Employee Experience in HR was always a massive segment in HR technology. But the pandemic has fueled companies to spend billions of dollars on collaboration tools, onboarding software, and even mindfulness apps. The HR technology market is projected to grow from USD 24.04 billion in 2021 to USD 35.68 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 5.8%. This industry includes giants like ADP and WorkDay to SME-oriented time tracking applications like AttendanceBot.

Viva is Microsoft aiming to help businesses that are now looking at a future of remote work. This is their big bet on hybrid workplaces and remote teams becoming the norm. Microsoft Viva launched in February 2021 with different parts being rolled out in a phased approach throughout 2021.

We need to stop thinking about work as a place, and start thinking about how to maintain a culture, connect employees, and harness human ingenuity in a hybrid world.

– Jared Spataro, Head of Microsoft 365

Microsoft Viva is here and holds the power to transform hybrid workspaces, but what is it?

What is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva is a unique set of curated AI-enriched experiences built on top of Microsoft 365 to improve employee experience in hybrid workplaces. It has employee communication, wellbeing, learning, and knowledge built into a single platform.

At an organization level, Microsoft Viva can help:

  • Create a culture of collaboration and support
  • Leverage tacit and tribal knowledge of the firm to get things done
  • Accelerate the learning of new skills in the workforce
  • Boost employee morale and retention

Designed for this newfound independent workspace that thrives on flexibility, Microsoft Viva integrates seamlessly into MS Teams. While the core Microsoft Viva apps are new, Viva is an integration platform above everything else. Something that companies can adopt as the smarter version of the old clunky intranets.

For instance, Microsoft Viva comes built-in with Glink, LinkedIn Learning, Headspace, Skillsoft, and many others. Obviously, third-party vendors are being onboarded for additional integrations.

In addition to being a strong suit of employee experience applications, it also offers integrations with third-party applications for a 360-degree employee experience strategy.

Microsoft is splitting Viva up into four specific modules:

  • Connections
  • Insights
  • Topics
  • Learning

Let’s find out if these modules are worth their price. After all, Microsoft Viva Topics alone will cost $5 per month for each user, which may be expensive for many businesses.

Microsoft Viva Connections | Culture & Communications

Microsoft Viva Connections is built to boost employee engagement. Expanding upon Sharepoint websites newsfeeds and Yammer communities it’s designed to give a curated experience that delivers personalized news and commonly used resources for employees. It will include company news, town halls, employee communities, and resources.

It is designed to be the Employee Engagement Hub where new hires and company veterans can both head to if they’re looking for some information.

You can think of Viva Connections as a gateway to your digital workplace.

– Jared Spataro, Head of Microsoft 365

This isn’t a particularly unique module. It builds upon the SharePoint framework to create a company-branded portal experience. Although it may not be terribly exciting, an intranet is a core element of employee experience. With hybrid and remote workplaces, this is even more important.

Microsoft Viva Insights | Productivity & Well-Being

Microsoft Viva Insights is an extension of their Productivity Score. Unfortunately, when Microsoft originally launched the feature they were widely criticized because managers were able to check statistics for end-users for the period of 28 days.

Microsoft took cognizance of this error and decided to make changes to the Productivity Score and Microsoft Viva Insights is an extension of the feature.

Microsoft Viva Insights will have productivity patterns and trends with complete end-user privacy. Obviously, it will have access to Outlooks and MS Teams usage data. But it will also pull insights from third-party platforms like Zoom, Workday, and SAP to create a comprehensive picture.

To help ensure privacy and security, customers can rely on personal privacy safeguards, such as de-identification, aggregation, and differential privacy to protect individual privacy.

– Jared Spataro, Head of Microsoft 365

It is also where employee wellbeing applications can be brought into the workplace. For instance, for individuals, Viva Insights offers actionable reminders of regular breaks and mindfulness activities at work. This includes a nifty integration with Headspace to do these.

Essentially, this is the hub where managers and leaders can analyze employee mental health and productivity to take steps that make work-life integration burnout-free.

Microsoft Viva Learning | Skilling & Growth

Viva Learning is a module focused entirely on employee learning and development. It will house training material and courses for employees. Instead of going to multiple different websites, employees can directly access learning materials from Microsoft Learn, LinkedIn Learning, in-house company materials on SharePoint, and third-party providers.

Learning can be self-paced where employees can:

  • Be assigned coursework by managers
  • Search and find training relevant to them

The value of online workplace learning is clear in remote work. In fact, benefits include highly engaged employees who have much longer tenures with the organization.

Microsoft Viva Topics | Knowledge & Expertise

The last module is Viva Topics. Think of this as Wikipedia for the organization created with the help of AI, employees, and knowledge managers.

By using Artificial Intelligence (Project Cortex) to reason over the organization’s data, Viva Topics creates a base level of research that employees can further work on. It creates “Topic Pages” from data stored in SharePoint, Teams, and Office which can be further curated by employees.

This area of Knowledge Management is a massive problem in every organization so this module is probably one of the most promising additions. Most companies have content management systems for key functional areas like manufacturing, finance, sales, and HR. Microsoft Viva Topics has the potential of bringing all these sources of knowledge together with easy navigation.

The Cost of Microsoft Viva Topics: $4/month with annual billing

Has MS Viva been Launched?

Microsoft Viva launched in February 2021. Over the course of 2021, they launched 3 modules. But for now, Viva Learning is only on private preview.

Will MS Viva Truly Transform Hybrid Workspaces?

Although a lot of Microsoft Viva modules are older features that have been repackaged for the MS Teams hub, they will be incredibly useful for hybrid workplaces. Although there are a lot of challenges ahead, regarding product costs, training costs tangible benefits, and even implementation, the road ahead does look disruptive to the HR Technology industry.

MS Teams isn’t happy to just be a collaboration tool anymore. They want to be a hub for personal development, knowledge management, and productivity too.

Although this seems like a tall order when there are solutions built only around employee experience already that are doing so well. With MS teams being the market leaders in collaboration platforms, it only makes sense that they look towards keeping employees on their platform engaged and happy.