Leveraging Microsoft Teams to Drive Employee Engagement and Productivity: 10 Best Practices 

Employee engagement is an important topic for HR professionals and C-level Execs across the globe, and a critical consideration in the world of end-user computing. Your people are your most important asset and the success of the business will be driven by its ability to attract the best talent. When a superstar employee joins your organisation, the challenge of keeping them engaged and productive begins. Failing to keep your employees engaged results in unnecessary expenditure for your organisation. If an unengaged employee decides to stay in your organisation the cost of their salary will be wasted. If they choose to leave, there are recruitment fees, lost training investment and a negative impact on business productivity as you find and train a replacement. There are many factors to consider when driving engagement and productivity of your workforce – Technology is only one aspect of this. Other considerations including business culture, policy and office space are also key.

Activity Based Working (ABW) is a key principle in helping to solve the engagement challenge. Creating space and a culture that allows users to work how and when they want to can be very effective. Changes in working styles need to be underpinned by technology that is not only secure but simple and intuitive for end-users. We will touch on more ways of solving the employee engagement challenge in a later blog article. This article will focus on the outcomes of ABW (or any other flexible working practices).   

When you create a dispersed team, two key non-IT related challenges need to be considered: 

  1. Maintaining an employee’s sense of belonging to the wider company and their immediate team. 
  2. Ensuring productivity does not suffer and end-users are accountable. 

Humans are social creatures that require social interaction to feel included. When employees work remotely for too long without the correct support mechanisms, they will lose the sense of belonging they need. It may sound counterintuitive that we need to offer employees the flexibility to work remotely to drive satisfaction and engagement but if executed incorrectly remote working can cause a decrease in engagement. The approach to remote working needs to consider that everyone is different – we need to offer the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime, while still creating a strong social sphere of safety and inclusion for employees. 

The other challenge is to ensure we are achieving the right levels of productivity from staff while they adopt a new remote/flexible working approach. Open accountability can be an excellent motivator. Sharing task lists and activities with the entire team, assigning owners, due dates and track usage can help to build engagement. When the whole team has visibility over what others are doing, professional pride can work wonders.   

Creating a platform for communication and accountability is key to solving some aspects of employee engagement. Here at Cetus, we regard Microsoft Teams and its integrated solutions as a key tool to leverage to solve these challenges. Open team-based chat in Channels, threaded conversations and video communication drive a feeling of inclusion and social belonging. Integrations with solutions like Planner, OneNote and ToDo ensure accountability and productivity tracking. As the centre point of the Office 365 world, MS Teams is a powerful tool for communication, collaboration and productivity that is much more powerful than email and Skype could ever be alone. 

For this reason, I thought it would be worthwhile to share 10 top tips for getting the best from a Teams deployment: 

Use the correct type of messaging and collaboration 
 Teams supports three main ways for users to message and collaborate – Video, Chat and Teams Channels. It is easy to decide when to use video but Chat and Channels can be more confusing. Chat is designed to be a replacement for the Instant Messaging function in Skype and is used for private conversations (as you will probably be aware Skype is being phased out). In Channels you can create threaded conversations that are visible to all. 
Conversations in Channels should be encouraged where possible and Chat should only be used when privacy is required. This will lead to a more open and inclusive form of communication that will drive engagement and social inclusion. Users can customise how they wish to be included on a per Team/Channel basis allowing them to focus on discussions that are important to them. Effective Teams training is key for all users. 

Be sure to consider the following:
– Understand threaded conversations to organise topics 
– Use headers in Channels to allow people to focus Use @ Mentions at Team, Person or Tag level to bring relevant team members into the discussion 
– Host meetings in Channels to focus content and be inclusive 
– Share documents for collaboration and feedback 

Use video wherever possible  
I would strongly suggest implementing a policy where all meetings and most calls include the native video capabilities within Teams. When users interact via video it creates social interaction that is so important for employee engagement. It makes everyone feel part of the team. 

Video also drives accountability and attentiveness in the meeting driving overall productivity. Not to mention that a large part of human communication comes from visual cues, meeting effectiveness will increase when team members use video. 

Don’t automatically create a new team – create channels to focus discussions   
The purpose of Teams is to promote inclusion, communication and openness within the organisation. Creating a new team every time a new discussion is required would result in thousands of segregated conversations and the overall effectiveness will diminish. Use Channels to focus discussion instead while still promoting openness. Users can choose which Channels to follow and how they wish to be notified so they can access the information they require.   

Choose your Channel activity  
One of the advantages Teams brings is to allow users to choose when to catch up on conversations, content and interactions, but still ensures important tasks and information are received. Removing interruptions and allowing users to concentrate on tasks can increase productivity, using the features in Teams to allow users to customise notifications and alerts is critical. Leverage good training regimes (as included in the Cetus Secure 365 solution) to ensure users know how to: 

– Show / Hide Channels and the impact on notifications 
– Turn on Channel notification if needed 
– Get notification regardless of @ mentions 
– Use of Tags to focus @ mentions 
– Much, much more! 

Understand AutoSave  
One big advantage of MS Teams is its integration with Office Apps, SharePoint Online and OneDrive. The ability to quickly share documents, co-author/edit and collaborate on content can be a massive time saver and productivity booster. 
One area that gets overlooked is user training on the Office 365 AutoSave feature. While it is highly effective for guarding against losing work when Windows inevitable crashes, it does require a change in user workflow. Make sure your staff know about AutoSave and how to use it correctly. 

Things to consider: 
– Be sure to save a copy – Change behaviour from Open > Make Changes > Save As to Open > Save a Copy > Make changes. 
– If the worst does happen, remember there’s a Version History option in every document. 

Leverage Planner and ToDo 
Teams covers communication and engagement, it also helps with productivity and accountability. Consider using Planner to assign tasks and assignments for a team and present this as a tab in the Teams Channel for ease of access and visibility. Leverage the ToDo function to allow individuals to see their assigned tasks across multiple teams/plans and Outlook to allow effective time planning to drive accountability and aid productivity tracking. 

Teams Governance 
Ensure Microsoft Teams security and Office 365 management requirements are met allowing a balance between collaboration & control. The native tools in Teams don’t provide enterprise-grade governance and compliance controls that may be required. Consider how you set requirements for workspaces (Teams) that require ongoing oversight and manage the review process for content owners. You can automatically generate a “renewal task” to re-certify user access, permissions and roles. Ensures data owners and administrators always have an accurate inventory of what they have, why it exists, who it belongs to, and when was the last time the information was verified. AvePoint is a great solution for Migration, backup and governance of your 365 solution. 

Just because the data now online does not mean someone else will manage it for you.

Leverage the like button 
A nice simple one for number eight, use the like button (thumbs up) to say, ‘Roger That’ ‘Affirmative’ or ‘Got it’. It might seem simple but if everyone knows this then it can save a stream of posts in a chat saying – “Got it, saves time, etc. “ so it keeps things simple. 

Make use of OneNote 
The ability to integrate OneNote and Teams can allow interactive collaboration of ideas and projects. Create ideas and make notes available to the entire team for simple collaboration regardless of location. Leveraging multiple endpoints and touchscreen technology such as iPad Pro and Pencil can change the way teams collaborate and how content is created. Give it a go, OneNote is an unsung hero in the 365 portfolio. 

One for the IT guys, Microsoft don’t back up 365 for you! Backup is a requirement for the business continuity, data recovery and retention compliance. Would you solely rely on recovery deleted items in Outlook or your Recycle Bin? …Didn’t think so. Make sure you have a third-party backup solution in place like AvePoint. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this article helpful, if you have 365 try out Teams, you will be surprised how much it can increase Team effectiveness. 

Credit: Rob Sims, CTO, Cetus Solutions