How to drive successful adoption of Viva Engage

Viva Engage is a rebranding and evolution of Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise social and community platform. It’s part of the Microsoft Viva employee experience platform built within Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. 

Viva Engage empowers employees to connect with each other and your organization’s culture, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose in a hybrid and remote work environment. Using Engage can also deliver tangible value to your organization. According to Microsoft, employee retention is 33% higher for employees who contribute to Engage communities in their first 90 days on the job and 11% for those that simply use Engage. 

Although Viva Engage is a turnkey social network, launching it takes planning and effort. In this post, we share our tips on how to successfully launch an Engage network and drive adoption. 

Start with why

It’s essential that people in your organization understand what you will and will not use Viva Engage for. To make sure everyone’s aligned around the “why,” we recommend that organizations:

  • Create a vision for Engage – Detail why your organization is going to use Engage and your initial use cases. For example: “Viva Engage is our place to discover people and ideas, engage and connect with colleagues and strengthen our community.”
  • Document scenarios where Engage shouldn’t be used – For example, sharing sensitive or confidential information or private conversations between team members.
  • Outline future use cases – Describe scenarios you expect to address as your workforce becomes more familiar with the platform.

Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and your intranet (which may or may not be built on SharePoint) have some capability overlap with Engage, so be sure you clearly communicate the purpose and role of each.

Loop in internal comms early

Workshops with your communicators can be a great way to introduce them to Viva Engage and help you determine which communities and use cases would be a good fit.

Typically, we start with an introduction to Viva Engage and explore the vision, principles, initial use cases and scenarios where Engage should and shouldn’t be used in your organization. Once your communicators have a good idea of how the platform can be used, conduct a workshop where they explore communities in your organization, define additional scenarios for using Engage and identify who may be the biggest advocates for the network (your Champions).

You’ll also want to include your internal communicators in some configuration decisions. For example, Engage’s default settings allow anyone to post and comment in the All Company community (which includes everyone in your organization). To reduce the noise, you may want to restrict posting access to community administrators only. We typically recommend that you allow people to comment on posts, but you’ll want to create an accountability and governance structure to ensure someone responds to comments when appropriate.

Prepare your leaders

Executive participation is the single most important factor in creating a thriving Viva Engage network. According to Microsoft, a week after receiving a reply from a leader, daily active engagements increase by 6% across the network and a month after, they increase by 9%.

Engage can be challenging for leaders, especially if they’re used to communicating through traditional channels or if they often work closely with a communications team to create employee-focused comms.

To help leaders get comfortable and become active participants, involve them early, share the vision and principles for your Engage network, and explain how the platform will empower employees to connect with each other and your organization’s culture. Give them concrete examples of how they can use the platform, such as:

  • Providing recognition and praise to individuals or teams
  • Posting videos and photos with employees during site visits or community events
  • Participating in groups that they are interested
  • Regularly commenting on content created by others

You’ll also want to help them with some of the gotchas of a more conversational public forum. For example, do they have to respond to every post that mentions them? What do they do if someone is disrespectful to them on the network? Although negative scenarios are rare, you’ll want your leaders to be prepared!

Find your Champions

Once Viva Engage launches, your leaders and your Champions will be the most important ingredients in creating a thriving community. You’ll want to identify your Champions early. These folks will help employees better understand how to use Engage, identify other employees that could participate and look for opportunities across the organization to use Engage instead of other tools (like email).

When creating your list of Champions, consider who will be your biggest advocates. Who will be excited to participate and contribute? Who is passionate about this topic? We recommend that each community be assigned one or more Champions to nurture the community and help it thrive. If you have trouble finding a Champion for a community, it might be a sign that the community shouldn’t exist.

Champions can take on with additional responsibilities to nourish a community, such as:

  • Indicating that an answer is the “best answer”
  • Pinning conversations and resources
  • Closing and opening conversations
  • Creating live events

Make it open for all

Although Viva Engage can support private communities, we typically recommend that communities be open to all. We believe that Microsoft Teams is generally a better place to discuss confidential topics or store confidential information.

Don’t be afraid of a little fun

It’s okay for some Viva Engage communities to be fun and not work related. At Habanero we have Business Development, Microsoft 365 and Future of Work communities, but also Gaming, Survivor Fans and Spicy Web Chefs (which is focused on cooking and food). Having a few fun communities can foster new connections across your company, which are important for hybrid or remote-first organizations.

Review your mobility strategy

You’ll want to ensure that Viva Engage is available on mobile devices, so employees can check-out and post updates, take a photo and record a video from anywhere. This is even more important for organizations that have a large contingent of frontline and/or field employees. Connect with your IT team to ensure that Viva Engage is part of both your corporate device and BYOD mobility strategy.

Plan your launch

There are a lot of different ideas out there of how to make your Viva Engage launch stand out. Everything from posters to videos are all effective in introducing your employees to Engage. Other strategies may include surfacing interesting Engage conversations on your intranet or even a contest with prizes. Remember, people love contests!

Create guidelines and policies

Make sure that your existing policies align with how you expect your employees to use Viva Engage. These include not only your internal social media policies, but also your policies around employee privacy. You’ll want to draft usage guidelines, which we recommend keeping light and fun. If your organization has strict enterprise information management policies, check to see if there are any records retention policies that may apply to your Engage network.

Measure and support

To better understand the health of Viva Engage, check your analytics on a regular basis. To view analytics, users must have Viva Engage Premium, which is bundled with the Viva Suite and Employee Communications and Communities license. Third parties such as SWOOP and TyGraph also provide robust analytics for Engage.

The most important thing to remember when adopting Viva Engage is that an enterprise social network is a journey, not a project with a start date and end date. You aren’t simply building a communications channel, but rather a home for conversations and communities in your organization.

You’ll also want to determine who the owner of your Viva Engage network should be. Is it IT? Is it Communications? Is it HR? In many organizations, Communications tends to take the lead, but there is often shared ownership with IT and HR. You’ll also want to determine if you should name a Viva Engage Community Manager to oversee and shepherd your network. This might be the same individual as your intranet manager but can also be another person in your organization. They are often tasked with reviewing your network analytics, looking for opportunities to increase adoption and supporting your Champions. 

Viva Engage can deliver tangible value to many organizations, but it’s not a slam dunk. A strong strategy, a thoughtful launch and ongoing care and feeding will provide the chance of long-term success and realizing value from the platform.

If you want help launching your Viva Engage network feel free to reach out. We’d love to chat! 

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