Innovations for workplace communications and employee engagement in Microsoft 365
Published Sep 22 2020 08:00 AM 82.9K 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.


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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.


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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.


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