Viva Learning: Q&A with Microsoft’s Seth Patton and Skillsoft’s Potoula Chresomales

November 4, 2021 | Activate Learning, Diversity & Inclusion | 8 min read

The events of the last year and a half have redefined today’s workplaces. From shifting physical workflows into digital environments to collaborating primarily through video calls and chat platforms, nearly every component of the traditional employee experience has changed. However, one thing that has remained constant is employees’ desire – and need – for connection and collaboration with their peers. This rings especially true when it comes to how they learn and grow together.

As a critical step in rebuilding a sense of community and “togetherness” in the workplace and fostering opportunities for employees to discover, share, and learn in their natural flows of work, this week, Microsoft announced the official launch and general availability of Viva Learning – of which Skillsoft has been a proud integration partner since inception. To learn a bit more about Microsoft’s and Skillsoft’s work together with Viva Learning and explore trends surrounding the current state of learning in the workplace, we sat down with Seth Patton, Microsoft’s GM of Microsoft 365 & Viva Product Marketing, and Potoula Chresomales, Skillsoft’s SVP of Product Management. Here’s what they had to say.

  1. Widespread remote and hybrid work has shifted from a temporary experiment to permanent reality. How can businesses maintain a sense of workplace community and learning in this decentralized model and what role does Microsoft Viva play in this?

    Seth: The rise of remote work and distributed teams have taken its toll on people as many of the everyday physical points of connection have gone away. Companies require a new approach to attract and engage employees and promote growth and wellbeing. Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform that puts people first, helping employees feel more connected, engaged, supported, and be their best no matter where they are working. Viva connects people to company culture, knowledge, expertise, and learning, and delivers insights to improve productivity and wellbeing - all directly in the flow of work. This makes it easy for employees to access the information, resources, and support they need to succeed and thrive so people working remotely are just as engaged, productive, and connected as employees who are able to work in the office.

    Potoula: To Seth’s point, while remote work has taken flexibility to an entirely new level, it’s also created a level of fragmentation in how we communicate and interact with one another and absorb new information. Many of our customers adopted Microsoft Teams during the pandemic to bridge this gap and use of this collaboration tool has skyrocketed (daily active users has spiked by 350% in just over 18 months). In a sense, collaboration platforms have evolved into the new virtual office space, and Microsoft Viva is working to redefine how employees learn, discover, share, and inspire one another – from wherever they are – while Skillsoft helps to power Viva Learning with courses, books, learning paths, coding labs, and bootcamps to support reskilling and upskilling efforts, as well as self-directed learning directly within Teams.
  2. What is top-of-mind for today’s Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) and how can Viva Learning, with partners like Skillsoft, help advance their goals?

    Potoula: CLOs are taking the lead in ensuring that the enterprise has the capabilities and skills needed to achieve their strategic goals. This means understanding the future of work in their industry and across functions, assessing skill gaps, and then filling those skill gaps in ways that meet the learning styles of their workforce. CLOs recognize that some team members might prefer to watch, read, listen, practice, or attend live learning, while others learn best through hands-on or experiential learning. CLOs provide many options cost-effectively and simply. They spend a lot of time thinking about ways to improve business outcomes, team performance, and key operational metrics by upskilling and reskilling the workforce at scale. The key there is “at scale.” They look for ways to achieve this, one of which is through inserting learning directly into the flow of work. CLOs are also “chief culture officers,” building new cultures within their organizations through digital transformation, workplace safety, DEI, and sustainability initiatives that require changing mindsets and behaviors to match organizational values. Skillsoft is a partner to CLOs in developing learning programs that meet these goals.

    Seth: There is a massive skills gap right now with the rapid digital transformation our world is going through. Skills that employees learned in school, and even in past jobs, are often substantially different than the skills organizations need today - and the ones employees need to remain relevant and successful. Additionally, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. We see CLOs and HR leaders focusing on how they can create the path of least resistance to close that gap for their employees and send a signal that they’re prioritizing employee growth. With Viva Learning, diverse libraries of learning content from Skillsoft and other providers are brought into the flow of work in Microsoft Teams. This means employees can access, share, discover, and track learning right in the tools and platforms they are already using – resulting in fewer barriers to learning.
  3. Employees are craving learning opportunities, but struggle to carve out time. What role can technology like Viva Learning play in navigating this challenge?

    Seth: Providing flexibility and cross-product integrations is key here. Through partnerships with companies like Skillsoft, Viva Learning offers a diversity of digital learning content types, formal and informal, and makes them easily accessible through Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365. Employees can easily find relevant learning embedded within the work tools they already use, and even break learning up into smaller segments of microlearning throughout the day. We’re also building integrations between Viva Learning and other Viva modules like Viva Insights, adding features like email nudges to book prioritized learning time on users’ calendars, and intelligent suggestions for relevant resources to fit within that timeframe. Employees will also be able to book learning time directly from a learning item within Viva Learning.

    Potoula: One of the greatest challenges learners face is finding time. This is why learning must occur naturally as an integral, seamless part of the workday and in a personalized manner that meets each individual’s needs and preferences – whether that be via self-paced, team-oriented, or instructor-led trainings. To facilitate this, Skillsoft content within Viva Learning is offered in bite-sized pieces that can be consumed easily within busy schedules. If users have 10 minutes or less to spend, they can make meaningful progress against their goals with micro-learning videos, book summaries, or articles. If they begin a coding lab or learning path, for example, they can easily pick up right where they left off whenever they have the time. Users are able to access and share this content directly within Microsoft Teams.
  4. What are the benefits of learning in the flow of work and how are Viva Learning and Skillsoft innovating in this area?

    Potoula: We’ve known for some time that learning in the flow of work would be the next horizon for workforce learning, but we didn’t know HOW it would happen. Now it is clear that Teams will be that platform for many global enterprises. This collaboration platform is full of social features that can now be used for learning! One of the most impactful will be the ability to add a collaborative learning tab to a Teams channel so members of a team can share, pin, and chat about relevant courses. This answers the common question “what should I learn?” and is a true game changer. There is also the ability for managers to easily recommend content to others and track whether others accessed or completed that learning. This enables managers to build a micro-culture within their organizations that values and emphasizes continuous learning.

    Seth: By bringing learning content and features right to where employees are working day to day, in one central location, they are able to remain in their preferred platforms or tools of choice to work, collaborate, and learn. This increases employees’ engagement with learning content, improving the value of investments in providers like Skillsoft. With Viva Learning built seamlessly into Microsoft Teams, it’s easy for employees to engage in social learning activities. In a recent study, we found that learners who use social features consumed 30 times more hours of learning content than those who don’t. Viva Learning lets employees share courses in chat, create collaborative learning tabs for their teams, and recommend trainings to colleagues to foster coaching and peer relationships.
  5. Where can everyone find out more about what’s next for Viva Learning?

    Seth: Follow the Microsoft Viva blog to get the latest news for Viva Learning and the rest of Microsoft’s employee experience suite. Be sure to check out our Viva Learning general availability announcement blog for the latest features, details on Skillsoft integration, and how to get started with a trial.

    Potoula: And, to learn more about all the work Skillsoft and Microsoft are doing to deliver the next generation of learning, visit here.

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