Corporate File

After the ERP wave, it’s the EXP tide!

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on March 28, 2021

Bringing in change: Geeta Gurnani, Country Head, Modern Work, Microsoft India

Mixed crows: Microsoft Viva aims to be a one-stop solution for the emerging hybrid workplaces of the digital era

How Microsoft is unifying employee experience for the digital era through Viva

“Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning and wellbeing...” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as the Seattle-based tech giant unveiled its work trends report. Digital exhaustion is a real threat, points the report, as also the fact that in remote work, teams become more siloed. A hybrid model of work is emerging and is expected to be the next disruption. For this, new solutions are needed. Enter Microsoft Viva, an employee experience platform for the digital era that the tech giant launched in February, and is integrated with Microsoft Teams and MS365. Geeta Gurnani, Country Head, Modern Work, Microsoft India explains what Viva is about.

Why did Microsoft feel the need to launch Viva?

As we were moving through the pandemic, the feedback coming to us from our customers and partners was that adapting to remote work was one thing. The bigger challenge was how to sustain it. When we first got into WFH mode, it was mainly about getting the job done. But now people are thinking about the experience part.

Remember, how when ERP (enterprise resource planning) came into being, it was a paradigm shift bringing together finance, business processes, services, etc. We are pretty much going through the same thing now with workplace solutions. HR, Productivity, collaboration, etc., are all bundling together to form EXP — employee experience.

So what exactly is the Viva Experience all about?

We partnered with Glint, a Linkedin partner company, to find out the elements of employee experience. Based on our research, there were six elements that emerged: Wellbeing, Connections, Empowerment, Growth, Focus and Purpose.

We brought these six elements into the Viva platform which consists of four different modules — Viva Insights, Viva Connections, Viva Learning and Viva topics.

Viva Insights helps with productivity and wellbeing at three levels — individual, team and organization. It not only captures how people are working but how people are feeling. At an individual level, it allows you to plan your day better with allotted times for focused work, cutting out distractions. You can slot breaks for meditation, and me-time, etc. At an organization level, you can find out how much time people are getting to spend with external customers. Is there a process change needed?

Second, the biggest challenge we discovered in the hybrid environment is connecting people. In the hybrid model, there would be a few people sitting in a physical meeting room or cabin, a few people outside — how do you give the integrated feeling? Whom to connect, how to connect, when to connect, are all challenges. This is where the communications and connections feature comes in.

The third was about growth. Skilling has become very important in career advancement. Viva Learning empowers employees to learn and grow through their work day.

The Fourth is Viva Topics. In the new world of work, so much intellectual digital property is now available. But it’s hard to consume. If you don’t respond to emails, within the first 24 hours, it goes out of the window. Viva Topics brings to your attention most relevant topics — this pops up through AI, and gives you reminders to take action.

Microsoft has been refining remote working tools and solutions all through the pandemic? Any interesting features that evolved? Any anecdotes?

Well, yes, based on feedback, we introduced a noise cancellation feature to suppress background noise. But sometimes, it can lead to funny incidents. For instance, I wanted to play the synthesizer over a Teams meeting, but nobody could hear the sound — soon I realized it was because the noise cancellation feature was on.

Another feedback was that people were feeling less engaged compared to physical meetings, where you can see people’s reactions. How could we replicate that in a virtual environment. So we introduced the feature of clapping your hands, hearts, etc . Constant feedback is coming to us and evolution is happening. It is dynamic.

In a hybrid environment, for instance, if more than four people check into a room, a warning pops up to maintain social distance.

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Published on March 28, 2021
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