Microsoft Ignite 2020 – What’s new in Employee Engagement and Communications with SharePoint, Yammer, Stream

The impact that COVID-19 has had on organisations has varied wildly, but one common truth it has exposed is that regular and robust staff engagement and communication are of utmost importance, especially given the widespread transition to remote working. Through this period, Microsoft has been working tirelessly to empower organisations with world-class communication capabilities. Recent announcements from the Microsoft Ignite 2020 conference have reaffirmed Microsoft’s continued commitment to assisting organisations with their engagement and communication strategies, and a wealth of new and exciting features that have arrived, are arriving shortly, or are on the horizon make an increasingly compelling case for siding with Microsoft for your communication needs.

Below, we will go into detail about the efforts Microsoft have made to improve employee engagement and communications, and the exciting developments within SharePoint, Yammer, and Stream.

Slide Collaboration, Employee engagement, Knowledge

Image 1: Slide from MS Ignite 2020, credit: Microsoft

SharePoint

Intranets are a time-tested and efficient way of breaking down organisational silos and making it easy to store and access files, information, and data within organisations of any size. Microsoft SharePoint has long been (and remains) the go-to solution; indeed, in the “Enabling collaboration, communication and knowledge” Ignite session, Jeff Teper announced that SharePoint has witnessed a 10x increase in utilisation over the last four years.

Ms Ignite 2020 growth numbers

Image 2: MS Ignite 2020 growth numbers

One of the challenges of any intranet, however, is how to design a system of navigation that simultaneously provides rapid access to the content that employees need without compromising accessibility and discoverability to new users. Microsoft has now introduced the SharePoint app bar, which promises to provide a consistent navigation experience across every SharePoint site. This bar can be used to provide quick access to important and personally relevant sites within the organisation without requiring potentially confusing or radical changes to the navigation currently in place on existing sites, offering a best of both worlds experience for quick access and discoverability.

SharePoint app bar

Image 3: SharePoint app bar, My Sites

This global navigation will also be available within Microsoft’s new Home site app for Teams, another innovation that will help to bridge the gap between SharePoint and Teams and provide seamless experiences within both for accessing content from your intranet within Teams or vice-versa. Microsoft understands that the location of content is often fluid depending on requirements and are committed to provide the information you need, in a structure that makes sense to you and your organisation, wherever you need it.

Microsoft has also made significant advancements in the news posts functionality within SharePoint. A series of pre-made news post templates will soon be launching into SharePoint, as well as the ability to create and distribute your own custom templates, which allow news to be presented in a way that best matches their content or tone. It was also revealed that there is a new Boost functionality for news within SharePoint, which will allow important news posts to be increase a news post’s visibility and prominence, ensuring that the most relevant news takes priority.

SharePoint News templates

Image 4: SharePoint News templates

Yammer

Yammer is a social platform that is great for increasing engagement across your organisation, and Microsoft has now further invested in Yammer, adding some exciting new features. A newly announced feature allows delegated communications within Yammer, allowing messages and posts to be written by others and sent on behalf of set users, for instance allowing posts to be shared on behalf of managers and senior executives of organisations.

One of the key parts of communicating with employees is ensuring that information is available to them regardless of which platform they are accessing, and this has been capitalised on with new announcements at Microsoft Ignite. Yammer is receiving updates to its auto-digest email, and users can subscribe to receive an email at a set time outlining any posts they may have missed from Yammer. Notifications from Yammer, such as mentions or praise, will also soon be able to be seen and accessed from within Microsoft Teams, meaning that employees can stay up-to-date with the latest information and communications regardless of which applications they’re using.

Additionally, Microsoft has announced that news from your SharePoint intranet can now be directly shared into Yammer, allowing more collaboration between the platforms, taking advantage of all of the new features of news within SharePoint and allowing conversations related to the post to take place in Yammer.

Share to Yammer

Image 5: Share to Yammer

Yammer has also recently released a new range of emoticon reactions, allowing employees to express different emotions and reactions to posts.

Yammer new emoticon reactions

Image 6: Yammer, new emoticon reactions

Finally, engagement with Yammer can now also be measured in Microsoft’s new Insights capability, which presents statistics such as how many messages were posted in a period, how many users were active and how many reactions to posts were issued. Like the aforementioned news digest, Yammer can also be configured to send a digest of these analytics, meaning that this data can be made automatically available to track the success and engagement of your communications.

Yammer's new Insights capability

Image 7: Yammer’s new insights

Stream

Microsoft Stream, the video streaming service in Microsoft 365, has seen a surge of usage over the last few months and has been used for both hosting meeting recordings as well as being able to store and present video communications and content, especially for those unable to attend live events. Microsoft has recently unveiled their roadmap for the future of Microsoft Stream, where Stream leverage the power of SharePoint and OneDrive to store and manage videos, which will enable the use of features currently available to those applications such as compliance, governance, permissions, external sharing and endpoint integrations. There is also a plan to make Stream much more flexible by allowing organisations to modify and brand their video portals and customise video experiences. On top of fascinating existing features, such as automatic transcription, Stream is quickly shaping up to be a powerful application for handling video content highly compatible with Microsoft’s other applications, and is a great way to communicate with your employees via recorded videos.

Final Thoughts

With all the upcoming features to Microsoft 365, the platform is once again reaffirming its status as the best place for organisations to work and communicate – especially as many organisations are now operating either partially or fully remotely. Without the opportunity for engagement and innovation provided by ‘water-cooler’ moments in an office, it is more imperative than ever that it is, not only possible but, very easy to stay up-to-date with all the latest happenings within your organisation and to ensure that all users feel involved.

This is an exciting design space for Microsoft, and we strongly feel that, given their current commitments to making their products as supportive of these changing circumstances as possible, the next few months and coming year will shape up to be an exceptionally exciting time to be working with these solutions.