NGA Human Resources builds a more engaging employee experience with move to Office 365

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NGA Human Resources builds a more engaging employee experience with move to Office 365

By Russell Sheldon, chief information officer, senior vice president for HR consulting, application services and global technology, as written on blogs.office.com.
At NGA Human Resources (NGA HR), the way we engage with our employees—and what we believe it takes to be a great employer—centers around building a positive employee experience. This is what we do on a daily basis for our customers, and it’s equally true for our internal operations.
When new employees join the business, regardless of location or job function, it is vital that they feel part of our global organization. (We operate in more than 35 countries, serving customers in more than 145 countries in 25 languages.) All employees need to be connected, engaging in the company culture that drives our success as a business.
In the digital economy, technology, location and time zones should not be a barrier to productivity. Given our global presence, using technology that promotes worldwide collaboration is critical. In turn, collaboration and the sharing of ideas are paramount to fostering talent. We enact our belief that employees everywhere should feel connected to their organization and that they should be able to work as easily together as they do individually.
Our corporate objective is to make HR work better for businesses. To do this, we have to make the workplace a great place for people to work. For example, we rely on the same HR and payroll platform internally that we use to empower millions of our customers’ employees around the world.
As a business and a services provider, NGA HR has a policy of investing in innovative technologies that drive business efficiencies and improve the employee experience, while continuing to adhere to the strictest compliance requirements.
That is why, when our G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work) contract came up for renewal, we took the time to evaluate what we require as a global organization. We reviewed the market for cloud-based business tools that would help us achieve the scope of global collaboration and individual productivity that we want for our employees, yet still maintain the highest level of data security.
We selected Microsoft Office 365 and migrated our back-office applications and internal collaboration platform from Google to Office 365. We believe that Office 365 presents more aligned business services that will make it easier for us to grow, develop, and most importantly, retain our talent. Employees want to work for an organization that uses technology to improve their work experience so they can collaborate and innovate more effectively to contribute to its growth. This is the inherent value of effective business productivity tools.
A perfect example comes from our chief executive officer, Adel Al-Saleh. Today, he uses Skype for Business Online to host video calls with our 300 global leaders, something that was not possible before. Now the leadership team meets more frequently, using interactive virtual discussions to speed decision making on a global scale. I run a team of approximately 2,000 people around the world. I use Skype for Business Online to connect in real time with 30 of my senior managers, dramatically reducing the time and cost of business travel and freeing up my time and budget for allocation to more strategic requirements. Also, now that we can rely on the de facto industry standard for office collaboration, our commercial teams are responding to RFPs and collaborating on documents more efficiently than ever.
Because Microsoft includes intuitive collaborative capabilities throughout Office 365, it’s easy to be productive. You can kick off a Skype for Business Online call from your inbox and access all Office documents from any device. Now mobile employees stay in touch with work using minimal effort.
The fact that we had more than 8,000 employees regularly active on our Yammer enterprise social network just four weeks after we went live demonstrates that Google was not addressing the need we had for companywide collaboration. Today, we have listened to our employees, and we are providing them with the same ease of communication and access to data that they are used to at home.
Also, with Office 365, we can maintain a hybrid environment. This is hugely advantageous to us when working with customers whose data cannot leave their geographic borders. NGA HR manages the payroll data of millions of employees around the world every year, so we take data security very seriously. We can assure all customers that Office 365 meets our internal compliance mandate and European data privacy standards. It adheres to the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (A29WP) opinion on cloud computing around basic principles of transparency, purpose limitation, data retention, access and disclosure restriction. We also took into consideration the positive opinion of A29WP on the Microsoft Cloud business solution, in line with European data transfer and protection clauses.
Our relationship with Microsoft got off to an incredible start with the highly successful implementation of Office 365. Thanks to the close collaboration among NGA HR, the Microsoft FastTrack team and Microsoft partner Content and Code, we migrated 8,000 employees across the globe, with all their data, in just 12 weeks.
The deployment and change management expertise of the FastTrack team helped us meet our strict deadline, imposed by the expiration of the Google contract, with comfortable breathing space. With a minimal learning curve, everyone in the organization is more mobile, connected and agile. The feedback from employees is positive, and we are already seeing great results. Today, NGA HR is looking forward to even greater collaboration and localization of our global business.

4 Tips for Easier Collaboration with Contractors

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4 tips for easier collaboration with contractors

As written on blogs.microsoft.com.
Having independent contractors at companies of all sizes is the new normal. Busy seasons demand extra bandwidth, full-time employees take temporary leave or unique/temporary roles need to be filled.
Whatever the reason, getting support from contractors can provide scale, flexibility and specialized skills to your team—which is why their popularity continues to grow. For example, 51 percent of companies say their need for contingent workers will continue to grow within the next three to five years. Alongside, the talent pool is changing to match this trend: By 2020, 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.
Finding the right contractor for the right job is only the first step. They’ll likely be working outside of your office, but will still need to rely on the resources your internal teams use daily. If you want to enable your contractors to do their best work, you need to ensure they have the right tools to collaborate with your internal teams.
Here are four tips to set your independent contractors up for success:

#1—streamline communication

Make it easy for your contractors to stay in touch. Set up technology that allows them to communicate with and get to know your internal teams. This can (and should) come in the form of many tools, so they can choose the ones they prefer. Enable them to send instant messages to anyone in the company. Promote the use of video conferencing and screen sharing for efficient collaboration. Not only will this increase productivity, but it will allow full-time employees and contractors to build more personal relationships with face-to-face communication.
Will your independent contractor be working across several teams or projects? If so, then you may want to consider a chat-based workspace—not just for them, but also for the rest of your team. They shouldn’t struggle to keep up with dozens of private instant messages about similar projects. Instead, get them on a threaded group chat that allows for more organized web-based collaboration.

#2—share files with ease

Depending on when and where your contractors work, coordinating across time zones and locations may be a factor in their success. Avoid a situation where a contractor is stuck waiting for a team member to come online to gain access to files. Instead, opt for cloud-based file sharing and storing. That way, contractors can get the files and documents they need around the clock to get the job done. And with permission settings, you can restrict and permit access to the specific files an independent contractor needs, and revoke access when a contract ends.

#3—stay on the same page

Enhance collaboration with the ability to co-author (edit and work) on the same online documents. It’ll prevent excessive back-and-forth on email between team members. Digital files automatically sync and update over the internet, so your team is always looking at the most up-to-date version. And since your files live in the cloud, you’ll always know who made the last edit and can review and revoke changes if you ever need to go back to an older version.

#4—secure your data

Security may not always be top of mind for your employees and contractors—but it is for you and your IT team. Strike a balance between giving your extended team what they need while retaining control over your company’s data. The file access you give to your freelancers doesn’t need to last forever. When their contract is over, simply revoke access remotely. Even if your independent contractor has used their own device to access your data, cloud-based tools can delete your company’s files from that device.
With the right technology and infrastructure, independent contractors can become an effective extension of your team. Forget disruptions, lost files or a lack of security. The right tools can solve those problems and help your teams do their best work.

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Take your next meeting outside! Discover the benefits of walking meetings from Harvard Business Review

skybe4b managed solution walking meetings

by Russell Clayton, Chris Thomas, and Jack Smothers as written on hbr.org.
Fran Melmed is the founder of context, a communication and change management consulting firm. She spends her days performing communication audits for organizations and meeting with clients. Sounds like a recipe for a sedentary workday, right? On the contrary. Fran is part of a growing trend known as walking meetings or “walk and talk.”
A walking meeting is simply that: a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of in an office, boardroom, or coffee shop where meetings are commonly held. Nilofer Merchant wrote in HBR about her own transition to walking meetings after realizing that, like many Americans, she was sitting way too much while working. Merchant traded her coffee-shop meetings for walking meetings and immediately saw the benefits. Likewise, Melmed finds that merely holding some of her meetings while walking has given her the necessary “unplugging” time she needs in order to be an effective writer.
Recent research finds that the act of walking leads to increases in creative thinking. This certainly supports the usefulness of walking meetings. Plenty of anecdotal evidence also suggests that walking meetings lead to more honest exchanges with employees and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings.
Based on this, we undertook an exploratory study of the benefits associated with walking. We surveyed a population of approximately 150 working adults in the U.S. to gather input about their walking meeting and work habits. In short, we find that those who participate in walking meetings are 5.25% more likely to report being creative at their jobs than those who do not. Additionally, the responses suggest that walking meetings support cognitive engagement, or focus, on the job. Those who participate in walking meetings are 8.5% more likely to report high levels of engagement.
What we found adds support to the notion of walking meetings being beneficial for workers. Is an increase in creativity of 5.25% likely to make or break a business? Most likely not. However, look at these findings through the lens of a cost-benefit analysis. The costs associated with regularly participating in walking meetings are next to nil. Keep in mind that walking meetings are not breaks from work. They are meetings that would have taken place regardless of whether they were held in someone’s office or while walking around your office complex. There may be no cheaper way to achieve moderate increases in creativity and engagement.
Just how do walking meetings produce these positive benefits in the workplace? Ted Eytan, MD, Medical Director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health and a vocal advocate of walking meetings, has some ideas. First, from a neurochemical perspective, Dr. Eytan emphasizes that our brains are more relaxed during walks due to the release of certain chemicals. This aids executive function, which governs how we focus on tasks and deal with unforeseen events, among other things. Open-ended responses to our survey seemed to back this up by referring to moments of creativity sparked by walking meetings.
Furthermore, Dr. Eytan believes walking meetings lead to better employee engagement by breaking down barriers between supervisor and subordinate or between coworkers. He sees the bonding achieved through walking meetings as a micro version of the bonding that can be experienced when coworkers travel together on business trips. David Haimes, a senior director of product development at Oracle, has experienced this in his meetings with team members: “The fact that we are walking side-by-side means the conversation is more peer-to-peer than when I am in my office and they are across a desk from me, which reinforces the organizational hierarchy.”
To be sure, not all meetings are suitable for walking meetings (and not everyone is physically able to participate in walking meetings). Sometimes it is valuable to have materials or a whiteboard close at hand, and sometimes, as in an intense negotiation, it is important to be face-to-face. The best candidates for walking meetings are ones where colleagues are conferring on decisions or exploring possible solutions. Indeed, in our survey, participants holding managerial and professional positions experienced more of a creativity boost from walking meetings than those in technical or administrative type jobs (though all categories realized some benefits).
If you are inspired to give walking meetings a try, here are a few tips that can help your walking meeting go well:
Consider including an “extracurricular” destination on your route. Dr. Eytan, whose office is located in Washington, D.C., often mentions the nearby Washington Coliseum as a place to stroll by, and notes it is where the Beatles played their first U.S. concert. Naming a point of interest, he says, provides more rationale and incentive for others to go for a walk.
Avoid making the destination a source of unneeded calories. One of the arguments in favor of walking meetings is the health benefit. However, this is easily negated if the walking meeting leads to a 425-calorie white-chocolate mocha that wouldn’t otherwise be consumed.
Do not surprise colleagues or clients with walking meetings. It’s fine to suggest a walk if it seems appropriate in the moment, as long as it’s clear that you’ll be fine with a “maybe next time.” But if you’re planning ahead to spend your time with someone in a walking meeting, have the courtesy to notify them in advance, too. This allows them to arrive dressed for comfort, perhaps having changed shoes. You might also keep water bottles on hand to offer on warm days.
Stick to small groups. Haimes recommends a maximum of three people for a walking meeting.
Have fun. Enjoy the experience of combining work with a bit of exercise and fresh air. Perhaps this is the one piece of advice that doesn’t need to be given. Our data show that those who participate in walking meetings are more satisfied at their jobs than their colleagues who don’t.
Based on our survey and the clear case to be made for walking in general as a key to good health, there would seem to be no good argument against making a habit of walking meetings — or at least giving it a try.
Russell Clayton is an assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University’s Donald R. Tapia School of Business. Follow him on Twitter @ProfessorRWC.
Chris Thomas is an assistant professor of management at Saint Louis University’s John Cook School of Business.
Jack Smothers is ‎an assistant professor of management at the University of Southern Indiana’s Romain College of Business.