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Explore the Latest Innovations for your Retail Workers with Microsoft Teams

As we ring in the start of 2024, we’re gearing up to showcase a host of new innovations across Microsoft Teams at the annual National Retail Federation (NRF) conference, taking place January 14th – January 16th in New York City.

We’re announcing new solutions designed to enable store teams to efficiently meet customers’ expectations and improve the retail experience in this new era of AI.

Keep reading below for the latest product and feature capabilities coming to Teams to help simplify operations and enable first-class retail experiences for all retail workers – including the frontline.

Enhanced Store Team Communication and Collaboration

Route announcements to frontline teams by location, department, and role
Target important announcements to the right frontline employees based on location, department, and job role information. Targeted announcements will surface on the Teams home experience so your frontline employees will never miss an important communication. This feature will be generally available in March 2024. Learn more

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Boost frontline teamwork with auto-generated role and department tagging
Reach the right person at the right time with automatic tags for your frontline teams. Tags for department and job roles can be configured and created automatically for your frontline workers in the Teams Admin Center. Frontline employees can leverage these automatic tags in their frontline teams to connect with the right person every time. This feature will be in public preview in February 2024. Learn more.

Bring answers to communities for easier information sharing
In Viva Engage in Teams, answers from Q&A conversations will now be available in communities, better enabling frontline workers to easily source needed information. This feature will be generally available January 2024.

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Monitor how employee engagement drives business performance
Also coming to Viva Engage in Teams, network analytics will bring AI-powered theme extraction and employee retention metrics to users to help enhance insights into workforce dynamics and help drive informed decision making. This feature will be generally available in February 2024. Learn more.

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Automatically hear push-to-talk transmissions from multiple channels
Frontline workers using Walkie Talkie in Teams now have the option to automatically hear incoming transmissions from any of their pinned favorite Teams channels. With this new feature, users can stay better connected to multiple channels without needing to switch channels manually. This feature will be generally available by end of month. Learn more on how to get started.

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Use any generic wired (USB-C and 3.5mm) headset for instant team communication on Android
Frontline workers often need to instantly communicate with each other even when their phones are locked. We integrated Walkie Talkie in Teams with audio accessories partners to make this experience possible with the dedicated push-to-talk (PTT) button on headsets, which instantly brings up walkie talkie for clear and secure voice communication. In addition to select specialized headsets, we are excited to announce that Walkie Talkie in Teams will now work with any generic wired (USB-C and 3.5mm) headsets on Android.

As long as the generic headsets have a control to play/pause button or to accept/decline calls, frontline workers can tap the play/pause button to start and stop transmissions on walkie talkie. Frontline organizations will be able to easily start using walkie talkie with these lower-cost generic headsets. This feature will be generally available starting February 2024. Learn more.

Streamline Retail Store Operations

Allow frontline teams to set their shift availability for specific dates
Frontline workers will now have the flexibility to set their availability preferences on specific dates, enhancing their ability to manage unique scheduling needs. This added feature complements existing options for recurring weekly availability. This feature is available in January 2024. To learn more about recent enhancements to Shifts in Teams, read the latest blog – Discover the latest enhancements in Microsoft Shifts.

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Easily deploy shifts at scale for your frontline
Teams admins can now standardize Shifts settings across all frontline teams and manage them centrally by deploying Shifts to frontline teams at scale in the Teams admin center. You can select which capabilities to turn on or off like (showing open shifts, swap shift requests, offer shift requests, time off requests, and time clock.)

Admins can also identify schedule owners and create scheduling groups uniformly for all frontline teams at the tenant level and create schedule groups and time-off reasons that will be set uniformly across all frontline teams. Your frontline managers are able to start using Shifts straight out-of-the-box with minimal setup required. This feature is currently in public preview and will be generally available in March 2024. Learn more.

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Streamline Teams deployment for your frontline and manage at scale
Whether due to seasonality or the natural turnover seen on the frontline in retail, simplifying user membership is key to easing management needs. Now generally available, Microsoft has added new capabilities in the Teams Admin Center to deploy frontline dynamic teams at scale for your entire frontline workforce. Through the power of dynamic teams, team membership is automatically managed and always up to date with the right users as people enter, move within, or leave the organization using dynamic groups from Entra ID.

This deployment tool streamlines the admin experience to create a Teams structure that maps the frontline workforces’ real-world into digital world and makes it easy to set up a consistent channel structure to optimize for strong frontline collaboration on day one. Available in February, customers can use custom user attributes in Entra ID to define frontline and location attributes, with additional enhancements that make it easier to assign team owners by adding a people picker to the setup wizard.

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Map your operational hierarchy to frontline teams
Admins will be able to set up their frontline operational hierarchy to map their organization’s structure of frontline locations and teams to a hierarchy in the Teams Admin Center. Admins can also define attributes for their teams that range from department information to brand information. The operational hierarchy coupled with this added metadata will enable frontline apps and experiences in the future like task publishing. This feature will be in public preview in January 2024. Learn more.

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Leverage generative AI to streamline in-store shift management
Store managers can also identify items such as open shifts, time off, and existing shifts with a new Shifts plug-in for Microsoft 365 Copilot. Microsoft 365 Copilot can now ground prompts and retrieve insights for frontline managers leveraging data from the Shifts app in addition to user and company data it has access to such as Teams chat history, SharePoint, emails, and more.

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Automate and simplify corporate to store task publishing
With task publishing, you can now create a list of tasks and schedule them to be automatically published to your frontline teams on a regular cadence, such as every month on the 15th. Once you publish a list, the task publishing feature will handle the scheduling and ensure that the list is published at the desired cadence. This feature is useful for tasks that need to be done regularly, such as store opening and closing processes or conducting periodic inspections and compliance checks. This feature will be generally available in March 2024.

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Publish a task that everyone in the team must complete
This new capability provides the option to create a task that every member of the recipient team must complete. Organizations can assign tasks like complete training or review a new policy to all or a specific set of frontline workers. The task will be created for each worker at the designated location. This feature will become generally available in March 2024.

Require additional completion requirements for submitting tasks
When you create a task within the task publishing feature, you have the option to request a form and/or photo completion. When you publish that task, each recipient team will be unable to mark the task complete until the form is submitted by a member of the team. This ensures that the task is completed properly by each team member.

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Additionally, with approval completion requirements, organizations can hold frontline managers and their teams accountable for verifying the work was done to standard before reflecting that work as completed. This allows an organization to increase attention to detail and accountability for important tasks. These features will become generally available in March 2024.

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Secure and Manage your Business

Simplify authentication with domain-less sign-in
Since a single device is often shared among multiple frontline workers, they need to sign-in and out multiple times a day throughout a shift or across shifts. Typing out long user names with a domain is prone to mistakes and can be time consuming. With domain-less sign-in, frontline workers can now sign-in to Teams quicker using only the first part of their username (i.e., without the domain), then enter the password to access Teams on shared and corporate-managed devices. For example, if the username is 123456@microsoft.com or alland@microsoft.com, users can now sign in with only “123456” or “alland”, respectively.

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We’re excited to share more updates and new features throughout the calendar year. To learn more about how Microsoft Teams empowers frontline workers, please visit our webpage to learn how.

This post was originally published on this site

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