Innovations for workplace communications and employee engagement in Microsoft 365

Published Sep 22 2020 08:00 AM 64.7K Views

In an increasingly volatile world, organizational resilience depends upon the agility and responsiveness of your people. It’s more critical than ever to connect, inspire, and activate people. But it is also more difficult than ever. While many people may have adapted to working remotely, we hear from customers that it’s challenging to connect people, particularly outside of their core working groups, to drive culture and communication, and foster knowledge sharing and innovation.

Today, at Microsoft Ignite, we announced innovations that transform workplace communications, and empower communicators with integrated storytelling tools to inform, engage and inspire people across the organization. These innovations are informed by you, our customers. Top announcements include:


  • Home site app for Microsoft Teams. Bring your home site and the best of your intranet directly into Microsoft Teams—seamlessly. The home site app gives your users global navigation across sites, communities, and teams; quick access to sites they use regularly; and a personalized news feed.
  • SharePoint app bar. Create a consistent navigation experience to every site on your intelligent intranet, featuring quick access to important sites across the organization, personally relevant sites, and the news feed.
  • Boost news in SharePoint. Prioritize important news and announcements to appear at the top of news feeds across Microsoft 365. You can boost the visibility of a news article for a set time, until an employee has seen your content, or until a viewer has seen the item in their feed a set number of times.
  • Share news to email, Microsoft Teams, and Yammer. Share a news article directly to your audience’s team, community, or inboxes.
  • Enhancements for communicators in Yammer. Send notifications for priority announcements to the inboxes of all community members or raise the visibility of a post by featuring it in the community and discovery feed. And, with delegate posting, designated users can share messages and announcements to the organization on leadership’s behalf.
  • Built-in templates. Quickly deploy robust scenarios by using predefined sites that integrate the superpowers of Microsoft 365. Easily customize built-in templates to your needs, such as the template for Leadership Connection, and apply them to any existing SharePoint site to give it new superpowers and a beautiful design.
  • Insights for communicators. Understand your reach, impact, and engagement across Microsoft 365 by using new analytics in SharePoint, such as dwell time on content, heatmap views of interaction, and automatic analytics digest powered by AI. Combined these insights with analytics in Yammer, such as enhanced Community Insights, Live Events, and Question and Answers.

The intelligent intranet and Teams: better together

For many of you, the intranet is a canvas for communications, and for nearly two decades, SharePoint has been the leading platform for intranets, enabling organizations to connect the workplace, share information, and deliver rich employee experiences. Recent innovations in SharePoint like home sites, multilingual support, and audience targeting allow customers to create award-winning intranets in Microsoft 365, with no code.

As more people use Teams as a hub for teamwork, customers have asked us to integrate the superpowers of SharePoint with Teams, to reach people effectively where they work.

Today, we’re pleased to announce the new home site app for Teams, which brings your home site and the best of your intelligent intranet to Teams. The app gives users a gateway to your organization, starting with the app’s name and icon, which you can customize to reflect the identity of your organization or your intranet. The app’s multi-level navigation lets people find sites across the organization, including portals, teams, communities and applications.

Sites built on modern SharePoint will render inside Teams itself. And the app makes it easy to share and discuss content from intranet sites in Teams channels and chat.


SharePoint Landing.png


With the home site app, people can tap into news and resources across the intelligent intranet without leaving the hub for teamwork. And communicators can build and deliver rich communications experiences in Teams.


Global navigation and news, on any site

Customers have also asked us to provide a global navigation experience that connects the workplace. The new SharePoint app bar brings a consistent navigation experience to every site on your intelligent intranet, featuring quick access to important sites across the organization, personally relevant sites, and the news feed. The customizable, global navigation in the app bar is shared with the home site app, giving employees that consistent navigation experience across Teams and the browser.




Improvements to news feeds and digests

Communicators told us that it’s harder than ever to get the right information to the right people, at the right time, across applications and devices. Today we announced improvements to news feeds and news digests.


The news feed delivers an intelligent view of news, targeted to you based on factors like your role or location, and further personalized based on signals in Microsoft Graph about where, how, and with whom you work. But communicators have told us that not all announcements and news are equal. Sometimes you need to boost the visibility of important news articles in the feed, rather than relying solely on AI. Soon, you can boost a news post until it has been read, for a set number of impressions, or until a given date. When the criteria is satisfied, the post returns to its normal position in the feed.




We’re delivering an enhanced news feed that supports boosting news in Edge, in news web parts, and in the SharePoint start page. In the future, we’ll be bringing this improved news feed to other experiences, and we’ll be adding new superpowers to the feed.


News Boost - Edge.png

And employees have told us that keeping up with so much news and information can be challenging. To help you keep up-to-date with workplace communications, the automatically generated news digest will send an email summary, curated by AI, of news articles you may have missed or not read that week. The digest will help ensure people stay on top of news that you have boosted. And you can customize the news digest with your organization’s branding.



For communities in Yammer, we’ve recently empowered community managers to pin conversations to the top of the feed, and now you can feature a conversation, which showcases the conversation in the community feed and raises its visibility in Yammer’s home feed. You can also post priority announcements, which raises the visibility of notifications in community members’ inboxes. Additionally, leaders can delegate the ability to post to Yammer to their communications leads, allowing communicators to post news and announcements on behalf of leaders.


Reach and engage people in the apps they use every day

Communicators have also told us that to engage an audience that represents diverse generations and workstyles, you need to reach people where they are. You can share news and announcements to people and engage them across your SharePoint intranet, and now, Teams and Yammer.


You can share a news article to a Teams channel or a Yammer community, to reach your audience and encourage conversation about the item. You can spark richer engagement with the superpowers of these apps. For example, when sharing a news article to Yammer, you can add a poll to measure sentiment, or share it as a question to crowdsource ideas.




Create captivating communications experiences

Customers have told us that they do not want to spend precious resources and brain cycles designing intranet sites. Last year we introduced the lookbook to help you build beautiful employee experiences. 


Now you can use built-in templates to give any existing site an extreme makeover. Templates, like the leadership connection template, have been purpose-built to support specific scenarios. They integrate the superpowers of SharePoint and other Microsoft 365 experiences, and deliver a beautiful, out-of-box design that you can customize with no code to reflect your branding and your needs. Of course, templates are responsive and accessible, so your experiences can be inclusive of all users, across devices.




Today we also announced that SharePoint spaces reaches general availability this fall. SharePoint spaces enable anyone to create immersive and engaging mixed reality experiences that showcase 3D content, models and 360° imagery, and bring 2D content to life in stunning new ways. Spaces transform scenarios from hosting virtual events to onboarding employees, and can be experienced across devices, with a browser or a headset.  The SharePoint spaces team sends a special “Thank you!” to our numerous early adopters and preview customers who provided us with rich feedback to guide the development of this revolutionary experience.



Foster a tighter workplace community

Because customers emphasize the need to connect and engage everyone, across the organization, we continue to invest in communities that foster a culture of inclusion, where everyone feels empowered to contribute to the conversation. 


Innovations for Yammer’s All Company community turn it into a powerful tool for informing and engaging the entire organization, from the top-floor to the shop floor. Posts to the All Company community are discoverable by everyone, and anyone can engage. Now, you can customize the All Company community with your organization’s branding, and you can restrict who can post announcements or start new conversations in the community.




And when you share an announcement in Yammer’s All Company community, notifications are generated for everyone in the organization across Yammer, Outlook, and now Teams; across web, desktop and mobile. People can engage from the apps they use every day and express themselves with nuance using new reactions.


Reactions mobile.gif


Better measure the impact of your communications

Finally, communicators have emphasized the importance of measuring the reach and effectiveness of communications. New insights include a heatmap of interaction or dwell time on content.  An analytics digest, powered by AI, will automatically be sent to the author of a news post one week after content is posted, and provides suggestions to increase visibility of their post. And in Yammer, updated Community Insights empower communicators and community managers with detailed analytics for Conversations, Live Events, and Question and Answers.


Community Insights.png


It has never been more critical for organizations to connect, inspire, and activate their employees.  Microsoft 365 brings you innovations that transform workplace communications. Whether you’re a leader, an HR or communications professional, or a communicator anywhere in the organization, we will continue to invest in integrated storytelling capabilities that empower you to inform, engage and inspire people, and to measure and improve your impact. We look forward to your feedback on these innovations, and to sharing the journey ahead.



@Dan Holme Amazing work and congrats on these improvements. When is the expected roll out?

New Contributor

Huge improvements for Intranet! Waiting for roll-out!

Established Member

These are some amazing features, and as a communicator I'm extremely excited! Will the news digest be able to be turned off and triggered as needed? Or will it be sent automatically like Yammer emails? I prefer news digests to come from me instead of Microsoft, because they're more likely to be read. 

Regular Visitor

Great news! Looking forward to seeing it on our intranet. Does roll out depend on country?

Senior Member

Great news!  @Dan Holme Could you share with us when you think the  'Global Navigation' feature is going to be rolled out? It's something we are really looking forward to.


Most of these features will be coming by the end of 2020, but a few will be early 2021.  My teammate, @Brad McCabe can provide details on roadmap.  He can also address the "from address" on email digests.  For sure the digests will support branding so they look like they're from your company, not Microsoft, but I'm not sure about the from address... Brad?


I great source of information on future items is the public Microsoft 365 roadmap.  It has information on SharePoint and the other components of Microsoft 365.  

@Jelle1905 -To answer your specific question on global navigation/app bar, that will start rolling out to customers later this year.


@SimonFahlgren - The features will rollout of individual timelines, most by the end of the year, some in Q1 2021, but none are country specific on their timelines. 


@alyssat - When it ships it will come automatically from the system.  You can control the branding on it so when employees read it it feels like your company and respects your brand. 


Thank you for your feedback.  Controlling the sender and controlling the time are both ideas we are looking at for a future release.  

Established Member

Thanks @Brad McCabe. Yeah, I like how the current news digest feature sends it from the user, I'll likely just continue using that. The drawback has always been not being able to brand it. 

Occasional Visitor

Amazing @Dan Holme really looking forward to the updates.

The Home site app is a good way to bringing the Intranet into Teams, but looking to see if can bring Teams into the Intranet (SharePoint), e.g. is there a way for a potential all-staff Teams channel to be used instead of Yammer webpart? Especially as Teams have become so popular and familiar.


Senior Member



Since the changes and dates are rolled out by Microsoft, how do we go about helping our clients along, who suddenly see new stuff?


Thoughts on change management here?





Super Contributor

Fantastic news! Really looking forward to getting started with this!


The home site app for teams is what I'm most looking forward to .. but the roadmap shows this as launching March 2021 so a while to wait yet   :(

Frequent Contributor

Is the global navigation bar security filtered or audience? or nothing :)


Awesome! Cant wait to see this in 2023!!!!

New Contributor

@Brad McCabe - really like the Roadmap use it every week to monitor updates and to plan for roll-outs in our organization. But the challenge is that some key features, like the SharePoint App Bar, isn't listed in there.

New Contributor

I have not seen anything new for the Home Site app.  Any updates?

Frequent Contributor

How do we turn off the SP app bar? It's visually distracting and adds unnecessary clutter.

Frequent Contributor
Frequent Contributor

@SOEREN Pedersen  It's in the roadmap: 

But major visual changes should be flagged or they get lost.

To avoid additional clutter, I hid the app bar with a little css but there really should be an admin switch so we can turn it off. 

Frequent Contributor

@StephanGee  Thanks - I tried the powershell cmdlet but it didn't work for me, so just added a line of css which is probably what the ps does anyway. 

Frequent Contributor

Also, the ps only defers activation until Oct I believe. We probably want this permanently removed. 

Frequent Contributor

Yes it is just temporary. You have to adopt it somehow i think.

I am afraid that full control of feature deployments is only available on premise.


when manually creating news digest the branding will be applied ?

Senior Member

A question regarding app bar.

As this is used to display personalized content on every page, it would make sense to include there "Saved for later" content.

Are there any plans on doing that?

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