Tips and tricks that drive employee engagement communication in Microsoft 365

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As hybrid and remote work evolve and async collaboration becomes a must for organizations, it’s more important than ever to boost internal communication. In this article, we offer tips for improving your employee communication strategy by leveraging Microsoft 365.

Engaged employees increase productivity, and keeping your team connected is important for creating a collaborative workplace. And what better way to keep communication flowing than Microsoft’s powerful suite of business apps?

But with so many options available, knowing which tool to use and when can be confusing. 

The challenge for IT and organizations is defining an employee communication strategy for using the different channels and tools in Microsoft 365 because it’s not so clear-cut.

Effective communicators are empowered to choose when and how to connect with their colleagues. Especially now that async communication apps give people more control over their workday, providing more freedom with how to communicate encourages openness and transparency.  

Still, everyone in your organization must understand the best way to use each tool.

In our last article, we talked about how you can improve productivity with a rock-solid Microsoft 365 management strategy. In this article, we offer actionable tips for planning and improving your employee communication strategy by leveraging Microsoft 365. Let’s go!

Common challenges with employee engagement

Effective employee engagement is crucial for any organization, but it can be a challenge to maintain, especially across large or geographically distributed teams.

Some of the most common challenges organizations face are a general lack of communication and inadequate collaboration. These can have a drastic effect on employee morale and productivity, so working on good communication practices is paramount.

Poor communication = poor collaboration

Teams need to work together to achieve common goals, but without proper collaboration, things can fall through the cracks. Communication breakdowns can lead to:

  • Out-of-sync distributed employees
  • A lack of visibility across departments and locations
  • Misinformation
  • Low employee engagement and retention

The best way to tell if your workplace communications are effective is if they’re changing the behavior of your teams, or if they’re getting the outcome or engagement that the message was designed to deliver. If messages are going unread, then your strategy may not be working.  

Microsoft 365 offers various ways to unite your teams, but each person or team will have different communication needs or preferences. Some of your end users respond to emails instantly, whereas others rarely look at their inboxes.

Also, communication overload, where messages get read, but the volume of communication input feels overwhelming, is rampant in the workforce. With so many communication tools available, employees can quickly become overwhelmed, especially if they aren’t sure what to prioritize.  

Uncertainty around which tool to use when and a sense of communication overload often tie back to a lack, or misunderstanding, of a clear communication strategy. Remember, what might seem simple to you may not appear so for others who are used to working in a different way. Having a solid plan in place is a key component of encouraging user adoption. And it involves leveraging the full power of Microsoft 365. 

Better Together
Source: Susan Hanley, Microsoft MVP

Create and share news on your SharePoint sites

Rolling out a new organization-wide communication plan? Use SharePoint News to keep your teams in the loop.

News is shown as a personalized feed on the SharePoint start page and in the mobile app. It can also be shown on team sites, communication sites, and hub sites. Additionally, you can choose to show News in a Teams channel.

Screen Shot 2023 02 16 At 9.26.07 Am

SharePoint offers a variety of building blocks that you can use to create an intranet, such as: 

  • Communication sites or SharePoint Team sites—Share information through a variety of templates and web parts. 
  • Home site—A home site is a communication site that you set as the intranet landing page for your organization. 
  • Hub sites—Organize related sites and teams to centralize news, search, and content management. 
  • SharePoint news—Use the news web part to post important or interesting stories, announcements, people news, status updates, and more. 
  • Yammer—Connect with people across your organization. 
  • Forms—Create custom quizzes, surveys, questionnaires, registrations, and more. 
  • Stream—Deliver live and on-demand meetings, events, and training. 

Stay connected with SharePoint sites

To create and share news on your SharePoint sites, start by setting up a dedicated news site where employees can go to access the latest updates. This site should be easily accessible from the main SharePoint homepage. And it should be updated regularly with the latest news and updates. 

SharePoint even offers the ability to translate a version of your SharePoint posts, which is ideal for large multilingual and multinational organizations. And it allows you to embed training in the content creation process.  

Create a template for your news posts so that your whole team can start to model communications best practices. Embed in that template your formula for creating great news content. 

Pro tips: Summarize the most important information at the top, make articles as scannable as possible, use lists and bullets, and highlight key metrics or insights. 

What’s great about SharePoint News is you can control the visual experience of what a reader sees, both for desktop and mobile. Articles can include photos, videos, and links to other resources, and there are custom formatting options for layout and design. The takeaway here is to focus on the end-user experience and prioritize keeping the most important material readily visible.  

Customize Microsoft Teams for effective communication

The value of Teams is in the way it brings together conversations and content in one place. Since Teams is where users actually work every day, one way to improve communication is by getting them to see Teams as the hub for teamwork in all forms. This enables them to apply daily forms of communication, such as chat, email, and calling, to their Teams conversations and workflows. 

Little touches go a long way toward helping team members stay in sync and keeping the lines of communication open. Here are some ways you can customize Teams: 

  • Pin the Viva Engage app in Teams to bring Yammer into Teams 
  • Add a community as a channel page 
  • Bring your entire SharePoint intranet into Teams to deliver it in the flow of work via Viva Connections. 
  • Copy a conversation link into a chat or channel 
  • Bring Pages in Teams as a tab, particularly those Pages that offer end-user training and education, such as best practices for frequently required skills 

In short: make it easy for users to have all their communication tools at their fingertips and give them options and flexibility as far as when, how, and where they keep in touch. 

How to use Yammer/Viva Engage to communicate better

Microsoft recently announced that Yammer would become Viva Engage, an employee experience platform that helps organizations tackle the challenges of hybrid and remote work. Viva Engage will replace the Yammer Communities app in Teams with new capabilities that include modernizing employee communication and connection. 

Viva Engage Interface
Viva Engage is an app integrated in Teams that helps your team stay connected and engaged.

When it comes to remote and hybrid work, arguably the biggest challenge is building relationships among team members. Yammer and Viva Engage help to strengthen these relationships by powering community experiences through large, open discussions and engagement. When used well, these can be great tools to make people feel included.  

Yammer allows for the flattening of communication across organizations. The open forum concept can be put to specific use gathering valuable cross-organizational input, including crowdsourcing ideas or feedback. But before you let those polls loose across your entire global organization, be sure to clearly lay out what you’re asking for and expecting in terms of input! 

To make the most effective use of the tools, start by creating an environment that is inclusive and welcoming.  

  • Nurture communities based on interests and topics 
  • Encourage the sharing of updates, questions, and ideas 
  • Use Topics in Yammer posts to curate knowledge across communities 
  • Ask questions, find solutions, and discover knowledge with Answers in Viva Engage 
  • Share SharePoint news to Yammer  
Answers In Viva Engage
Answers in Viva Engage helps organize questions and solutions by connecting to existing knowledge and experts.

Microsoft 365 communication tools explained

Because of the different options available to communicate in Microsoft 365, it can be difficult to put things in perspective and make informed decisions about your communication strategy.

Let’s do a tool comparison to get a clearer picture.

TeamsSharePoint NewsYammer
AudienceFor smaller groups of people working togetherFor broad distribution to the entire organization or a particular audienceFor an interest group or community – or people who are following you
SpeedInstant communicationPersistent information that can be retrieved for long periodsCan be used for communications of any speed
TonePersonal and conversational. More suitable for team members who know each other wellConversational and approachableConversational and approachable
ContentNo ability to format messageRich, multi-media. Author can control what readers see and how the page is organizedNo ability to format message
Ability to shareMessage is visible only to team membersArticle can be shared via email or Yammer to any userPost can be shared via email or to another community as long as the source community is open

What’s more, Microsoft Viva Insights can also help empower employees to mange how and when they communicate with their team.

Empower your business users to do their best work

Effective communication is a vital component of a successful workplace, and Microsoft 365 can help your organization overcome common challenges. 

By leveraging SharePoint sites to share news and create a central hub for company information, organizations can improve communication and increase transparency. Teams can be customized to fit people’s specific communication and collaboration needs. And Yammer and Viva Engage provide a platform for open and constructive conversations. 

Empowering employees to do their best work with IT acting as a guide, not a guard, is the way to increase adoption, collaboration, and productivity. A well-conceived plan can drive Microsoft 365 adoption. By using the tips and information provided in this article, organizations and IT leaders can improve employee communication and create a more connected and informed workplace.

At ShareGate, we understand the importance of empowering users, which is why we offer tools to support your IT team in offering end users a simple experience while keeping your environment secure and organized.

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