Microsoft's employee wellness platform Viva will soon get a social networking app that lets workers and managers share Facebook-like posts through Teams and Outlook.
The app, called Engage, helps businesses spread corporate news to their employees and build connections between workers who are not in the office daily, Microsoft said this week at its Inspire virtual conference. Companies can start using the app in late August.
Workers will share, view and comment on posts within storylines that resemble Facebook news feeds. They'll also follow colleagues and join groups based on common interests.
Managers and executives can use Engage to post company news and comments on employee storylines.
Employees won't have to open Engage to see its content. Managers and executives can flag Engage announcements and conversations, ensuring the posts appear in workers' Teams activity feeds. The app will send emails about Engage activity to employees, who can respond to conversations and posts within Outlook. Engage posts will also appear on Yammer, Microsoft's business-focused social networking platform.
Engage will feature what Microsoft calls stories, visually oriented posts with short videos or image slideshows. Like Facebook Stories, these posts will appear in a horizontally scrolling carousel atop a worker's news feed. Microsoft will release stories after Engage.
Companies will need a Yammer license to use Viva Engage, available only in Microsoft 365 commercial plans.
Remote and hybrid work makes it more challenging to build relationships between coworkers. In a 2021 survey, Wainhouse Research found that 56% of hybrid and 48% of remote workers felt the pandemic increased social isolation. Only 44% of in-person employees felt the same. A Microsoft study published in the science journal Nature Human Behavior found that remote work had stifled cross-group communication within companies.
"Employee engagement has been under strain in the past two years," 451 Research analyst Raúl Castañón said.
As a result, companies have turned to software vendors to build corporate culture. Employee experience platforms like Viva perform HR tasks, including disseminating corporate news and providing worker training. Viva competes with Qualtrics XM, Oracle ME and Workplace, which Meta, formerly Facebook, launched in 2016.
The employee experience platform market will grow significantly this year, Metrigy analyst Beth Schultz said. About 45% of 250 companies surveyed by Metrigy this year are already using the software. And nearly 50% either plan to adopt or are considering the tools.
With Engage, Microsoft could help companies keep employees informed and connected with colleagues -- a top priority for businesses, Schultz said.
In other Inspire news, Microsoft will launch a Teams feature that lets workers record and send short video clips that colleagues can view anytime. Competitors Cisco and Zoom have already introduced similar features.
Collaboration vendors claim asynchronous video messages cut down on the number of video conferences workers need to attend. Teams video clips will enter preview in August and be generally available in September.
Microsoft announced other Teams features, including:
- Teams Connect Shared Channels. This feature allows workers to collaborate with people outside their organization in Teams chat channels. Microsoft made the capability generally available this week.
- Excel Live. Later this year, employees will be able to co-edit Excel spreadsheets within Teams during video meetings.
- Collaborative annotations. Released this week, they allow workers to draw, type or superimpose emoji on content shared during Teams meetings.
Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.