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Empowering 2 billion global frontline workers

The past two years have been challenging for everyone, especially frontline workers tasked with keeping the proverbial lights on throughout the pandemic. From healthcare to hospitality, the manufacturing floor to the retail sales floor, these workers have weathered health risks, labor shortages, supply chain issues and more. So, it’s not surprising to hear they’re ready…

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The past two years have been challenging for everyone, especially frontline workers tasked with keeping the proverbial lights on throughout the pandemic. From healthcare to hospitality, the manufacturing floor to the retail sales floor, these workers have weathered health risks, labor shortages, supply chain issues and more.

So, it’s not surprising to hear they’re ready for change. They want help prioritizing culture and well-being and, despite their essential roles, feel underserved by technology and training. Those are some of the key findings from our latest Work Trend Index report, which focuses on the experiences of the global frontline workforce. Just as the pandemic was a catalyst for spurring rapid digital transformation for information workers, our report suggests we’re at a similar inflection point on the front line.

“The frontline workforce, which represents nearly 2 billion people worldwide, is the backbone of communities and economies around the world. In fact, 88% of organizations employ people in frontline roles,” said Emma Williams, corporate vice president of Modern Work Transformations at Microsoft. “When frontline workers say something’s not working, we can’t afford to ignore them.”

The data spotlights the challenge nearly every business is facing today: how to balance employee well-being and growth with business results. Aligning these factors is a tremendous opportunity for business leaders – one that over the long term will drive positive outcomes for employees, customers and the bottom line. At the center is a prioritization of culture and an investment in technology that enables frontline workers to thrive.

“This research reveals a common fundamental need for a sharpened focus on sharing information, building skills and creating a healthy culture,” said Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president of Industry, Apps and Data Marketing at Microsoft. “We believe industry-specific technology tailored for the unique needs of frontline workers can help foster a more innovative, productive and engaged workforce.”

Let’s dive into the details.

Prioritizing culture and communication

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella has said organizational culture is formed by the connection of employees to each other, their manager and company mission. Our findings show the employee-to-employee connections are strong, with 76% feeling “very bonded” to their peers. But it’s the other two binding ties that have frayed. Most frontline employees feel workplace culture isn’t a priority across their leadership teams.

Culture simply isn’t possible without communication, which is uniquely difficult for frontline workers, who are often dispersed and have limited access to technology. Ensuring a reliable flow of communication is difficult, and employees are feeling the effects. Sixty-three percent of workers say messages from leadership don’t make it to them, and one-third feel their voice isn’t being heard when communicating workplace issues.

We believe managers, paired with the right tools, play a key role in building and strengthening an organization’s culture. So, we’re dialing up resources and technology to support this vital group of people:

  • We’re updating the Viva Connections app in Microsoft Teams. Viva Connections can play a role in bridging the culture and communication gap, allowing leaders to share messages, updates, recognition and kudos – a consistent sense of culture that’s appropriate for the entire workforce. It also enables frontline workers to share feedback with leadership, creating a critical two-way information flow.
  • We’re also announcing new integrations for Viva Connections with strategic partners like Workday and Espressive that make accessing important resources easier and put actions like payroll and HR resources in one location – connecting the frontline to corporate teams.
  • To make on-the-job frontline communication easier, we’re deepening our strategic partnership with Zebra Technologies, a world leader in software and hardware for frontline workers. Today, we’re announcing the general availability of the Walkie Talkie app in Microsoft Teams, with a dedicated push-to-talk button on a wide range of Zebra mobile devices, as well as general availability on any iOS mobile device.
  • We’re enhancing Teams’ integration with Zebra Reflexis™, which connects the Reflexis Workforce Management solutions with the Shifts applications in Teams. This new integration streamlines shift scheduling and time off requests in Teams, making it easy for managers.

Optimism for technology

For decades, technology has been positioned as something to fear, rather than embrace, on the frontlines. From automation to AI, many workers worried it might make their jobs obsolete. The idea that technology can assist or enhance human ingenuity is an idea that’s starting to take hold. Sixty-three percent of frontline workers are excited about the opportunities created by technology, and it ranked third in a list of factors that could help reduce work-related stress.

We’re excited to announce solutions and updates across Microsoft technology that remove friction and streamline daily tasks for frontline workers:

  • Virtual appointments in Microsoft Teams with scheduled queuing provides real-time updates on wait times, missed appointments and staffing delays to offer valuable insights to employees and a more transparent experience for customers.
  • New support for shared devices means an IT-triggered audio alert for misplaced devices.
  • Microsoft Cloud for Retail, generally available Feb. 1, provides a comprehensive, tailored set of capabilities for retailers of any type. It empowers retail frontline workers with the insights, resources and data they need to deliver a better customer experience. This solution is part of a broader set of industry-specific cloud offerings that provide customized solutions for manufacturing, healthcare, finance and more.

Bridging the tech equity and training gap

While the promise of technology is significant, getting there requires both access and training. Given one-third of frontline workers feel they don’t have the right technology to do their jobs effectively, the opportunity here is a big one. And once the right tools are in the right hands, training becomes the next piece of the puzzle. Fifty-five percent of frontline workers have been given tools without any training, leaving them to adapt and self-train on their own.

Our Viva Learning app makes it easy for employees to discover, share and track the latest learning content from Microsoft Teams – so a company’s entire workforce can stay up to date on required and recommended training.

New updates will make it easier to assign learning from partner solutions like SAP SuccessFactors, Cornerstone OnDemand and Saba Cloud. New partnerships with learning providers like EdCast and OpenSesame connect workers to an extensive content library that can help them upskill and train, all in the flow of work.

To learn more about these new products and updates, please visit Emma Williams’ latest blog post.

The data shows we’re at an inflection point. Business leaders have an opportunity to adopt a new way of thinking and doing business – one that prioritizes frontline workers. Not just because it’s the right thing to do (though it is), but because it’s the only way succeed into the future. We’re committed to supporting organizations as they work to achieve better outcomes for everyone.

Tags: Microsoft Cloud for Retail, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Viva

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Facebook: Recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day

As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page…

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As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page to spread awareness and share local recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities.

In addition to providing community to people with disabilities, we’re also working to make the digital world more accessible. 

We will demonstrate our latest accessibility features today at our annual Accessibility Summit. Join us at 10:00AM PT for this livestream on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page. In addition to product demos and updates, we will host an interview with Molly Burke, a digital creator and blind advocate.

Through a video series on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page, we’re highlighting how people with disabilities connect and build communities through our technologies, much like Carly. We’ve created both the captioned and audio described versions of these stories.

Today, we’re recapping advances we’ve made over the past year to make our technologies more inclusive. 

Meta Quest

  • Audio Accessibility
    • Audio balance: This option enables you to adjust the balance of the left and right audio channels for comfort, and to better match your ability to hear in each ear. 
    • Mono Audio enables you to hear the same audio from both the left and right speakers on your headset. 
    • You’ll find both features under the Accessibility tab in your headset’s Settings menu.

Product mock of audio accessibility on Meta Quest

  • Adjust Height  
    • This feature allows you to experience VR from a “standing” vantage point even while reclining or seated. This can improve the VR experience for people who use wheelchairs, have limited mobility or are unable to use the Quest headset while standing. 
    • We first introduced this as an experimental feature (called Raise View) last June and have now made it permanent after receiving positive feedback from the disability community. 
    • You can find this feature in the Accessibility tab in Quest’s Settings menu.

Portal

  • Video relay service (VRS)
    • In December, we began supporting video relay service (VRS) applications on Portal  for people who use American Sign Language (ASL), through a collaboration with ZP Better Together.
    • Through the ZP apps on Portal and human interpreters, people who use American Sign Language can now easily communicate in both English and Spanish. 
    • Portal’s unique AI-powered camera always keeps you in frame and in focus, even when you’re moving, so your face and hands can always be seen.
  • Captions
    • We’ve also added customizable closed captions for streamed content on TV and Touch, as well as added support for live captions into integrated work productivity apps Zoom and Workplace Live.

Instagram

  • Auto-generated captions for Feed videos
    • In March, we introduced auto-generated captions for Feed videos on iOS and Android in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Turkish, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Urdu, Malay, Hindi and Japanese to start. 
    • More importantly, captions are automatically turned on by default when a creator uploads a video to their Feed. Over 140 million videos were created with auto-generated captions in the last 30 days.
    • Creators retain the ability to turn captions off when they choose and viewers can turn captions on or off using on-screen controls.

Product mock of Instagram auto-generated captions

Stickers on Facebook and Messenger

  • We added alt text descriptions to the more than 10,000 stickers available on Facebook and Messenger, making it possible for people who are blind and visually impaired to understand and use them. 

Avatars

  • Earlier this year, we introduced the ability to have your same avatar across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Quest. 
  • There are also new avatar options, including over-the-ear hearing aids and cochlear implants in addition to more face shapes, skin tones, expressions, and stickers. 
  • Wheelchairs are now available as stickers on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger so your avatar can better represent who you are or who you want to be.

Product mock of accessibility features of Avatars

Open Source

  • Lexical is a JavaScript framework built to improve text editing on Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Workplace, with accessibility as a priority. 
  • In April, Lexical was released into open source to allow the rest of the world to benefit from these improvements. 
  • With this new framework, people can express their ideas in text via dictation, and readers can experience character-by-character navigation — a feature previously unavailable in similar editors.

Reality Labs Research

  • We’re exploring how improvements in audio quality can enable more realistic presence and perceptual superpowers in augmented and virtual reality— technological advancements that can also help us hear better in noisy environments. 
  • Our team of hearing scientists is also exploring how to reencode sound and present it through closed captioning.
  • While this is still early research, we are excited to learn more about how emerging audio technologies can improve the lives of people with hearing loss. 

Image showing audio research

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Facebook: Announcing New Products to Make Business Messaging Easier

The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural…

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The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural business messaging event, we discussed how messaging is transforming interactions between people and businesses, and announced new products to make conversations easier.

Introducing Cloud-based API on the WhatsApp Business Platform

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced we’re opening up the new, cloud-based version of the WhatsApp Business Platform, hosted by Meta, to any business across the world. With this new API, we’re offering free, secure cloud hosting services so businesses and developers can easily access our service within minutes, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience and increase their response time for their customers. So now, whether a business wants to work with one of our 100+ partners or access our service directly, it will be much faster to get up and running on WhatsApp.

When growing a business, you need smart, robust and easy-to-use conversation tools. For smaller businesses using the WhatsApp Business app, we’re building tools so it’s easier to handle an influx of chats as they grow their customer base. 

Launching Recurring Notifications on Messenger

Today we’re announcing a new way for businesses to keep the conversation going with Recurring Notifications. As businesses acquire new customers and begin to scale operations, there’s incredible opportunity to build loyalty and trust — and we believe this is where the value of messaging really shines. This new capability makes it easy to re-engage people right in the messaging thread and deliver tailored messaging at the best time for customers, whether to hear about special promotions, new product drops or tips and tricks.

You can choose the topics you’d like to let people opt-in to, how often customers can hear from you and shape your content, so your messages are always on-brand and relevant. Recurring notifications will also be available for businesses on Instagram this fall.

We also highlighted our click-to-message ads to help customers immediately start conversations with businesses, our CRM platform Kustomer and Meta Business Suite for higher volumes of messages across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Read more about our product investments in business messaging on our Meta for Developers blog.

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Facebook: Introducing New Members of the Oversight Board

Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin. Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to…

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Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin.

Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to support and work with the board to select additional members. The new members reflect a wide range of views and experiences, and will bring a variety of perspectives to the board’s existing expertise.

The Oversight Board represents a unique model for social media governance. From its inception, we knew its impact would come not just from its decisions on individual cases, but also from broader recommendations on how we can improve our policies and processes. In the time since they began hearing cases and issuing decisions and recommendations, they’ve been playing a bigger role in setting precedent and direction for our content policies and how we enforce them.  We look forward to welcoming the new board members into this process.

We will update this Newsroom Post as additional members are appointed. We are grateful to all board members for lending their expertise to our content moderation efforts.

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