stream

Video is another format that has grown in importance during the pandemic, especially for leadership communications. There is less expectation around the quality of video, so it can be very inexpensive to create videos that could have more impact than the written word.

Microsoft Stream provides an opportunity to create a video-sharing platform, with videos that can be easily shared and embedded across all your other channels including the intranet, Yammer, SharePoint and more.

12 Podcasts

Podcasts (and to a lesser extent, corporate radio) are becoming more prevalent, reflecting their growing popularity in the consumer world as well as the increasing availability of podcast platforms. These offer a vibrant way to reach target audiences, alongside an opportunity to consume information during down time, such as on the journey to work or in transit between locations.

Want information on digital communication options in Microsoft 365? Get in touch!

Internal communicators have many options, especially with Microsoft 365. If you want more information or are wondering how they could all fit together, then why not get in touch?

6 leading Office 365 intranet examples with screenshots

At Content Formula we work extensively with clients who have Office 365, delivering intranets that are based on Office 365 technologies, and leverage its many features. These intranets both improve processes but also help employees to take advantage of the extensive Office 365 toolset, increasing adoption and value.  Through our work weve built up a strong library of Office 365 intranet examples that illustrate some the key good practices and approaches to consider when implementing an Office 365-based intranet.

Clients frequently ask us for compelling Office 365 intranet examples and to see screenshots. Here are five of our favourite examples with the relative key takeaway. You can also see some of our best SharePoint intranet examples too in a companion article.

1 Entain – a modern digital workplace hub in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams

Entain Microsoft Office 365 intranet homepage
Entain’s Microsoft Office 365 intranet homepage

Entain needed a hub for their digital workplace serving 25,000 employees worldwide – including 15,000 retail workers. We designed and built a modern intranet that could be accessed from any device.

With the widespread adoption of Microsoft Teams across the business in the last year, we capitalised on this by delivering the intranet to people within the Teams app – also on mobile as well as the desktop app.

Entain Microsoft Office 365 intranet in Microsoft Teams including mobile
Entain’s Microsoft Office 365 intranet in Microsoft Teams including mobile

Delivering intranet content and features in Microsoft Teams means that the experience is more naturally integrated with the work day of the each employee. This has also provided us with an opportunity to connect with other systems – including Service Now and Oracle HR. The overall digital employee experience is vastly simplified versus the old, rather fragmented, approach.

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2 Boehringer Ingelheim – an Office 365 intranet that aligns to the wider digital workplace

Boehringer Ingelheim office 365 intranet example

Over the last three or four years the digital workplace concept has grown increasingly popular, particularly with the exponential growth of Office 365. The idea of a designed, coherent and consistent user experience across different workplace tools is an attractive one, and can help drive efficiency, employee engagement and the adoption of different tools.

The digital workplace has also had a significant influence on the evolution of intranets; modern intranets are ideally placed to be an attractive entry point (front door or launchpad) into the wider portfolio of applications across the digital workplace. An intranet strategy should therefore address the intranets relationship with the digital workplace.

When we were asked by global pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) to undertake user and stakeholder research and craft a new intranet strategy, it soon became clear that the intranet had a critical role to play in the companys digital workplace and Office 365 journey. The intranet team loved our suggestion that MyBI be positioned as a virtual assistant to help employees understand and navigate the companys new Office 365-powered digital workplace.

We also advised on design and technical matters, focusing on a new persistent, personalised intranet toolbar that helps employees navigate the digital workplace. This personalised My Tools menu is an essential speed dial to different apps and Office 365 tools, and also features access to personal Teams spaces. The new improved intranet is now ideally placed at the centre of the BI digital workplace, helping employees navigate the new array of tools at their fingertips.

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3 Xcapital – an Office 365 intranet that delivers critical business process

Xcapital Office 365 intranet that delivers critical business process

Office 365 brings many opportunities to improve critical business processes using the variety of different tools available, sometimes in combination with each other. An intranet based on SharePoint Online that can integrate with Office 365 tools such as Teams can also play its part. This means that the intranet can help to deliver an important business process;  driving efficiency, increasing the value and adoption of the intranet and leveraging your investment in Office 365 all at once!

XCapital is  a UK-based private equity house that provides funding options for ambitious businesses. A core activity for the company is a research and due diligence process that identifies and assesses new businesses to invest in.  In order to streamline and standardise a process that was primarily carried out by email and was highly inefficient, we were asked to create a digital workplace application that would automate the eight steps of the process and ensure staff follow correct procedures.

We used Microsoft Teams to create a place for templates, information and documents relating to each step, with automation ensuring each stage has been completed. The intranet also plays a key role. A custom SharePoint Online page displays key data about each target acquisition, including the stage at which the opportunity is at, and provides access to the relevant Teams space. This seamlessly integrates the due diligence process into the intranet, with users viewing key information and feeling they are accessing one system.

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Find out about our Microsoft Teams app development services and our out-of-the-box Sharepoint intranet development service.

4 ?WhatIf! – an Office 365 intranet that enables Knowledge Management

Office 365 intranet that enables Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management (KM) has been around for nearly twenty years but many organisations still have not quite nailed down a successful way to find, capture and re-use valuable knowledge that is generated through everyday work, collaboration and projects. Intranets are often a part of the solution, and regarded as a key channel in knowledge-sharing.

?What If! helps organisations to innovate new products, services and ways to operate. The team engaged us to deliver a new modern intranet that would integrate with Office 365, but they also wanted to solve the conundrum of how to manage the knowledge that emerges from projects. With Microsoft Teams being used for project collaboration, we built a compelling new intranet based on Wizdom intranet-in-a-box that also incorporated a simple but highly effective KM solution. In a special folder in Microsoft Teams, project teams can add valuable knowledge documents that can still be accessed once a Teams space has been archived.

On the intranet each project has its own page; these are automatically created with key data and have all the valuable knowledge documents accessible, all tagged with the correct project metadata. A custom search also helps employees find project files based on different criteria, increasing knowledge flow and exploiting the link between a SharePoint Online intranet and Microsoft Teams.

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Find out about our Wizdom SharePoint intranet-in-a-box offering

5 Haines Watts – an Office 365 intranet with onboarding workflows and bots

Office 365 intranet with onboarding workflows and bots

Office 365 provides organisations with a flexible and ever-expanding get of tools and services that help build up digital workplaces over time, for example increasing collaboration or using workflow to digitise simple processes. A SharePoint Online intranet that sits alongside Office 365 can also take a similar approach, using the easy ability to integrate with Office 365 tools and other elements of the Microsoft stack to keep on extending the power of the intranet.

At UK accountancy firm Haines Watts we had already deployed an Office 365-based intranet that was full of useful features, but we continued to add new functionality. One of these was the introduction of a simple workflow tool that leverages Office 365 and can be used by non-technical staff to create workflows to help improve processes. For example, employee onboarding is made easier by using forms, documents and data capture across seven steps to manage and automate the onboarding process for a new starter and notify all the various parties that need to complete actions. This framework can be repeated for other types of processes such as ordering a company credit card, with the client able to create the workflow themselves.

Further extending intranet capability, we also deployed a chatbot to help employees ask questions. Named after Haines Watts founder, Cyril is accessible from every page through a chat facility and uses Microsofts natural language framework LUIS to help employees find what they need. We designed and helped train the bot. Cyril has become more sophisticated over time through machine learning and added capabilities, again turning the intranet into a versatile platform to drive information flow and process efficiency.

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Find out about our custom SharePoint intranet development services

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6 Moving Made Easy – an Office 365 intranet that powers core operational processes

Office 365 intranet that powers core operational processes - example

Sometimes your Office 365 intranet can actually be your digital workplace, with the ability to carry out all your core processes and activities without entering another system. This can be the case where you have unique needs to meet and where a customised intranet and digital workplace completely configured around the way you work makes sense. Although this approach will not be applicable to all companies, it can deliver significant efficiencies and support digital transformation.

Moving Made Easy help house builders sell their homes by assisting customers with the sale of their existing homes. We helped them replace their ageing property management system with a new highly efficient intranet and digital workplace based on Office 365 where employees can carry out all the major activities associated with selling a house. Taking an end-to-end approach for the process for each individual sale,  integration with external systems and automation has helped to increase productivity.  Dashboards and reporting through Power BI has also given management a powerful overview of data, and even created different views for customers to check the status of their sale. Weve also continued to work with the client to expand and improve the digital workplace, providing a system which has had a major impact on the daily work.

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Learn more about our custom SharePoint intranet development services

Need other Office 365 intranet examples with screenshots?

Case studies and screenshots can provide a good reference point for what is possible with a modern intranet on Office 365, as well as revealing good practices and impactful approaches. If you need other examples of great intranets why not check out our full list of case studies.  Alternatively you can also get in touch.

7 ways an internal communications app can benefit your company

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear how important it is to connect remote employees and make sure they are well-informed through reliable and trusted digital communications channels. Business continuity, employee engagement and wellbeing are just some of the benefits that we have seen digital channels provide; of course, these elements have always been important, and will continue to be so when the pandemic is under control.

Weve written frequently about the contribution an employee mobile app with a focus on internal communications can make in connecting staff, particularly those on the frontline. Weve explored the reasons for deploying an app, such as its convenience and focus, as well as the essential features of a good mobile intranet app. This time around, were going to explore the deeper business benefits that can be achieved by deploying an internal comms app like LiveTiles Reach which is available to all employees.

Here are seven ways an internal communications app can contribute to the transformation of your business.

1 Enabling digital transformation by connecting all employees

In the past, there have been many challenges when creating a digital workplace and related digital communications channels that all employees can access. Having all employees accessing your digital workplace is usually a prerequisite for true digital transformation, ensuring:

  • You are a truly connected company
  • There is a level playing field in terms of access to information
  • Everyone has a voice
  • All employees can experience productivity gains and contribute to innovation.

Traditionally, it has been difficult to connect frontline employees to corporate intranets and channels which are predominantly aimed at knowledge workers. This is not only due to poor mobile experiences or a lack of access to corporate devices, but also because frontline employees sometimes do not have the Microsoft licenses or digital identities to access the intranet. There are also examples of other groups of employees who are disconnected, including outsourced workers or new acquisitions of companies where it takes time to arrange access for newly onboarded employees.

An internal comms and digital workplace mobile app that is available on both employee-owned and corporate devices is simply the quickest and most cost-efficient way to connect all your employees, bypassing many of the logistical barriers around identities, devices and access to the digital workplace during the working day. This means an app can be the springboard for digital transformation, unlocking new ways of working and providing opportunities for collaboration, innovation and more.

2 Improving every individuals digital employee experience

Employee experience is now a common area of focus for HR teams and senior leaders, helping drive a more joined-up and strategic approach to how employees experience their work with multiple benefits that flow. The digital element of this is important.

An internal communications app that also has some integrated elements of the digital workplace can support a better digital employee experience for each individual, particularly if personalisation makes sure the experience is relevant for that person. For example, an app might help a person stay up-to-date with changes, drive efficiencies through easier task completion and just make their working day a little easier. Achieving this across your entire workforce can be transformational, with significant collective benefits around engagement and productivity.

3 Supporting your employment value proposition

Having a strong value proposition as an employer and a reputation for being a great place to work is essential in attracting the best talent and reducing employee turnover – both common strategic aims for HR functions. An internal communications app can play a role in supporting your employment value proposition by:

  • Helping to encourage transparency
  • Giving everyone a voice to support engagement
  • Supporting Diversity and Inclusion, with all representatives of your workforce contributing to the digital workplace
  • Helping employees feel better informed about and connected to your organisations purpose and values, amplifying whats best about your organisational culture (this is explored further below)
  • Boosting confidence in senior leaders through internal communications
  • Providing access to learning assets, encouraging personal and career development
  • Supplying access to health and wellbeing initiatives
  • Supporting better connection between colleagues
  • Providing a better digital employee experience, as already stated
  • Specifically supporting employee advocacy initiatives, encouraging employees to share stories on their own social media channels and spreading awareness of a strong employee value proposition.

4 Driving process improvement

Digital transformation is often about improving and changing multiple processes across the enterprise; for example, many organisations have already gone through a process of digitisation by moving paper processes online, and are now looking at further aspects of automation, advanced workflow and self-service to improve productivity. Other process improvements could mean replacing email communication with more efficient methods of exchanging information, particularly if it means eliminating unnecessary steps and approvals. This is particularly true regarding processes where people are on-the-go or out in the field, and mobile access for viewing or submitting information makes a difference.

An internal communications app can play its part here, not only by ensuring all staff can access the information they need for improved processes, but also by driving better dialogue across the business and information flow. When multiple processes start to change, especially those involving frontline or mobile staff, an app can make a significant contribution to overall organisational efficiency.

5 Supporting business continuity

In a volatile and unpredictable world, business continuity has never been more important. Clear and trusted communications delivered in real-time are a critical part of executing business continuity, while ongoing two-way communication supports ongoing operations.

The digital workplace and its constituent communications and collaboration tools and channels have proved to be utterly essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, an employee app that all employees have access to can really support business continuity, helping deliver messages and ongoing dialogue which allows organisations, teams and individual employees to adapt rapidly to new situations and realities. If you remember the days when business continuity relied solely on cascading messages through managers phoning their team members at home, then youll know the difference a mobile internal comms app makes.

6 Driving agility and innovation

In a highly competitive world, the ability to be agile and respond quickly to the market is essential. Innovation is also important – being able to deliver news products and services, especially in difficult economic conditions.

Here, an internal communications app can make a surprising difference, for example, through:

  • The ability to get rapid feedback and input on new initiatives from all employees , helping with speed to market
  • Receiving messages in real-time in order to launch new offerings quickly and smoothly
  • Receiving real-time feedback from customer-facing staff on how customers are feeling or behaving, delivering insights which can improve products and services
  • Gathering ideas from all staff, including those who deal directly with customers, to feed innovation
  • Driving a culture of agility and innovation, as employees see the positive results from giving input and feedback.

7 Supporting a unified and positive culture

Senior leaders often want to drive a more unified culture for their organisation, particularly after mergers and acquisitions. They also want a positive and perhaps less hierarchical culture that reflects company values, celebrates successes, emphasises areas such as good customer service and makes people feel more connected to organisational purpose.

An internal comms app can really help shift and nurture company culture through access to leadership communications, messaging campaigns, peer-to-peer shout-outs and feel-good success stories, leading to the establishment of a strong sense of community.

Deploying an internal communications app? Get in touch!

We think an internal communications app or something similar can make a huge positive contribution to every business. If you want to discuss your options around launching an app, or the business benefits of doing so, then get in touch!

Ten reasons why a SharePoint intranet is your best option

Decided that a SharePoint intranet is for you? What are your options?
  • You can build something yourself using the tools and templates available in SharePoint. Check out the SharePoint Lookbook which provides ready-built templates.
  • We provide a fixed price packaged service for companies wanting a SharePoint intranet. This means you get a best practice intranet that is more likely to succeed than a DYI approach.
  • Consider an intranet-in-a-box product like LiveTiles which integrates seamlessly into SharePoint but enhances the overall experience.

We are often asked by intranet teams and IT functions what the best base technology option for an intranet is. Without much hesitation we reply SharePoint or SharePoint Online. In our view, it offers the most flexible option for an intranet and the most value, particularly if you are using other Microsoft tools like Yammer or Teams that can be integrated into it. If youre on Office 365 then a SharePoint Online intranet is pretty much a no-brainer as the licence is included.

Of course, every organisation is different and that means what your intranet needs to deliver is different. Budgetary factors and the composition of your digital workplace can also be factors in working out what the best technology option for your intranet is. The great news is that there are plenty of technology options to consider, although invariably we find when organisations go through an evaluation exercise, SharePoint often emerges as the preferred choice.

SharePoint still provokes negative reactions in some people. More often than not this is because of experiences with older versions of SharePoint, where customisation was necessary for most intranet projects, and where implementations could drag on for months and months. SharePoint has changed dramatically since then (it’s now called SharePoint Modern) and is now much better, with a much slicker user interface, better performance and it’s much less reliant on developers. So, if you have had bad experiences with SharePoint then please put those aside and keep an open mind. Things have changed.

Here’s our view of the main reasons why a SharePoint or SharePoint Online intranet is likely to be your best intranet option. (Note that below when we’re talking about SharePoint, we’re also referring to SharePoint Online too.)

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1 SharePoint is now the world’s most popular choice for intranets

SharePoint is the world’s most popular base technology for intranets. This is repeatedly reflected in various digital workplace and intranet surveys. While this is not a reason to go with SharePoint per se it does provide some confidence that organisations are successfully using SharePoint and SharePoint Online to deliver great intranets.

The various intranet awards like Nielsen Norman Group’s annual top ten intranets and the Step Two Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards also regularly feature SharePoint intranets as the winners, demonstrating the art of the possible.

Nielsen Norman GroupSTEP TWO - Intranet & Digital Workplace Awards

2 There are a great many SharePoint intranet-in-a-box options

One of the great advantages of using SharePoint (and particularly SharePoint Online) is that it opens up a huge variety of options for your intranet. Although you can now deliver an intranet out of the box (i.e. using just pure SharePoint), there is a now very mature market of SharePoint intranet-in-a-box products that work alongside SharePoint to provide additional site templates, page layouts, ready built web parts, stronger governance and additional capabilities, allowing you to deliver exceptional intranets within weeks. These turnkey intranet products are highly effective, good value and fully leverage the power of SharePoint to deliver the kind of modern intranet that complex enterprises demand.

Because the market is so competitive it means that many of the offerings are now of a very high standard; we implement LiveTiles Intranet (formerly known as Wizdom Intranet), in our view the best product on the market and one that is highly regarded. But the good news for intranet teams is they have a great number of choices.

LiveTiles intranet screenshot
An example of a LiveTiles intranet

 

3 Integration with Office 365 and other Microsoft tools

A major draw of SharePoint is the ability to integrate with other Microsoft tools, increasingly without any help from developers. Integrating Yammer feeds, lists of Teams spaces and OneDrive documents is straightforward and can often be done by content editors without needing to fall back on developers. There are also exciting opportunities to weave process improvement (using Power Automate, for example) and reporting (Power BI) into your intranet too. It also works the other way too so you can integrate the intranet experience, for example into Teams.

Having a close relationship between your intranet and your 365 suite of tools allows you to create a great digital workplace experience, while also using your intranet to drive adoption of Office 365 and establish some governance. The Microsoft Power Apps now also give us the ability to rapidly build custom apps that can integrate easily with your intranet – great for automation, advanced workflow, connecting to other company applications and more…

4 Flexible, scalable, customisable

One of the most powerful capabilities of SharePoint is its flexibility and scalability. It’s used for intranets both by companies with 100 employees and 100,000 employees and supports a range of capabilities including internal communication, content services, collaboration, search & findability and more. Flexibility and scalability come into their own as organisations restructure and as strategic priorities change over time. SharePoint is also customisable, so it is perfectly possible to craft an intranet (or even an entire digital workplace) truly wrapped around the way you work. Many IT functions want to avoid customisation if they can, but it remains an option for particular use cases., and we’ve worked on many SharePoint intranets that have some customisation.

5 SharePoint supports most content publishing needs

Fundamentally intranets are about content, and you can fully utilise SharePoint for sophisticated content publishing and management to meet most of your needs around internal communications and where content needs to be carefully managed. Although communication sites have helped to bring more publishing capabilities to SharePoint, actually more sophisticated content publishing features like approval workflow, news templates, editorial calendars, automated content reviews and more tend to be included in in-a-box products.

6 Integrating collaboration into the intranet

Traditionally SharePoint has always been a strong collaboration platform, mainly through team sites. While perhaps Microsoft Teams has perhaps now taken over the crown as the flagship collaboration tool, a SharePoint intranet can still bring collaboration into the heart of the intranet experience and the daily flow of work. Team sites are still available, but easy integration of Microsoft Teams and Yammer means that the collaboration continues to be part of a SharePoint intranet.

7 Document sharing and management

Many organisations information distribution, collaboration, knowledge assets and project output remain resolutely document-centric. While that is perhaps not always ideal, it’s a fact. SharePoint’s relatively robust document library capabilities therefore have always been a valuable part of SharePoint, allowing for document sharing and distribution, knowledge management, collaboration and more. The easy integration of SharePoint libraries into your SharePoint intranet has always been a strong capability that is not always acknowledged.

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8 Supporting personalisation and content targeting

Most modern intranets include personalisation capabilities, so that content can be targeted to different groups  such as all employees at one location, or in one division or function, or based on their seniority. This means that differently themed content can appear seamlessly together, targeted for each individual employee. Additionally, some intranets allow users to subscribe to different topics of interest.  SharePoint and SharePoint Online intranets can very effectively support personalisation and content targeting, leveraging easy integration with Active Directory profiles to deliver truly relevant intranets. It’s another reason why SharePoint is an excellent base technology for your intranet.

9 The modern experience

The development of SharePoint modern experiences with attractive designs, far easier publishing interfaces, better performance, some very useful site templates and a whole host of other improvements has been at the centre of SharePoint improvement over the past two years. This is very different from classic SharePoint it produces a far better intranet but also allows the intranet team to be far less reliant on the IT function, something which has been frustrating for many teams in the past. The modern experience is one of the things we love about SharePoint both as geeky developers and as SharePoint consultants too, helping clients implementing fantastic intranets.

10 Microsoft keep on investing in SharePoint

Over the past few years Microsoft has been very active in investing in SharePoint and SharePoint Online with the development of modern experiences and further out of the box capabilities that support the development of intelligent intranets. This is set to continue. The roadmap for SharePoint looks very healthy and we keep seeing new announcements. Most recently we heard about Viva coming onto the scene. You can be confident that investing in SharePoint means an intranet that is future-proof in the true sense of the word and can evolve and improve with extra features and capabilities.

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If you’re considering creating a new SharePoint or SharePoint Online intranet, want to return to SharePoint, or need any advice in this area then get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

What is Microsoft Viva and how will it help my business?

The announcement of Microsoft Viva, a new Employee Experience Platform (EXP) from Microsoft, looks set to be another exciting development in the digital workplace.

As with the evolution of the Microsoft 365 platform, the launch of Microsoft Teams and the move to modern SharePoint, we think this has the potential to be a gamechanger in the way organisations create experiences for their employees. Many organisations now have a digital workplace based on Microsoft 365, an intranet based on SharePoint and use Teams for real-time communication and collaboration. Microsoft Viva will be a popular addition to add to that channel mix.

Obviously, its still very early days, with the (digital) ink hardly dry on the press release. However, even from the light details we have, this feels significant.

In this post were going to explain what Microsoft Viva is and some of our initial thoughts on why this looks exciting.

What is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva is a bundling together of new and existing Microsoft 365 capabilities that support employee experience. It will appeal to HR functions and Internal Communications and addresses a number of  organisational priorities around people, defined by Microsoft as:

  • Engagement
  • Learning
  • Well-being
  • Knowledge

Viva is experienced through Microsoft Teams, although there are also references to elements of it being experienced through Outlook.

Initially, Microsoft Viva is presented as four different apps:

Viva Connections

Viva 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 Insights

Viva Insights: Personalized analytics and related insights for individuals, managers and leaders that support well-being, collaboration, productivity and more, with additional analytics at the organisational level for example from LinkedIn Glint, an employee feedback mechanism. Here data privacy is protected, with also the ability to plug-in data from popular HR platforms like SAP Success Factors.

Viva Learning

Viva Learning: A learning hub that aggregates learning resources from a variety of different resources including LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, popular third-party providers and a companys own learning content. Our own partner, LMS365 is also looking to integrate with this.

Viva Topics

Viva Topics: A knowledge discovery platform that uses AI to source resources and experts on different topics from Microsoft 365 tools as well as knowledgebases from platforms such as ServiceNow and Salesforce. These are presented in different topic cards which include documents, discussion threads, videos and people.

The roadmaps for these four apps are at slightly different stages of release during 2021. For example, Viva Learning and Viva Insights are now available for private preview, while Viva Topics is already available via some commercial plans. Viva Connections will be released in the first half of the year, with an app to follow later.

The commercials around licensing are also unclear at the moment.

Eight initial thoughts about Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva sees Microsofts direct entry into the XP market, a significant event in itself, and opens up more capabilities to smaller and medium-sized companies that will have been harder to implement in the past. However, we still havent seen details of the associated costs.

Here are eight of our initial thoughts about Microsoft Viva.

1 Viva is partly a branding exercise

The level of investment in Microsoft 365 and also Microsoft Teams and its continual evolution with new apps, features and capabilities always impresses. These four new apps are being brought together under the Microsoft Viva brand, signifying that they are focused on employee experience, but without the Viva umbrella they could have easily been released as separate apps within Microsoft 365. It seems very likely that other employee experience and HR-focused apps will be released under the Viva brand going forward.

2 Viva is aimed at the HR market

Microsoft Viva unambiguously focuses itself on employee experience and is designed to appeal to HR functions. References to the HR agenda are all over the marketing material, from the inclusion of Wellbeing and Learning as key pillars, to the calling out of the involvement of key HR platforms and providers. It also mentions the employee lifecycle in passing, and we can see there being new apps here to address areas such as employee onboarding.

Appealing to the HR market can only be a good thing, helping to sell the power of the 365 platform to a critical stakeholder group who do not always partner up with IT as closely as they could do.

3 Viva looks towards the hybrid workplace

Inevitably any EXP is going to be suited for remote and distributed working; one launched during a pandemic even more so. Microsoft Viva has its eyes on future patterns of hybrid working; tellingly, one of the promotional videos shows the delivery of an important remote presentation to a boardroom from home, while another positions Viva addressing some of the challenges of hybrid work. The areas Viva focuses on learning, knowledge, wellbeing and communications all have specific challenges with remote working. The emphasis on analytics is also shifting and it will be interesting to see how Viva Insights evolves.

4 Viva Topics is an output from Project Cortex

Viva Topics is clearly another long-awaited output from Microsofts Project Cortex, using AI and automation to support knowledge management (KM) and related activities. We think this is exciting, making KM more achievable for smaller organisations that dont have KM resources to manually organise information. The question here will be the extent to which it works and is actually useful – we think this is going to be very interesting to watch. There could be a challenge to match high customer expectations, however we can expect significant improvements over the next few months as the platform matures and organisations get to grips with how best to deploy it. We cant help thinking that a hybrid approach would be a good thing some features that allows organisations to benefit from AI gathered knowledge whilst also allowing them to curate knowledge manually.

5 The inclusion of learning is significant

In the past two years weve seen increasing interest in how to bring learning and development into the heart of the digital workplace, in particular with seamless integration with Microsoft 365. Many customers have been asking us about LMS365, the Learning Platform that slots in effortlessly into the 365 toolset.

Its great to see Microsoft directly addressing training and development needs with Viva Learning, and also recognising the trend towards social and blended learning with the ability to combine both internal and external content. Ultimately this will help put training in the hands of learners and reinforce it as an activity that employees want to do rather than have to do. We can also see how Viva Learning and LMS365 could be an extremely powerful combination to drive a learning culture in any organisation.

6 Wellbeing runs as a thread throughout Microsoft Viva

Health and wellbeing were already high on the corporate agenda, but theyve come into even greater focus due to the impact of coronavirus and the newly discovered pressures of home working. There are some interesting elements to watch including wellbeing analytics and the ability to integrate Headspace, the mindfulness and meditation app. Concerns around data privacy also appear to be met.

7 Viva Connections could bring an intranet experience into Teams

Weve seen many customers interested in bringing the ability to view intranet content within Teams, for example through the ability to view a LiveTiles intranet within Teams. Viva Connections looks like it could bring an intranet-like experience into Teams pulling in communications, social feeds and providing access to central documents. We think this could likely complement and enhance an intranet rather than necessarily replace it.

8 Microsoft continues to view Teams as the centre of the digital workplace

Viva is a set of experiences that are primarily delivered through Teams, at least for knowledge workers. This confirms that Microsoft continues to view Teams as the centre of the digital workplace and the place where work happens. On more than one occasion in the promotional material refers to Viva being accessed in the flow of work. This link with Teams is a good idea though there are still questions about the suitability of Teams as a tool for frontline workers. Perhaps Microsoft has plans in this area an integration with Kaizala perhaps?

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Microsoft Viva is an exciting development for every organisation with a Microsoft 365 digital workplace. If you want to discuss Microsoft Viva, then get in touch!

9 must have features for employee engagement app

Employee engagement remains a key objective for organisations. Fostering a happier and engaged workforce has a range of  benefits that ultimately impact the bottom line: better productivity, lower employee turnover and more focused customer service are just some of the potential outcomes that flow from a  satisfied and motivated workforce. For HR and internal communications professionals, engagement is also often a core aim of what they do.

Technology can play a part in creating the digital channels which  support employee engagement. Of course, this ultimately depends on what you do with the technology, but having strong digital communications that can be delivered to all your employees is a cornerstone of many organisations efforts to drive a more engaged workforce. Here, a mobile employee engagement app that includes communication and engagement features is a definite plus, particularly in companies where there are a high proportion of firstline, mobile and deskless workers.

We recently covered the eight essential features that every mobile intranet app or mobile employee communication app should have.  In this post, were going to look in more detail at nine features in an enterprise app that help improve employee engagement, and how they are delivered. We have seen some of these features  working well in LiveTiles employee engagement app Reach, a mobile app that we work with  which is making a real difference in supporting employee engagement across organisations, especially in these challenging times.

Heres our view of nine enterprise app features that improve employee engagement.

1 Social and collaborative features that give employees a voice

A good employee app includes social and collaboration features such as the ability to post updates, comment on news and even create blogs. For example, LiveTiles Reach enables bottom-up and peer-to-peer communication, as well as facilitating two-way communication and dialogue. The app gives all employees a voice and cuts through layers of hierarchy, meaning the CEO and the trainee shop assistant can have a direct conversation. This sends an important message that employees are trusted and their opinions matter; providing this kind of level playing field shifts an organisational culture in a way that supports strong foundations to build better engagement. It also has a striking impact where deskless workers have previously had no access to digital communications.

2 News to keep everybody informed and engaged

News updates and stories are an important part of any employee app, keeping everybody informed while also driving better engagement. These communications not only support a healthy culture of transparency, but can also prompt messaging that helps employees see how their contribution fits into the bigger picture, as well as highlight organisational purpose and values.

3 Authentic leadership communications with video

A common observation is that the pandemic has changed the way leaders communicate, supporting more authentic and personal communications and often featuring video. It has also led to more dialogue, with leaders asking for feedback and input from employees to get insights on ideas and listen to issues. This trend has many positives – engaged employees have more respect for their leaders; an employee app that delivers messages on video and allows for commenting and rating helps all staff get to know the real person behind the CEO job title.

4 Polls, surveys and other analytics

Polls and surveys are a good engagement feature of an employee app and reinforce the message that employees are being listened to. More importantly, polls allow IC and HR teams to check the pulse on employee opinion and wellbeing, as well as get a sense of any issues that are impacting them; this gives rapid insights for management so they can act quickly to support engagement. Similarly, a good engagement app  has strong analytics into user interaction with content; for example, LiveTiles Reach has robust analytics that gives IC teams insight into the performance of individual communications.

5 Learning

Personal development and growth are also an essential part of employee engagement. Opportunities to learn are key, especially when learning is placed in the hands of the employee. A good mobile enterprise engagement app should offer opportunities to learn, like providing training videos and other course content. Providing access to learning through a mobile device  allows employees to decide when they learn, such as in down time when it is more convenient and without the need to travel, again putting learning in their hands and supporting better engagement.

6 Events

Events are usually a core part of a good engagement and communication strategy; these can be everything from town halls , to  fun initiatives, to events that focus on health and wellbeing. A traditional problem with corporate events is that they  tend to be focused on knowledge workers at HQ, but a mobile app gives the potential for everybody to participate in an event, including those on the frontline. The LiveTiles Reach app has a good events capability, covering everything from registration, to information about the event, to gathering post-event feedback.

7 Shout outs

The social and collaboration tools on an employee engagement app allow for shout outs that can celebrate the success of individuals and teams, highlight actions that demonstrate company values and provide thanks. These updates –  which can be provided both by management and peers – can be highly motivating, resulting in an engaging stream of content that reflects and celebrates what is best about a companys culture.

8 Social communities

One of the most valuable social tools on a mobile employee app are those that support communities for employees with common interests, relating to both work and non-work. These features can play a surprisingly important role in aspects of engagement. A group that covers hobbies and interests such as sport, photography, books or recipes is a great way to drive community, connection and even add a little levity to the day. And yes, they can be used for cat videos! Community functionality calls also support Employee Resource Groups that play an important role in advancing Diversity & Inclusion in many organisations. LiveTiles Reach has strong community features that can support a range of interests and bring employees closer to each other.

9 Access for all

An underlying principle for good engagement is making sure everybody has access to information and feels connected. A good engagement app, therefore, must provide access to all your employees. For example, LiveTiles Reach can be made available on all devices, both corporate and employee-owned, iOS or Apple, and regardless of whether an employee has a corporate email address or is on the Active Directory. Engagement must be for all staff, including frontline, deskless and previously disconnected employees.

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An employee mobile app can be used to help engage your employees, particularly your frontline workforce. There are a variety of features which enable engagement that we have covered in this article. If youd like to discuss a mobile app, your employee engagement strategy or would like to arrange a demo of the LiveTiles Reach app, then get in touch!

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