Microsoft Viva – enabling intelligent workforce management in the flexible era, Part 2

Microsoft Viva – enabling intelligent workforce management in the flexible era, Part 2

Nic Tinsley


23 Feb 2022

Part 2: New generations, flexibility and investment


In our last HR blog, we discussed the need to rethink workplace culture, and I believe that in today’s more dispersed working model, MS Viva could help play a notable role in employee wellness.

It can prompt people to ensure they take a break from work - and it will need to, with homeworking, the current norm and employees being “always on” thanks to increased access to our inboxes and messaging. Burnout of employees is a real threat to businesses. The pandemic led to a significant decline in people taking holidays, simply because when working at home we often tend to forget that we need a break. A YouGov study commissioned by ACAS in 2021 found that 39 percent of UK employees took less paid time off work during the pandemic compared to the year before, with employees from SMEs the least likely to use their full holiday entitlement.  

And while many employers now offer hybrid working, with a set number of days in the office and likewise at home, I’m not sure this is the full progress I’d hoped for: I prefer true flexibility that allows for the best options for improving business delivery, and on diversity and inclusion. This is where there is no delineation of either/or but rather an acceptance that you can work at the office as and when you want to--and likewise elsewhere--with the same opportunities to interact, learn and get on with work wherever you are.

Enabling employees

A truly enabling, progressive employer today is one that monitors outputs and makes no judgment as to where you work. Organizations today need a psychological contract, as well as a physical employment contract. We need to redefine what it means to work for an employer, reset expectations, and agree on what a positive working environment means and looks like.

During the pandemic, Yahoo courted controversy by announcing that it would pay employees less because they no longer needed to commute (though more recently still, employees have been told they must work at Yahoo offices). What message does this send to employees about their autonomy at work and their value to an organization? And isn’t it a tax on employees who can’t afford to buy a home, or want to live, close to an office HQ? I also think this sort of decision gravely narrows the selection pool of great candidates and employees that are available to the organization. Give someone the opportunity to avoid a four-hour daily commute and they will take it, but the Company Leadership and HR teams will also need to make sound, rational business decisions because for a lot of organizations having employees working from home all the time will simply not work either.

The line-of-best-fit solution seems to have some flexibility but a core to the business – sometime when project-critical employees can be together to collaborate. We’ll need protocols around who comes in and when, how to set up an office for truly flexible working, and above all, to create a culture and infrastructure that ensures people remain connected. That will involve everything from inductions, training, and mentoring, enabling access to knowledge and information.

Employers and employees are already looking into making sustainable working environment changes. The five-year plan you developed two years ago probably won’t cut it anymore. So we need to rethink what it means to work for an organization. Clearly, we need trust between managers and employees. We also need leaders who commit to the way forward, communicate it across the business, and lead by example.

We need employees to feel valued and purposeful, within a safe environment where they are able to challenge and to continue to have open conversations with their employer. It will likely be harder to create that feeling of psychological safety when employees work remotely, or in a directed hybrid model. We all need to focus on providing the best working environment and on monitoring performance outcomes rather than just monitoring or maintaining the number of employees in the office.

Knowledge-sharing and a sense of place.

People are more engaged if they understand where they fit within an organization and what value they bring to it. Though this is a trait often especially associated with millennials and Generation Z, it is surely equally true for anybody. Getting this right is a more powerful way to motivate people than beer fridges and ping-pong tables.

Young people in particular want to feel part of an organization that shares their values. We now have a heightened sense of collective responsibility for our communities, and the economy, mental health, personal wellbeing, and climate change. Organizations are increasingly required to demonstrate their environmental and social governance credentials in order to tender contracts.

When I moved into a graduate recruitment role many years ago, I was struck by the marked difference between graduates’ demands in “my” day and the new generation. The new generation of graduates wanted to understand how much a prospective employer would invest in them and what training and progression opportunities awaited them.

Are they being demanding? No. They have an awareness, borne from growing up in a time of accelerated change, that completely new careers now appear almost overnight, and the demand for new and continually evolving skills is constant. So their questions to employers are: “How will you help me to stay relevant?” and “What’s in it for me?”. They are reasonable questions.

Organizations that provide lifelong learning have a huge competitive advantage in recruitment. Not those that put employees through courses occasionally, but those who provide mentoring, forums, and continued access to learning from experienced, skilled staff. Allied with this is institutional learning: a protocol where employees scrutinize projects to learn what’s worked and what could be improved next time. Continuous development isn’t about reinventing the wheel, it’s about recognizing and applying the good stuff.

Microsoft Viva Services

About Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva is a workforce connectivity solution that enhances your employee experience and improves workforce wellbeing in a fragmented era. At a time when people are isolated and unsure where to go for help or resources, it can provide actionable insights into workforce productivity, alert managers to the danger of employees over-working, enhance collaboration and provide intuitive knowledge retrieval. Proventeq can provide seamless onboarding into company-wide use of the system through implementation and user training.