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Microsoft StaffHub – does your deskless workforce need it?

27 Jan 2017 by Emma Robinson

First announced back in September 2016, Microsoft StaffHub came out of public preview little over a week ago, and it’s already starting to generate some interesting feedback.
Aimed specifically at the deskless workers of the world – think retail workers and hospitality staff – its primary focus is to provide a greater level of schedule management for everyone involved. StaffHub is a ‘new application for Office 365 designed to help staff workers manage their workday—with schedule management, information sharing and the ability to connect to other work-related apps and resources’. The application has been developed with a full understanding of the challenges that occur for a deskless workforce. With no desk, and therefore no machine, it’s difficult for management to distribute information to the deskless workforce (or for them to do so between themselves). As such, they’ve also incorporated a number of helpful components into StaffHub that are targeted at rectifying this.
Improved staff management
It’s initially obvious that StaffHub is designed with the real end user – the deskless worker – in mind (the mobile experience is superb), but the experience for management has in no way been forgotten.
Giving managers the ability to quickly and easily create shift schedules, manage an individual worker’s shifts and get a high level snapshot of who is where at any given point in time, complete transparency becomes a possibility.
There are a lot of useful shortcuts, too – such as copying a schedule from a previous week – which are particularly useful, and the potential for third party integrations opens up an endless amount of possibilities (with the exception of a connection with Kronos, a workforce management solution, Microsoft haven’t disclosed a huge amount on this just yet. However, expect integrations with calendars, time management and team organisational apps to become standard, especially through the PowerApps development framework).
What’s more, responsibility is handed back to the workers in many instances. Take shift swapping as an example – Worker A can arrange to swap shifts with Worker B within StaffHub, with a request sent direct to the relevant manager and then approved (or not), all within the app.
Better company/staff communication
Whilst the primary functionality of StaffHub is the management of schedules, we can’t ignore the fact it offers a particularly interesting – and in-depth – communication feature.
As most managers of deskless workers will attest, getting information to your team can be, at the very least, difficult. When your workers don’t have a desk or a machine at work, there’s only so much a noticeboard can hold and so many phone calls you can make before it becomes inefficient (both of which are what Office 365 General Manager Bryan Goode says StaffHub is up against and aiming to tackle).
With StaffHub, as a manager you have the ability to push out information to your entire team, whether that’s a text-only message or a lengthy update with attachments. We can imagine this would be most utilised to discuss working schedules, but the possibilities are endless – think along the lines of the distribution of corporate policies and handbooks.
Some similarities have already been made to Slack when it comes to messaging (the inline displaying of files and general approach to the messaging system, for instance), but Microsoft have denied Slack is a competitor. From a general product point of view, we’d be inclined to agree, but looking purely at the messaging functionality? We can see the crossover.
A truly mobile-first approach
Given the focus on deskless workers, StaffHub is built to function fantastically on mobile devices, something we can clearly see. Perhaps not so unsurprisingly today, however, there’s no UWP (Universal Windows Phone) app for StaffHub.
Fully supported on both iOS and Android, there are various reasons being thrown around in the community as to why this is, but the most obvious here is StaffHub is aimed at an audience who are considerably more likely to own an iPhone or Android-based phone than a Windows phone.
That aside, the experience is truly first-class. The majority of StaffHub’s features are available within a click or two, and the UX makes it completely clear and obvious as to where you are, what you’re doing and how to action any relevant point expected of you.
This UX applies to those setting up and managing teams as it does the individual workers themselves, too – custom labels, colour coding and one-off notes are all possible for managers to utilise.
Getting StaffHub
A crucial point to understand is that although StaffHub is designed for use by full teams of deskless workers, each worker needs to have an individual Office 365 subscription (on a K1, E1, E3 or E5 plan). Such requirements will likely restrict the onboarding with smaller clients, which would normally be a shame as products like StaffHub – feature-heavy products designed to make life easier – are usually sought after by time-restricted SMEs. However, with StaffHub we can’t imagine this being a problem – if you’re small enough to not be using Office 365 subscriptions, you’re likely small enough to be managing your team just fine as is.
We can appreciate the problems and organisational struggles that Microsoft are tapping into. StaffHub is designed to fit in with “How staff workers live, work and communicate”. Solving a number of issues that exist, StaffHub understands the obstacles the deskless workforce is facing and tackles them head on.
With over 1,000 businesses reportedly having signed up since the public preview launch, find out more and experience StaffHub yourself over at the official site.