5 ways to evolve your Firstline Workforce for the new normal
This post is originally published on Microsoft Teams Blog articles
Firstline Workers are, and have always been, the backbone of the world economy. This has become even more obvious in the face of the pandemic. While some Firstline Workers are returning to work as parts of the world reopen, others have been on the job throughout the last several months. They are the essential workers who have kept hospitals up and running, staffed grocery stores’ curbside pick-up, and been out in the field keeping services up and running.
Take CenturyLink, a global service company whose field technicians use Microsoft Teams, Shifts and the Power Platform to deliver faster customer service on equipment that keeps entire neighborhoods connected to the internet despite COVID-related challenges. Learn more here.
As organizations continue to refocus their operations to support and empower employees while maintaining business continuity, we have been working to create and improve capabilities in Microsoft Teams to support their efforts. These capabilities help you to better connect the Firstline Workforce with your corporate offices, digitize manual processes, equip them with the right devices and, accelerate their onboarding, all on a foundation of security that you expect from Microsoft 365.
Connect Firstline teams wherever they are
Whether working in back-to-back shifts where hand-offs cannot occur in person, connecting with corporate employees or consulting with remote company experts - Microsoft Teams has your Firstline Workers covered.
Walkie Talkie, a push-to-talk experience, enables clear, instant and secure voice communication over the cloud, turning employee- or company-owned Android smartphones and tablets into a walkie-talkie. This native built-in app in Teams reduces the number of devices employees must carry and helps lower costs for IT. Customers who currently use analog radio devices would no longer need to worry about crosstalk or eavesdropping from outsiders nor the limited range of radio as Walkie Talkie works over WIFI or cellular data. And for Firstline teams not yet enabled with a push-to-talk experience, Walkie Talkie in Teams enables instant team communication with pre-configured channels set to have the right conversation with the right people.
Availability: Walkie Talkie in Teams is now in public preview. It can be installed by using App Setup Policies. Customers interested in deploying Walkie Talkie can get started here.
As the world applauds Firstline Workers for the jobs they are doing, internal steps to engage, recognize and appreciate employees can go a long way in improving their job satisfaction and promoting a positive work culture. Coming later this summer, customizable Praise badges will open the possibility to promote your company values in celebration of every success and foster greater comradery during a time of disconnect.
Availability: Customizable Praise Badges will be coming later this summer. Praise badges are on-by-default and require administrator action to disable in the Office 365 admin center. Learn more about Praise here.
Digitize manual processes so your workforce can focus on what matters
Today, managers spend hours creating schedules and manually cross checking every shift to make sure the schedule is conflict-free. Coming later this year, Shifts schedule assistance will alert managers if conflicts occur anywhere in the schedule and they will receive conflict warnings when approving schedule change requests. This alerting saves managers time, makes shift scheduling more efficient and reduces inaccuracies that lead to employees not turning up for their shift.
Availability: Shifts schedule assistance will be coming later this summer. Learn more about Shifts here.
We are also adding Time clock to the Teams web and desktop apps in addition to the existing mobile experience, so employees can clock in and out from whatever device they are using. This provides a hybrid time clock experience so Firstline Workers can start their shift from wherever their work is. And, with the geo-fencing capabilities, organizations can manage where employees can and cannot clock in and out of – to make sure everyone is in the right place.
Availability: If you already have Time Clock enabled - simply go to the Shifts App in Microsoft Teams and get started! To learn more about Time Clock and how to set it up, go here.
As the need for corporate offices to better communicate and work with their Firstline Workforce becomes top of mind, Task publishing lets companies create tasks at the corporate level and push those tasks to targeted teams across their Firstline Workforce. For example, leadership for a nationwide retailer can create tasks for the reopening of their stores, send that list to only the affected store locations, and then track progress against the assigned tasks. Store managers can easily assign tasks to individual employees, while Firstline Workers can see a simple prioritized list of those tasks on their personal or company-issued mobile device.
Availability: If you’re interested in getting the private preview of Tasks Publishing for your organization please fill out this form to nominate your company.
Equip your team with the right devices
Through an integration between Teams and RealWear head-mounted devices, field workers can remain 100% hands-free using a voice-controlled user interface while maintaining situational awareness in loud and hazardous environments. Firstline Workers using RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 devices can collaborate with a remote expert using video calling in Teams. Users can access chats, remote assist capabilities, and other resources using only voice commands, as well as conduct calls and field operations completely hands-free. By showing what they see in real-time, field workers can accelerate the time to resolve issues and reduce the risk of an expensive downtime.
Availability: The Teams app for the RealWear HMT-1 series of head-mounted wearable computers is now available in public preview – and can be downloaded directly from the RealWear Foresight app platform.
Customers have a range of options to choose from for push-to-talk enabled devices that integrate with Teams Walkie Talkie. BlueParrot announced the C300-XT MS and B450-XT MS wireless headsets and Klein Electronics has updated models of Triumph and Valor wired headsets. Samsung announced the Galaxy XCover Pro, a rugged push-to-talk ready phone optimized for a variety of industries .
Availability: For customers interested in deploying Walkie Talkie with a device partner, you can get started by working with launch partners BlueParrott, Samsung, and Klein to select the right devices.
Accelerate onboarding so everyone is on the same page, quickly
Training and onboarding are under heightened pressure amidst COVID-19. Everyone needs to be highly aware of new practices and conditions, and communication to your Firstline Workforce is essential. Yammer Communities in Teams mobile app helps Firstline teams share knowledge across teams and departments as well as crowdsource solutions and best practices at the edges of the organization. You can also engage your Firstline Workers with company-wide announcements and live events that employees can access anywhere. With Yammer Communities, Firstline teams can stay connected to what is happening in their communities.
Availability: Starting today, users with the Communities app installed in the Teams web or desktop clients will also see the Communities app in mobile. Admins pinning the app for their users will now also see the app appear in mobile. For info on how to install the Communities app, go here.
Protect your organization while simplifying IT management for Firstline
Firstline Worker and Firstline Manager policy packages provide IT administrators with pre-defined policies and policy settings tailored for their Firstline workforce. This creates a simple, centralized, and consistent way to manage your Firstline workforce, no matter how big.
Availability: These new policy packages will be available by default in the IT Admin Center and in PowerShell. Learn more about setting up and customizing the policy packages for Firstline Workforce here.
Shifts audit logs, delivers IT admins a unified view and ability to search for Shifts activities such as clocking in or out and editing Shifts to ensure smooth compliance operations.
Availability: Shift Audit Logs is now generally available. To learn more about what Shifts activities are logged and how to get started, please go here.
This is just the next step in our journey to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We’ll continue to develop and innovate purpose-built Firstline Worker capabilities and experiences in collaboration with our customers, industry leaders and device partners that simplify work, reduce costs and bring people together. Please visit our website to learn more about how Microsoft 365 can empower your Firstline Workforce.