Daily Thoughts

Microsoft Teams Playbook: How to connect and engage with your audience

I’ve been lucky enough to use a number of pretty cool collaboration tools in my career so far. 

Microsoft Teams along with Slack have been at the top of my most used pile. Specifically, I’ve been working with these tools to enable and support my work in workplace learning.

As we’ve pivoted to a remote working model globally for the interim, I thought I’d share some tips, tricks and resources that will help any learning team (and really any person working remotely) make the most of Microsoft Teams.

L&D teams can do much to support their people right now in making the most of the workplace tech on offer to them. And, teams can be your gateway to connect them with the right stuff at the right time.

New to Microsoft Teams?

You’ll want to start by checking out this 3 minute introduction video and checking out the free interactive demo from Microsoft. The great thing about this demo, is that it provides an interactive environment for you to explore the tool and get guidance on all it’s features with the friendly pointers.

Getting the basics right

Depending upon your company’s adoption of Microsoft Teams, you’ll either have a lot of people embracing it or just the early adopters. Regardless of the current environment. As an L&D professional and/or team, you have the opportunity to change behaviours and demonstrate value with this tool.

First off, if you’re not familiar with the features and functionality of Teams, I recommend you explore the resources in the ‘New to Microsoft Teams’ section above and take a look through the Teams FAQ to get you started with the basics. My advice from here on out, assumes you have a basic knowledge of navigating this tool.

Firstly some housekeeping: 

  1. Create Teams over time

No-one likes being added to a new whatsapp group, facebook message or email with hundreds of people and receiving a million notifications a day. MS Teams is no different.

Resist the urge to create a team and add all of your employees on there from day 1. You’ll kill your aspiration of connecting people with learning with this tool before it’s even begun. You can add people to a team over time and they have the ability to access and catch up with everything, regardless of when they joined.

Experiment with a group of early adopters first. Those who are passionate about learning and will be receptive to being part of a team that receives the type of content you’ll be sharing. You don’t want your work and messages to get lost in the crowd so start small and scale.

Winning over the early adopters by showing value in being part of your team will help connect with others across your organisation.

  1. Don’t create multiple teams! Use channels to focus conversations

A mistake I often see is learning teams creating multiple teams for very similar topics. This is not needed and actually you have the ability to create channels to focus your team on different conversations.

For example, your team might include channels on:

  • Feedback
  • Personal development
  • New stuff
  • Shared skills

You don’t need to create a seperate team to host all these conversations and opportunities for you to communicate content on these topics. Think of channels as topics and/or workstreams to help focus your content.

You can create standard channels that everyone on your team can contribute to or make use of private channels, when you want a select group of members to partake in a focused space. This might be something for your managers, leaders or those on specific learning programmes who you want to get together and share know-how.

Don’t fall prey to building lots of teams. Have intent and explore the use of channels.

Learn more about making teams and channels work for you here.

  1. The general channel is your shop window

By default, every new team created has a general channel which allows you to post messages to all members of your group. It’s important that you think about how you use this channel to your advantage.

Timing and frequency of your messaging will be key. Don’t fall into the trap of spamming this channel by telling everyone about everything that happens in the world of learning.

Have a plan and share messages at the best time to help people. You should be aiming to connect people with the right content, not more content. Failure to develop a smart strategy with your general channel, may result in people looking for the exit button.

Use the general channel for:

  • Announcements, quick messages, high level information (like a new event coming soon) and to welcome new people
  • Connecting people with the right content when they need it most.

Don’t use it for:

  • Announcing/launching every new event or resource your team creates.
  • Spamming random updates from the world of learning which provides no value to an individual.

To help with the moderation of messages in this channel, you might want to look at creating a group of moderators within your team who can control who starts new posts and posts replies. Learn more about this here.

Connecting your people with learning through Teams

Now you’ve got the foundations in place, let’s look at some ideas you can explore to create learning moments that matter through Teams.

Schedule a did you know post: Once a week schedule a post with content on available resources and events which will be of interest to your audience.

Share latest events and useful resources: This is where you can add real value in my opinion. Use your channels wisely and communicate the right stuff at the right time. Do this right and I guarantee you’ll find more people being receptive to what you have to offer and asking to join the community.

Create a poll: What better way to get people talking and collecting valuable data for your team then by asking questions with a poll. To get a temperature check of your current services, reach out to your audience now and again to ask for their thoughts.

Host video meetups: Pick a topic to discuss or a talk to watch. No matter what you do, give your people the opportunity to come together, share and learn.

Invite leaders and influencers to share know-how: A powerful way to enable knowledge sharing within your channels is by using your leaders and business influencers to share what learning resources they are currently using and/or can endorse. This could be books, articles, events you host and much more.

Use Wiki’s to store general know-how and share learnings: The in-built wiki’s feature allows you to easily share learnings from conversations, previous events, know-how and updates on latest developments/ things to come. It’s here your people can consume more detailed content outside of channels.

Add frequently visited and useful Sharepoint sites to your team: The beauty of MS Teams is that it basically allows you to never have to leave the tool to access many things. On top of accessing all of your Office 365 apps, you can add all of your Sharepoint sites to your team navigation bar for easy access. Who said things can’t be simple?

Host your learning events calendar as a shared resource: I’m sure you might have a tool where you make this available already but even so, you can still make use of the shared calendar functionality within Teams.

Deliver virtual immersive experiences: This might be slightly controversial for some but why not dump the classroom and move your next event to be delivered through teams. With a great video system and a wide suite of integrations available through the teams app store. You can bring a truly memorable, valuable and fully digital experience to people wherever they are.

That’s it…for now

I’ll stop here as I could go on for pages about the ways you can engage your audience with learning opportunities through Teams. Hopefully, the above has given you much food for thoughts and the encouragement to explore further. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment and push the boundaries of the norm. Tech can be a great enabler, if you know how to use it properly.

If you’re still stuck and need more support, then do not fear my friends. Below I’ve compiled a bunch of useful resources that have helped me and I’m positive will help you too.

Useful resources

Office support training center: Microsoft’s dedicated centre for learning on all things Office. You’ll want to bookmark this, trust me.

Microsoft teams ‘how-to’ videos: Short, snappy and informative videos on getting stuff done in Teams.

Become a Microsoft Teams super user: Tips and tricks from the team at Microsoft Teams.

19 Microsoft Teams Tips that will help and save you time: Does what it says in the title.

Tips and tricks for Microsoft Teams: Yes, even more insight for you in this video.

Everyday Etiquette in Microsoft Teams: Everything you need to know about getting in right with Teams.

The do’s and don’ts of using Microsoft Teams: The good and the bad.

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