deflated smiley face balloon on the street
PHOTO: Nathan Dumlao

Microsoft recently introduced its new employee experience platform Viva, riding on the back of COVID-19 induced changes to the workplace and ensuring the employee experience products and services market will be hot for the foreseeable future.

For a long time, Microsoft has dominated the “office” technology market. As the office transforms to a new hybrid workplace, Microsoft is looking to remain one step ahead. HR technology guru and Microsoft advisor Josh Bersin suggests that Viva will trigger a massive acceleration of the employee experience (EXP) market for the burgeoning service industry; to match that of what ERP (enterprise resource planning) did for manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s and CRM (customer relationship management) did for sales and marketing in the 1980s to 2000s.

The employee experience market has of course been around for quite a while, but until now was essentially locked up with the HR function. The Employee Experience Framework from Deloitte below is illustrative of many that have been developed by the HR community over the years.

human capital trends— employee experience chart from Deloitte

My focus with this article is the bottom layer in the image: “cross-organizational collaboration and communication.” It is this layer that underpins the employee experience. Given its critical role, let's drill down a little:

Collaboration and Meaningful Work

Having the autonomy to do meaningful work doesn’t mean it's solo work. In fact, what one might consider meaningful is often reflected in how one’s peers regard the work you are doing. Being a contributing member of a small empowered team will often feel far more meaningful than a piece of solo work, that perhaps consumed much of your time, but which elicited little or no social recognition.

Related Article: What Does it Take to Build an Effective Digital Team?

Collaboration and Supportive Management

The role of management is rapidly changing as workplaces become more distributed between home and office. Organizational hierarchies are flattening. The role of the manager post COVID-19 calls for increased flexibility and being supportive of the morale of their often remote teams, according to Accenture. What this will mean in practice is managers collaborating more as a peer, facilitating the work, rather than directing the work.

Collaboration and a Positive Work Environment

A positive workplace is one that embraces flexibility, culture, human-centricity and inclusion. The socialization of the distributed workplace is powered by enterprise social networking (ESN) platforms like Yammer and Workplace from Facebook. Our most recent Yammer Benchmarking Report found the health and well-being of staff working from home (WFH) has been a major theme throughout the pandemic. I have previously written about how employee experience is far more than simply tracking employee journeys, with the ability to bridge organizational boundaries playing a key role for creating a positive work environment.

Related Article: Put the Enterprise Collaboration Focus Where it Belongs: The People

Collaboration and Growth Opportunities

Much of what we see as growth opportunities are around building competencies. Some are now arguing that the traditional model of mapping a plethora of competencies to jobs and designing training accordingly is now dead. Competencies can no longer be neatly packaged into components. Competencies will increasingly be developed “on the job.” And to develop those competencies, staff will have to learn from others through direct interactions, i.e. collaboration.

Collaboration and Trust in Leadership

COVID-19 has proved a boon for leaders who care. We have seen heads of state being judged by how they have handled the epidemic. Our studies of leaders on ESNs, especially during the COVID-19 period, have shown a perceived flattening of the hierarchy, with organizational leaders engaging with staff at all levels on ESNs. The authenticity shown by some senior leaders operating from their homes, just like everyone else, has no doubt led to an increase in trust — all of this facilitated by a collaboration platform.

Related Article: Lack of Social Interaction Tops Remote Work Challenges

Collaboration Analytics

If collaboration is really the foundation for employee experience, how do we know if it’s working or not? Employee surveys are the current go-to instrument for collecting employee feedback, but how effective are surveys in surfacing an employee’s collaborative experiences?

This is where collaboration analytics comes in. At Microsoft the My Analytics and Workplace Analytics, now delivered under the umbrella of Viva, addresses time-related stress in employees. Time stress can take the form of meeting overload, longer working hours, one-on-one time with managers, or lack thereof, and the like. But there is also relationship stress (both overload or underload), which I previously covered in Good ‘Challenge Stress’ and Bad ‘Chronic’ stress, where strong reciprocated relationships can actually mediate the risk of chronic workplace stress.

According to Redthread Research, the market is now looking for:

  • Passive/continuous employee experience data feeds.
  • Multi-source analysis platforms.
  • Acquisition opportunities to build out EXP offerings.

Passive and continuous monitoring of staff interactions can provide new insights into how to transition from a COVID-19 workforce. It’s an exciting time for workplace-centered data analytics. As workforces worldwide are transitioning, organizations will have to grapple with what is working and what isn't. Effective workforce collaboration is the foundation for employee experience. And the associated data analytic insights will surely be in great demand.