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    Microsoft turns its focus toward frontline workers with Teams tweaks

    Over the final two years, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a technological transformation for a lot of office-based employees, forcing them to alter work habits and depend on videoconferencing and collaboration software program to get their jobs achieved.Now it is time to give attention to frontline employees, 41% of whom don’t have entry to the know-how they want, in keeping with Microsoft’s newest Work Trend Index Special Report on Frontline Workers. Based on a international survey of 9,600 frontline employees in eight nations throughout eight industries who cannot work remotely, the analysis is designed to assist enterprise leaders navigate the altering office.Jared Spataro, company vice chairman for contemporary work at Microsoft, stated in a briefing final week that the corporate has usually centered on “information workers,” however desires to increase that focus to frontline employees; they signify greater than 80% of the worldwide workforce, or round 2 billion individuals worldwide.“At Microsoft, our mission is much broader than just information workers; we really are focused on empowering every person in every organization across the planet to achieve more,” Spataro stated.That’s vital, stated Angela Ashenden, principal analyst for office transformation at CCS Insight, as a result of  know-how has been a serious plus for frontline employees throughout the pandemic.“What the pandemic did was expose the importance of this large group of workers to their businesses,” Ashenden said. “They were often the one thing that kept businesses going, and often bore the brunt of the pandemic from a business standpoint, whether through not being able to work remotely, or being exposed to the virus more through their job.”Frontline workers include those on the front lines in retail, manufacturing, hospitality, and healthcare.The Microsoft survey highlighted a number of challenges — with the need to balance employee well-being with business growth a big issue; 51% of those surveyed said those in non-management positions on the frontline don’t feel valued, while 58% believe work-related stress will stay the same or worsen in 2022.Companies dependent on frontline workers are not immune to the Great Resignation, which has seen a record number of employees quit jobs in search of better opportunities. Much like their office-based peers, frontline workers cite better pay, work-life balance, benefits, and flexibility as top reasons for considering a job change. Data from LinkedIn found that of the eight industries Microsoft surveyed, seven have now exceeded pre-pandemic hiring levels.Despite the challenges facing frontline workers, many of those surveyed remain optimistic that technology can improve their day-to-day experience on the job. When asked what could help reduce worker stress, technology ranked behind pay and PTO and ahead of wellbeing benefits. Furthermore, 63% said they are excited about the job opportunities technology has created.“There’s unprecedented stress and [Microsoft] believes that you could actually do better by prioritizing [frontline] employees,” Spataro stated. “In other words, we would say that a strong frontline means a better bottom line. We think that aligning the business with the needs of employees is actually going to produce not only happier, better employees, but really better business outcomes.”Along with total optimism, many respondents cited technology-related issues: 46% stated they worry job loss if they do not adapt to new tech, and 55% stated they needed to study to make use of new applied sciences at work with out being given formal coaching.Ashenden stated {that a} main concern is that tech innovation over the previous 20 years has largely centered on desk-based workers, particularly in terms of productiveness and collaboration. As a outcome, frontline employees’ instruments haven’t advanced and are sometimes out-dated.“Some businesses get around this by cobbling together technologies themselves or trying to adapt technologies designed for desk-based workers,” she said, “but it’s only now that we’re seeing focused investment by major tech players like Microsoft to provide tailored, off-the-shelf solutions that are specifically designed for this group of workers.“The increased awareness and understanding that the pandemic brought about has reinforced the appetite for businesses to invest in these solutions.”Productivity and the role of Microsoft TeamsWhile conducting the survey, Microsoft looked at productivity patterns and how Microsoft Teams is increasingly being used as a communication hub. Telemetry data shows that between March 2020 and November 2021, the monthly use of Microsoft Teams on the frontline grew 400%.Although platforms like Teams were not necessarily developed with frontline workers in mind, many non-desk-based employees use tools traditionally seen in the office. For example, remote assistance applications allow workers to provide support to customers and partners without actually being in person, and virtual meeting technology lets  sales people stay connected with customers — even accelerating sales cycles by allowing them to do more customer calls each day.As for worker concerns about training, Ashenden said that’s not a problem just for frontline workers. “There’s often an assumption that the tools are intuitive enough that people will work out for themselves how to use them, or that they will learn from their peers,” she said. “In practice, this means that the organization will struggle to get the full value from the technology through a lack of process and consistency.”It also risks employees getting frustrated and, therefore, adoption is limited. This is when you end up with employees looking for other, ‘better’ alternatives, which they consider better meet their needs more effectively, and application fragmentation worsens.”With that in thoughts, Microsoft this week introduced updates to its Viva and Microsoft Teams platforms focused at frontline roles.The Microsoft Teams Walkie Talkie app will now be accessible on Zebra, Crosscall and, HMD Global’s Nokia gadgets, permitting employees to have a high-tech, push-to-talk walkie talkies, whatever the gadget they’re utilizing.Microsoft additionally added digital appointments in Teams, offering real-time updates on wait instances, missed appointments, and staffing delays.The Viva Connections app in Microsoft Teams now has integrations with strategic companions like Workday and Expressive, permitting simpler entry to vital assets and placing payroll and HR assets in a single location.​ And  updates to the Viva Learning app allow frontline workers to find, share, and observe studying content material inside  Teams for extra constant coaching throughout the office.Ashenden stated it is vital that Microsoft sees frontline employees as a strategic group in its product growth technique, not only a one-off alternative.“We’ve seen that with the trickle of new features for this audience over the last couple of years, not just in Teams but also in Dynamics 365 applications, and the investment in the Work Index research to understand frontline worker sentiment…,” she stated.“It’s nice to see the Viva product staff now addressing this group, as nicely,” Ashenden said. “Microsoft’s strategy with all these instruments is to allow companies to implement one answer for each sort of employee — info employee or frontline — constructing in tailor-made experiences and options to assist the completely different teams. This helps keep away from the technical divide between frontline employees and data employees, particularly in terms of connecting, speaking and data sharing throughout the group.”

    Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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