Transform your frontline workforce with a single secure platform
Published Oct 12 2022 09:00 AM 2,975 Views
Microsoft

Over the past few years, the entire workforce has dealt with the stress of the pandemic. The frontline workforce, who were largely unable to work from home, have been one of the most impacted groups of high work-related stress. Despite their integral contributions to keeping our economy running, many frontline workers have not seen their technology needs fulfilled. In fact, one out of three frontline workers feel they do not have the right technological tools to do their job effectively, that number increases to every two employees out of five for those in non-management positions (Work Tend Index Special Report, 2022).  

 

Today, this massive challenge is also a massive opportunity for organizations to see the benefits of digitizing their frontline workforce – in fact, frontline workers state that improved technology at work is among their top three stress reducers (Work Tend Index Special Report, 2022). When frontline workers are digitized, companies often see a decrease in work related stress. This reduction in stress leads to increased productivity, better employee satisfaction and ultimately, the ability to attract and retain top talent. We see customers like London-based fashion brand River Island transform their frontline workforce by providing them with Microsoft Teams, which has improved their productivity and customer service through seamless communication and efficient processes.  

 


And when we start to break down the key needs of the frontline workforce, we see organizations digitize their frontline workforce in four main ways to reduce stress on the frontline while improving productivity and talent retention:

  1. Enhancing communications & collaboration
  2. Transforming the employee experience
  3. Increasing frontline operational efficiency
  4. Safeguarding business

 

Let’s look deeper into how Microsoft Teams and the Microsoft 365 platform are innovating in these areas.

 

Enhancing communication & collaboration

 

Effective communication is critical for your frontline in an era of evolving work patterns and customer demands. Empower frontline workers with a single, unified platform that enables easier communication, collaboration, and access to resources to help them connect with the organizational goals, people, and knowledge they need to do their best work.


Viva Connections

 

Centralizing access to key resources and tools within a single platform is key to increasing productivity on the frontline. With Viva Connections in Microsoft Teams, organizations can now offer a centralized location to surface key information at employees’ fingertips. We are excited to announce that Viva Connections will now be pre-configured for frontline workers and pinned as the first app in the Teams app tray with a simplified Dashboard including relevant adaptive cards for Shifts, Tasks, Approvals, and Top News. Providing the frontline with a quick way to access these key workflows and resources contributes to increased productivity by minimizing the time spent looking for information and resources across platforms. This new out-of-the-box experience also reduces the burden on IT admins during the deployment and configuration process, while still providing admins control over any existing Viva Connections deployment. If your organization already has a Viva Connections home site or if a frontline user has a custom app setup policy, users will not see this out of box experience. This experience will start rolling out in public preview in November 2022. For details about the tailored app experience for frontline workers, please refer to this documentation, and learn more about the latest enhancements to Viva Connections here.

 

An animated image demonstrating Viva Connections in Microsoft Teams on a mobile device.An animated image demonstrating Viva Connections in Microsoft Teams on a mobile device.

Teams Walkie Talkie Push-to-Talk on Honeywell Devices

 

Purpose-built devices are key to delivering these critical communications, and we are excited to announce our partnership with Honeywell, who now joins our ecosystem of devices integrated with Walkie Talkie Push-to-Talk (PTT) on Teams. This integration removes the need to carry separate bulky radios. Honeywell offers an innovative portfolio of enterprise-grade mobile computers, like the CT30 XP, CT45 XP, and ScanPal EDA52, purpose-built devices serving the healthcare, transportation and logistics, distribution, and retail environments. With dedicated PTT buttons on these durable devices, enterprises can help eliminate fragmented team communications by leveraging the power of Wi-Fi and cellular networks to deliver always-on coverage. This integration is now generally available.

An image demonstrating a Honeywell device integrated with Teams Walkie Talkie Push-to-Talk.An image demonstrating a Honeywell device integrated with Teams Walkie Talkie Push-to-Talk.

Audience targeting in Outlook

 

Organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to communicate effectively between corporate leaders and the frontline. According to our Work Trend Index Special Report, sixty-three percent of all frontline workers say messages from leadership don’t make it to them. For effective communication between corporate and the frontline, organizations need to strike a balance to ensure important communications reach the frontline without overloading them with too much information. With audience targeting in Outlook, customers can now easily segment their frontline workforce by job code, location, and department to ensure corporate and operational communications effectively reach their intended audience. Audience targeting in Outlook uses dynamic Azure Active Directory (AAD) groups set up through a metadata sync with a human capital management (HCM) system to surface attributes like job code, location, and department right within Outlook. This allows corporate and operational communicators to target specific audiences without needing to manually configure a mailing list. Managers and companies can now ensure communications are sent to the right audience to prevent overwhelming frontline workers with excess information. This feature will be available in public preview by December 2022. Your organization must have frontline licenses to enable this hierarchy feature. Check out the on-demand Ignite session to see this feature in action.

 

An image demonstrating how to target specific audiences with various checkboxes in Outlook on the web.An image demonstrating how to target specific audiences with various checkboxes in Outlook on the web.

Chat with groups and @everyone

 

Many organizations also rely on groupings of users that mirror organizational knowledge and workflows. To help frontline workers easily communicate with the right group of audience at scale, we are enhancing the Teams experience so frontline workers can start a chat with groups (i.e., distribution lists, office 365 groups or mail-enabled security groups). When starting a new chat, users will now be able to select specific groups and easily start chatting with members of the group. Admins will be able to control availability of this feature within their organizations based on their needs. In addition, to save time for frontline workers who are often on-the-go, we are making it easy to tag all team members in a chat with the @everyone tag rather than having to tag every single name in chat. These features will be generally available for customers in November 2022.

 

An image demonstrating chat with groups and the @everyone tag in Microsoft Teams on a mobile device.An image demonstrating chat with groups and the @everyone tag in Microsoft Teams on a mobile device.

Standardizing communication and access to resources on a single platform helps frontline workers connect with organizational goals, people, and information they need to do their best work. Customers like ZF Group chose to streamline and modernize their communication by leveraging Microsoft Teams to transition their employees onto a single, easy to use platform that increases employee connection.

 

“We saw an improvement in overall equipment effectiveness at one of the pilot facilities—simply because people could collaborate more effectively in Teams,” says Robert Copelan, Project Leader of IT Innovation, ZF Group. Read more about ZF Group here.

 

Transforming employee experience

 

Another key challenge to improving the frontline worker experience is keeping the frontline engaged and included across roles and locations. Organizations with highly engaged employees have 23% greater profitability, yet only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. (Gallup, 2022). Fostering an open dialogue and providing opportunities for workers to develop new skills are two ways to ensure the frontline workforce feels included in an organization’s mission and purpose.

 

Viva Learning

 

Onboarding, training and learning are essential to the frontline workforce, and enhancements to the Viva Learning app in Teams now includes improved features on mobile to help frontline workers learn in the way that works best for them. We're bringing enhancements to the learning experience on mobile devices with support for in-app playback, improved search and filtering, notifications, and an interface refresh. This allows for easier navigation and discovery of courses in Viva Learning on mobile devices and brings learning into the flow of work for frontline workers. Updates to the Viva Learning mobile app are now generally available, and the new homepage experience is in preview. You can learn more in the recent Viva Learning blog.

An image demonstrating improved search and filtering options in Viva Learning on a mobile device. The example filters in the image include Your Interests, Providers, and Duration.An image demonstrating improved search and filtering options in Viva Learning on a mobile device. The example filters in the image include Your Interests, Providers, and Duration.

Viva Engage Stories and Storylines

 

Teams that engage and express themselves form stronger bonds, which is vital to ensuring workers like the frontline feel included within an organization. Currently, thirty two percent of all frontline workers feel their voice is not being heard when communicating workplace issues (WTI Special Report, 2022). With Viva Engage, employees can join and participate in communities where they can contribute and add to company discussions. And now, frontline workers can use Stories and Storylines which unlocks new ways to share, connect with their peers, and express themselves. In the coming months, the Yammer Communities app for Outlook will also evolve to align with Viva Engage to bring communities, conversation, and new Viva capabilities into Outlook. Storylines is now generally available, and Stories will enter public preview later this month. Learn more about these features and the general availability of the Viva Engage app here.

An image demonstrating the Home feed screen of Viva Engage on a mobile device.An image demonstrating the Home feed screen of Viva Engage on a mobile device.

With Microsoft, customers can enhance the frontline employee experience with tools designed to help them connect, engage, learn, and grow – ensuring every employee feels included in an organization’s purpose. When frontline workers feel included, this can increase customer satisfaction, improve retention rates, and support employee wellbeing. We have seen customers like Toyota Motors of North America empower employees to support each other by embodying the company’s emphasis on productive, respectful employee experiences.

 

“The biggest benefit is that with Teams we have extended our personal connections across the company,” concludes Paul Rucker, General Manager, Digital & Corporate Experiences, Toyota Motor North America. “And the more apps, data, and functionality we build into the Teams platform, the better our employee experience will be. That bodes well for the future.” Read more about Toyota Motor North America here.

 

Increasing frontline operational efficiency 

 

Empowering frontline workers with the right technology not only makes their jobs easier, but it allows employees to concentrate on what matters most, whether that’s the customer or the essential task at hand. Transform frontline processes inundated by manual, fragmented, and repetitive systems and connect your systems of records onto one platform so your frontline workforce can work smarter and not harder to improve the agility and efficiency of the business.

 

Teams Shifts connector for UKG Dimensions

 

Managing shifts are critical to streamline operations for both frontline workers and managers. To empower the frontline workforce, we are partnering with UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), a leader in human capital and workforce management with over 70K customers in 150 countries. The Teams Shifts connector for UKG Dimensions is a real time, bi-directional solution that gives frontline workers the ability to view and accept open shifts, request time off, clock in and out, and more, all together on a single, seamless interface to simplify scheduling and time management. Public preview is available now.

An image demonstrating the Teams Shifts connector for UKG Dimensions: Pictured on the left is an agenda calendar view of Teams shifts on a mobile device, and pictured on the right is an example home screen of UKG Dimensions on a tablet device.An image demonstrating the Teams Shifts connector for UKG Dimensions: Pictured on the left is an agenda calendar view of Teams shifts on a mobile device, and pictured on the right is an example home screen of UKG Dimensions on a tablet device.

Virtual Appointments

 

Virtual Appointments enable organizations to conduct business-to-customer (B2C) engagements such as sales and customer service calls or industry use cases like virtual healthcare visits, loan advisory consultations, and virtual retail fittings. New advanced Virtual Appointments capabilities in Teams Premium help your organization drive operational excellence and personalize customer experiences.

  • Virtual Appointments app and simplified queue view: Streamline appointment management with one app to schedule, manage, and track insights for appointments. Easily track client status and service them accordingly with one view of scheduled and on-demand appointments.
  • Custom waiting room: Create a custom waiting room experience so that external attendees receive a branded, first-class experience from the start.
  • Department- and organization-level analytics: Gain business insights with usage trends on key metrics like no-shows and wait times.
  • SMS reminders and mobile browser join: Reduce no-shows with appointment confirmation and reminder text messages. Create a frictionless joining experience through clients’ mobile phones—even without requiring them to download Microsoft Teams on their devices.

Advanced Virtual Appointments features will begin to rollout in December as a part of Teams Premium public preview, with general availability of Teams Premium in February. Want to learn the latest updates about Teams Premium, including public preview and general availability? Sign up to get updates here.

 

Want to learn more about the features and capabilities for Virtual Appointments? Check out the announcement here. Available today in any Microsoft 365 and Office 365 license, you can start using basic capabilities that makes it easy for customers to join their appointment through a mobile web browser and easy to schedule a B2C meeting through Bookings.

 

An animated image demonstrating how to join a Virtual Appointment in Microsoft Teams on a mobile device from a meeting link in a text message.An animated image demonstrating how to join a Virtual Appointment in Microsoft Teams on a mobile device from a meeting link in a text message.

Approvals

 

When process approvals slow down – operations slow down. To further improve operational efficiency, we have enhanced our Approvals app with the Approvals Graph APIs. These APIs allow organizations to integrate Approvals with line of business applications and automate creation and updates of approvals - saving managers and frontline workers time and effort. This feature uses the Microsoft Graph API framework to expose a set of programmable actions for Approvals that developers can use for custom workflow or application creation. This feature will be in public preview in *February 2022.

 

Within the Approvals app, we have also enhanced the experience so users can now export approval data for a specified time period to a CSV file, create and manage simple approval requests directly within SharePoint Lists and assign an approval to a tag in Teams. For an approval assigned to a tag, the tag will expand and send to the correct members when the approval requestor hits submit. All of these features are generally available in October 2022. Learn more about how to get started with Approvals here.

An image demonstrating how to approve or reject a request in the Approvals app in Microsoft Teams on mobile and desktop devices.An image demonstrating how to approve or reject a request in the Approvals app in Microsoft Teams on mobile and desktop devices.

Tasks by Planner and To Do

 

The completion of tasks is a fundamental element of operations on the frontline. And providing a single source of truth for the work to be completed lets workers complete those tasks more efficiently and focus on additional value-add activities. Today we are excited to announce new tasks API capabilities including application permissions that will make it easier than ever to represent the right tasks for your frontline and get data on those tasks, too.

 

First, we’re adding Business Scenario capabilities, designed to allow integrations with external sources create tasks for the appropriate team. As an example, you might create an app to listen for warning events from machine sensors monitoring for signs of machine failure. Whenever your app sees any such event, it can automatically create a task in the appropriate Teams Team to investigate and remediate the issue—even if your app is not associated with any user in that Team.

 

Second, we’re adding application permissions to all existing Planner API capabilities which will make it easier than ever to access tasks across your frontline organization. Previously, the APIs only supported delegated permissions tied to a user, that is no longer the case. For example, if you want to send a daily report to managers with the breakdown of completed versus not completed tasks at their location, you can use the APIs to access those tasks and create that daily report, without having a user in each of the frontline teams. Additionally, you can run a periodic check for urgent tasks that are not completed and automatically post a message to the appropriate personnel to raise visibility.

 

Business Scenario capabilities and Application permissions for the existing Planner API capabilities will be available in public preview in November 2022. Read more about these new additions to the Planner API capabilities.

An animated image demonstrating how to publish Tasks by Planner and To Do in Microsoft Teams on a desktop device. A second image overlayed demonstrates an outline of Task details for an example task on a mobile device.An animated image demonstrating how to publish Tasks by Planner and To Do in Microsoft Teams on a desktop device. A second image overlayed demonstrates an outline of Task details for an example task on a mobile device.

Tasks will also support rich text support in the notes field, so you can include more detailed instructions with the help of rich formatting such as bold, italic, and underlined text, bulleted and number lists, and hyperlinks. This feature will be generally available in October 2022. Learn more about how to get started with Tasks in Teams.

 

With Microsoft Teams, it’s now even easier to automate task management for business processes with digital workflows that connect to systems of record and create a unified platform for your workforce. At Kendra Scott, Microsoft Teams has become a go-to communication platform. Today, the company uses solutions like task publishing in the Microsoft Tasks app to improve operational efficiency and empower every employee with the information they need to excel at their jobs.

 

“With Tasks in Teams, I’m no longer spending time texting managers and asking what tasks have been completed. I don’t have to worry about it. Teams probably saves me at least four to five hours a week,” says Courtney Eladasari, Senior Store Manager, Kendra Scott.

 

Safeguarding business 

 

Finally, we know protecting your frontline is a business imperative. Inadequate security could lead to costly breaches, loss of reputation and possible legal consequences. In fact, through a 2022 commissioned Total Economic Impact™ study conducted by Forrester Consulting, we found that investing in Teams for frontline workers saved a composite organization based on Microsoft customers, $551,300 over three years in costs associated with avoided security breaches. Safeguard your frontline workers with Microsoft’s integrated security, compliance, and identity solutions built to work across platforms and cloud environments.

 

Shared devices

 

Companies often provide mobile devices to frontline workers that need to be shared between shifts while maintaining security and compliance. Microsoft’s shared device mode allows frontline workers to sign-in and sign-out once for all of the apps that have been configured to support this feature, such as Microsoft Teams. Read more on the technical planning guide for deploying shared devices.

 

An image demonstrating shared device mode on a mobile device - allowing frontline workers to sign-in and sign-out once for all apps that support this feature.An image demonstrating shared device mode on a mobile device - allowing frontline workers to sign-in and sign-out once for all apps that support this feature.

Deploying Microsoft Teams at scale

 

There is a fundamental need for frontline workers to collaborate in real time with other workers in the same location – for example employees in one warehouse location. In terms of deployment, this means that a Teams team needs to be created for each location, potentially with a channel for each of the departments within the location. Today IT admins either do this through custom work or rely on each frontline manager to manually create one for their location, which can be costly or lead to inconsistencies. We have made all this simpler with a new solution to deploy Microsoft 365 at scale for the frontline workforce starting with Microsoft Teams. We help IT admins to create a Teams structure that maps the frontline workforces’ real-world into digital world and centrally manage their frontline locations. The PowerShell enables the Deployment command to take in 3 admin-created inputs: the team csv location, user csv location, and email ID for notification. Once the IT admin deploys, they can stay notified regarding the success of the deployment status in the Teams Admin Center. In case of error, they get a detailed error report so they can make necessary corrections and redeploy. This feature is generally available now. Learn more about how to get started with deploying Microsoft Teams at scale.

 

Team targeting

 

Finally, we are excited to make it faster and easier to manage the targeting hierarchies you create for your organization. New team targeting CMDLTs for uploading hierarchies makes it easier for tenants to update and manage hierarchies leveraged by the Tasks app. The Set-TeamTargetingHierarchy is now available in the standard Teams PowerShell Module from version 4.6.0 and administrators will no longer need to install the Preview module to manage the operational targeting hierarchy. This feature is generally available in November 2022.

 

Microsoft 365 provides comprehensive yet simplified solutions to keep your frontline workers secure and supported. Customers like the county of Solano use Microsoft 365 to enhance its commitment to being a digital-first government by using intentional, modern IT solutions that improve employee productivity while securing government collaboration.

 

“Security is at the forefront of our decision making, so we don’t elevate our risk in unacceptable ways,” says Tim Flanagan, Chief Information Officer and Registrar of Voters. “We don’t have to think about security when it comes to deploying a tool like Teams because we know it’s covered. Microsoft handles the difficult topics so we can focus on streamlining processes and enhancing resident services.” Read more about the County of Solano here.

 

Technology empowers your frontline workers to achieve more, see how Microsoft Teams can help

 

Empowering frontline workers with the right technology not only makes their jobs easier and reduces work-related stress, but also helps companies more easily retain and attract their frontline workforce. To help organizations in the digitization of their frontline workforce, we continue to invest in the Teams and Microsoft 365 platform to enable easier communication, stronger employee experiences, agile operations and comprehensive security capabilities. Check out the entire suite of frontline solutions available today and watch our on-demand Ignite session on how to start deploying Microsoft Teams at scale for your frontline workf...

 

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*Updated after the original publication date. 

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