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What is the Microsoft ‘Icebreaker’ Bot, and how can it improve inclusion in the workplace?

15 Aug 2019 by Natalie Frith

Why are ‘icebreakers’ important in the modern working environment?

As organizations continue to evolve in a virtual climate, where many employees work remotely and across different time zones – the need for efficient communication grows. But it’s not just communication that is needed, there is also the underlying issue of co-worker camaraderie and collaboration to consider. Take Quadrotech for example. With headquarters in Switzerland, offices in the UK, Slovakia and US, and remote employees scattered all over the globe, the ability for employees to forge relationships amongst each other becomes increasingly more difficult.

You may ask, well why are relationships among employees important? All too often, you’ll see an organization with a great product/service, but internal silos are negatively affecting their speed to market. There is little transparency and a breakdown of communication between departments. Not only that, you’ll find that their company culture is fragmented because they lack the ability to provide a way for co-workers to build and maintain relationships.

How can a company efficiently combat these types of issues? With the new Icebreaker Bot App Template, Microsoft has streamlined the way co-workers can meet, interact and collaborate. Designed as a complement for Microsoft Teams and Office 365, the app is an open-source tool, allowing each organization to make modifications that meet their specific needs.

With the Icebreaker Bot, Microsoft has created a competent tool to help facilitate human interaction and relationship building in the virtual workspace, by pairing team members up for a meet-up every week. The process is straightforward – first, create a Team in Microsoft Teams, then invite people who are open to meeting new people. Next, simply install Icebreaker bot in this Team. Every Monday at 10 AM the bot will randomly pair each team member for a meetup, even intelligently suggesting times when both team members are free.

Aside from the obvious benefit of “breaking the ice” between new team members, there are additional benefits to fostering human interactions in the workplace, because how employees interact with one another matters to the success of any business. Studies have shown that developing emotionally intelligent work relationships with colleagues have additional long-term benefits for the company as well. Employees who are happy and love where they work can translate to increased engagement, efficacy and lowered employee turnover. One SHRM report found that 67% of survey respondents with six to 25 workplace friends said they loved their company. Only 24% of employees with no workplace friends loved where they worked.

Workplace relationships can also discourage employees from leaving your business. SHRM reported that 70% of employees with six to 25 friends would reject a job offer from another business. With a low turnover rate, this can save your company a lot of time and money recruiting, replacing and training valuable employees. But at the end of the day, the Icebreaker Bot is really designed to strengthen the dynamic between internal teams, create synergy, and improve project outcomes.

As Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, said during the Teams service introduction back in 2016 – “In a world where we have an abundance of data, information, computer power, what is scarce is human attention and time. And this paradox is what drives our ambition around reinventing productivity and business process.” With the rollout of the Icebreaker Bot, Microsoft is continuing to build upon Teams, which is now the fastest-growing business app in Microsoft history. With over 329,000 organizations using Teams, 87 Fortune 100 companies utilizing Teams, and 44 different languages supported in Teams, the numbers speak for themselves.

As the virtual workplace landscape continues to evolve and change, an organization must find ways to adapt while still agilely conducting business. The Icebreaker Bot is just one way that Microsoft is continuing to revolutionize the way we do business through Office 365 and Teams.

Want to get more insight into how your users are engaging with the service, and consuming the functionality available? Find out more about our advanced Teams reporting.

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