Microsoft 365 updates tackle a major elephant in the room

Microsoft has announced a range of updates for its productivity and collaboration software designed to address common challenges faced by workers in customer-facing roles.

The updates were informed by new research conducted by the firm, which suggests that frontline workers (who make up 80% of the global workforce) are too often overlooked when it comes to software deployment.

The survey found that the majority (63%) of frontline workers are excited about the opportunities technology creates, but many (55%) have had little support from their organization when it comes to adopting new tools. Meanwhile, 60% of those surveyed said their company could better prioritize culture and communication, and more than half said they did not feel valued as employees.

Microsoft believes technology will be crucial in establishing a line of communication between upper management and staff on the ground.

New Microsoft 365 features

Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft has worked to deliver new functionality for its various software and services in an increasingly competitive market. However, the majority of these improvements have been geared towards so-called knowledge workers, rather than employees out in the field.

In the face of this new data, the company has developed a number of updates for its Microsoft 365 suite that it hopes will go some way to addressing the imbalance.

For example, Microsoft has announced the general availability of a new feature for Microsoft Teams that allows frontline workers (and anyone else) to use their smartphone or tablet as a walkie talkie, provided they have access to Wi-Fi or mobile data.

The firm has also partnered with rugged smartphone manufacturer Zebra Technologies, which has integrated a dedicated Microsoft Teams push-to-talk button into some of its handsets.

Separately, Microsoft Teams can now be used by frontline workers to manage scheduled appointments, providing customers with real-time updates on wait times, missed appointments and staffing delays to create a more transparent experience.

Finally, Microsoft has rolled out a number of improvements for Viva, its employee experience platform. The updates will give non-office-based workers easy access to payroll, HR and training resources, which should help businesses establish a more consistent culture.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic is reshaping work for all workers, and at a faster pace than we have ever seen,” said Emma Williams, Corporate VP at Microsoft.

“Empowering frontline workers remains essential for digital transformation. If done well, we believe technology can modernize workflows and enhance job performance while also improving workplace culture and communication.”

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