Let’s Talk About Microsoft Teams and Your Internal Communications

Should we add Microsoft Teams as a channel to communicate with our employees? It is one of the most debated topics in corporate communications today.

It’s not an easy decision as we already have many channels, for example, email, Intranet, Newsletters, Mobile Apps, etc. Each channel has had varying levels of success when it comes to effectively communicating with your employees – and how do we, or can we, measure that effectiveness. For decades, we’ve been blindly publishing content and hoping for engagement or maybe using simplistic means for measuring it. So, given that state of affairs, would we really want to bring Microsoft Teams into the picture? Particularly with its challenges on certain fronts like authoritative communications.

Let’s quickly dissect each of the classic communications channels and then make a case for Microsoft Teams:

Intranets – they have been the standard of employee engagement and communication for years. I have worked with companies that have redesigned their Intranet in three-year cycles for the last 15 years with the hope that a new version of SharePoint or a new Intranet product will save the day. I have seen organizations track hits on their home page as a measure of adoption while forcing everyone’s browser to default to the Intranet’s home page – as the saying says – “There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn’t want to see.”

Intranets do have a place in the corporate communication ecosystem, but we have to acknowledge that they are time-consuming and costly to implement and support. A good Intranet needs to provide employees with reasons to return on a regular basis for it to be effective at corporate communication.

Despite the most valiant of efforts, Intranets have never become the holy grail of engagement and communications many had hoped they would become. We have gone through many revamps, each hoping to get it better, only for whatever initial success was found to often slip away. We are not advocating for an organization not to have an Intranet, yet. They do have shortcomings that we seem to be unable to escape. Shortcomings that a truly collaboration centric-platform like Microsoft Teams doesn’t have.

Newsletters – The first challenge with newsletters (both printed and digital) is around timeliness and immediacy of information. Newsletters are a good way to summarize what has happened during a time period (say a week or two). However, they are lacking when you have an important message that you need employees to see and act on immediately. They also tend to be one-way communication channels, and therefore difficult for the audience to engage. We become the classic professor in a lecture hall focused on saying content, rather than being the approachable leader who draws people in and discusses items of importance. During this pandemic, the latter has never been more critical.

Email – The most used medium of communication today and for the last few decades. While email does have the immediacy that you would need for important, timely messages, it is overused to the point where many of us tune out all but the most essential ones. DMR reports show that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day. That’s a lot of emails.

There is no effective way to distinguish between important corporate communication and other emails. There is too much noise on this channel, and it is challenging to have two-way conversations with your entire audience without overwhelming them with even more email. Also, engagement often becomes confused as people are responding to comments that are out of order.

Let’s talk about Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Team is a modern platform built around collaboration. Your employees can chat with each other, they can collaborate on files, projects, attend virtual meetings, and you can host virtual townhalls.

If you are like most organizations, you are realizing the following:

  • Your employees are spending less time in email and a lot more time in Microsoft Teams.
  • Your employees are spending even less time in the Intranet and a lot more time in Microsoft Teams.

COVID-19 and social distancing has expedited the adoption of Microsoft Teams and accelerated a digital transformation as we have never seen before. The usage stats are impressive, including over 75 million daily users, more than 2.7 billion daily meeting minutes, etc. More importantly, you can check your organization stats by running these Microsoft reports.

After you verify your stats, you will likely confirm that, yes, your employees are spending most of their day in Microsoft Teams – collaborating, attending meetings, chatting. Microsoft Teams does not have the lack of adoption that your Intranet suffers from.

Unlike newsletters, Microsoft Teams provides an excellent channel for important and immediate messages. You can reach your employees on the platform they are using several times a day. It is also a platform that provides an inherent segmentation mechanism by grouping employees into Teams and common interests; email doesn’t have a good way of accomplishing this.

To summarize: 
  • Unlike Intranets, Microsoft Teams does not suffer from poor adoption.
  • Unlike Intranets, Microsoft Teams, as a platform, is likely used by most of your employees several times a day.
  • Unlike email, Microsoft Teams provides a built-in segmentation mechanism.
  • Unlike Newsletters, Microsoft Teams provides a channel built for immediacy and important messages that need to be seen now.

Microsoft Teams has received some key criticisms, and on its own, they are entirely valid.

  • Critical communications and authoritative posts can get lost in the chatter.
  • No means to manage corporate communications and delegate publishing.

Sparrow for Teams is a product that fills those holes and completes the picture, allowing for Microsoft Teams to step up and be the hub of communication for the enterprise. We have detailed an article that goes into depth on this.

It’s far easier and more natural to bring the content to where the people are (in Microsoft Teams) than trying to haul the people out of their now natural work environment and get them to visit the Intranet or read a newsletter email. With a few days and Sparrow for Teams, your org could be good to go.

Book your Demo Sparrow for Microsoft Teams today to see this in action. Best of all, it is easy to install and configure that you can be communicating in Microsoft Teams by next Friday.


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Effective Internal Communications During COVID-19 Outbreak

The COVID-19 is spreading at a rapid pace across the globe, more than 190,000 worldwide have been infected thus far. This pandemic is being described as the ‘worst public health crisis for a generation.’ With it comes an unprecedented societal and business disruption.

Businesses are concerned about the welfare of their employees, while at the same time rethinking how to work and survive this crisis. The current situation has made remote work a real necessity. Employees are looking for clear guidance while working through this. Misinformation in the workplace can become rampant, making your employees feel stressed and insecure.

For both the safety of employees and business continuity Internal Communications and HR teams find themselves needing to adjust their communications strategies to align with the new situation. They are looking for effective ways to keep employees informed about the virus and its impact on the staff’s day to day activities.

Timely, accurate, and effective communication is vital when dealing with this outbreak. Waiting to respond until something has happened is hardly an option. During times of crisis, internal communication is the glue that holds the business together.

It’s time to ensure there is an excellent remote working system in place together with a transparent and ongoing communications strategy for employees. One of the most challenging aspects of crisis communications is the need to create a wide range of critical content and have it pushed out to the right audiences as quickly as possible.

Here are 5 crisis communications best practices that you can implement during the coronavirus outbreak:

Keep Your Employees Informed in Real-Time

Turn your current internal communication strategy into real-time communications. Not responding immediately to your employee’s concerns may accelerate the spread of panic and misinformation across the organization. In times of crisis, you need to create and distribute updates related to the pandemic quickly. Offer a two-way communication channel to foster engagement and comradery. Giving your employees a way to comment or react to company communications will help you collect feedback and address any questions that come up.

Reach Every Employee Wherever They Are

No matter where your employees are, they need the right information. More than ever, during a crisis, you need to ensure your content is getting to them. One way to do it is by extending your reach beyond the company intranet and pushing your updates to employees’ mobile devices or email.

Get the Right Information to the Right People

Your employees need information that’s relevant to them. Different groups within your organization will require different types of messages. For example, you might consider sharing specific resources with your company’s leadership to help them model stabilizing communications; or you may post FAQs for the frontline workers. Use your internal communications platform to segment your content, so your employees only receive the information they need and nothing else.

Make Sure Critical Information is Delivered and Read

At times, you will need to share urgent news or information that’s critical to your internal stakeholders. But it is not always easy to tell whether people have read your memo and taken the desired action. Having a communication channel that helps you easily track who has read and acknowledged your message, can make all the difference. Mandatory and compliance posts are a great way to clearly indicate to your audience that your message is mission-critical. Mandatory posts are visually distinct and stay at the top of Sparrow’s newsfeed until read. Compliance posts require the readers to acknowledge they have read and will comply with the information or policy change.

Measure the Impact of Your Internal Communications

Measuring the impact of your internal communications is even more critical than ever with the COVID-19 crisis. Track your most important metrics such as the number of unique views, complete reads (e.g. have they read the entire article or dropped off before an important piece of information?), or audience engagement. Knowing how many employees have read the latest COVID-19 update and are aware of important changes will empower you to make informed decisions about your crisis communication strategy. Additionally, it will arm you with data that you can share with the leadership team to help them understand the situation.

Proper communication will help protect your employees, build trust, prevent the spread of misinformation, and help employees feel secure. Transparent and real-time communication will help your business weather the coronavirus storm.

Learn more about Sparrow.

Beyond employee engagement, keeping healthcare staff informed in times of outbreaks.

Healthcare organizations have unique needs when it comes to internal communications. Beyond employee engagement, healthcare organizations need a highly reliable communication system that keeps its people connected in critical times of need. Mandatory and compliance posts in Sparrow come in particularly handy when healthcare organizations need to ensure that vital information reaches the right people.

“We have unique needs when it comes to internal communications.  Our staff and physicians work at multiple sites and around the clock.  An effective internal communications platform, like Sparrow, ensures we get the right information to the right audience at the right time.”
Patrice Cloutier, Manager, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Hamilton Health Sciences

A nurse stands in line for coffee in the hospital cafeteria. His Android phone buzzes, drawing his attention to the Sparrow notification with an intriguing headline. Glancing up to confirm he’s still got a few minutes to burn, he clicks into the Sparrow app and a smile spreads across his face.

“What are you reading?” asks a colleague.

“Did you hear about the new private donation?” pointing to the story he just saw in Sparrow. “This is awesome.” He picks the thumbs up reaction for the post and collects his beverage.

Finishing the story, he switches over to the Sparrow marketplace and flips through the latest ‘for sale’ posts. One catches his eye. He frowns as there’s not enough detail, so he types up a question and slips his phone into his pocket as he steps into the elevator, his break is over.


Elsewhere, a hospital director is standing in the doorway of her office, lost in thought when her iPhone chimes. Opening Sparrow, her current concerns wash away as she reads the mandatory post that’s been sent only to regional leadership.

The post talks about a virus that’s spreading and there will be a call at noon to discuss next steps. It asks everyone to comment on any cases they’ve encountered so far. She’s about to add a comment stating they’ve only had one case when she gets drawn in by a particularly well written comment that gets her thinking. Maybe they’ve had more cases then she thought. She stars the comment, increasing its score and importance to the group, and heads down the hall to ask some questions before adding her own two cents to the mix.

After the call, a compliance post goes out outlining the agreed upon actions and messaging to support it. Every member of the leadership team clicks the compliance checkbox in the post that confirms their understanding and commitment. With the compliance report showing 100% agreement, a message is crafted for broader communication.

A little later, a tired doctor sits on a stool at a communal computer in the busy hallway outside patient rooms. She puts her depleted phone on the charging pad and opens the Sparrow Web Portal.

“Hmm, that was quick,” she says as she opens a compliance post entitled Facts and Process for Dealing with the new Virus. She reads through it and clicks the checkbox at the bottom confirming that she’s understood the content and will act in accordance with its direction. She flags down a nurse walking by. “Have you read the new post about the virus? We need to change how we’re dealing with the patient in room 42.”

An hour later, the hospital director goes into the Sparrow Admin and Analytics Portal and pulls up the compliance report for the Facts and Process. She downloads its CSV file, opens it in Microsoft Excel, and cross-references the names of everyone who has complied with the staff who have scheduled shifts. There’s a handful of those who haven’t complied. She decides to email them, rather than phone them, and copies and pastes the list of email addresses into a new message. She adds a copy of the post in the body and clicks the send button. With strategic communications covered, she knows her staff will be well informed and ready to act.

Sparrow employee communications platform not only helps organizations build an engaged tribe, but layers on the tools for handling critical communications and enabling discussions with a targeted set of users at any time.

Learn more about Sparrow.