How to Implement Microsoft Teams in a Two-Hour Staff Meeting

This is a boring, but necessary article. It describes how to implement Teams during a two-hour staff meeting. If you’re looking for inspiration on why to implement Teams, look at this post or this post. But, since somebody’s got to discuss the agenda and tactics for the two-hour staff meeting, I guess I’ll do it here.

Implementing the persistent chat and private chat functions in Microsoft Teams can be accomplished in this two-hour staff meeting. These two functions are the most useful and most easily implemented functions of Teams and you should waste no time in taking advantage of them.

There is just a bit of pre-meeting work to do first, however.

The first step of implementing Teams is to download the desktop app from teams.microsoft.com. You may have noticed the Teams panel in your Office 365 waffle, but that is the online version. For best functionality, it’s advisable for everyone on your staff to have the app up and running prior to the meeting. Having the desktop version will ensure Teams is running in the background like Skype, and it will ensure that everyone is in the loop going forward. You do not want anyone missing out on communications and the best way to ensure success is to have the desktop version on everyone’s computers.

To take advantage of the great mobile functionality, everyone should also download the app from their respective app stores. It’s good to also download these apps prior to the staff meeting since it can be done offline and not take away from the time you have set aside for the staff meeting.

Prior to the staff meeting, you’ll also want to create your staff Team and build out some “channels”. Channels are the equivalent of the top-level folders you would have if you were to build out a new shared drive. These will be the incredibly useful “buckets” of subject matter groupings going forward. Click here to learn more about setting up Teams and Channels.

In the electric utility industry, an example of a set of channels for the leadership team of a power plant would be Operations, Maintenance, Engineering, Security, Finance, and HR. When someone initiates a new conversation (and many other actions in the future, such as saving a file), they will start it in the appropriate channel, thus categorizing it from the start and saving the recipients the work of moving the conversation to a folder.

Once your Team and channels are set up, you can add some tabs across the tops of each of those channels. Those tabs should be limited to useful files, SharePoint pages, and apps that are frequently used when working with the channel’s subject matter. Doing this helps prevent staff members from having to click in and out of apps. All apps will be used in the Teams hub, or interface. (While this seems like a lot as you read it, it will be quite intuitive as you play with the functionality.)

It would also be advantageous for you and one other employee to experiment with chat functionality prior to demonstrating it to your team if you are not yet familiar with it.

Now that you have the channels and tabs roughed in, and have learned the chat functionality yourself, you’re ready for the staff meeting. I’ve found that if you have this pre-work done, it is quite easy to give the attendees a tour of the Teams hub and its functionality.

Since we’re only implementing the persistent team chat (the default window when you open Teams) and the private chat as a first step into Teams, there isn’t much of the hub to show off. Simply explain that the default Team chat window is the “open” area where all team members can read everything that is posted, and the private chat section is open only to the people included in the chat.

Bottom line = if there is anything that should not be open to the whole team, click the Chat button on the left panel. If it is not something that should be kept private, it goes in the Team chat window.

Once that important difference is explained, demonstrate the initiation of a team chat thread. It is always good practice to begin a new thread by clicking the format button (next image) because it gives you the ability to add a Headline. It looks just like a new email window. Headlines allow good separation between chat threads as the window becomes populated with many conversations.

During this demonstration, show how to get others’ attention by “@-mentioning” someone. Explain that this is like sending an email to that person, but that person will not be required to manually disposition the received email. Also show how to “@-mention” the entire team by typing “@” and the team name. Notice that it usually only takes one or two letters of typing to get Teams to pop up suggestions.

Once the new thread/conversation has been started, show how to reply to it by clicking the reply button.

NOTE: It is common for new users to overlook the reply link at the bottom of a thread and reply instead using the new conversation window. This mistake causes threads to be disjointed. It is worth spending some time emphasizing this. Hopefully Microsoft will develop a way to better separate the two functions going forward.

Because people have different requirements and levels of tolerance for notifications, show how to personalize notifications by clicking your employee photo circle at the top right of the screen and drilling down through settings and notifications.

I prefer minimal notifications and have mine set to only show the red indicators and no banners or emails when someone @-mentions or replies to me.

After this short tour, turn them loose for some playful experimentation. Allow nonsensical or non-work-related conversations so they can actively use the chat functionality and get comfortable with it.

Once your team is comfortable with the difference between the two types of chats and the functionality of each, it’s time to communicate your expectations. This is the most important part of the morning because if everybody does not begin actively using Teams, someone will be left out of the loop and errors/omissions will happen.

At a minimum, get everyone to agree to two weeks’ active usage so that the group can decide whether to continue. I have yet to see a group that heavily uses the tool for two weeks elect to return to email because the elimination of active handling of received emails is quite liberating. Since I am completely sold on the efficiency of Teams, I advocate mandating usage for good. Your level of insistence should obviously be based upon your office dynamics and personal experience, however.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to tell them that you want everyone to over-communicate using Teams during the early adoption period in order to drive usage and get them to learn more about the functionality.

Initially, you may only notice a slight time savings when implementing Teams for only your immediate staff. You’ll see a great difference over the long haul, however. As the amount of communication and information accumulates in Teams - and as you bring other groups, projects, and subject matter areas within your organization on board - you’ll notice that email burden greatly decreases. You’ll also notice that you spend much less time looking for information contained in the chats and files. The benefits of Teams accumulate over time.

You won’t eliminate ALL email because email is still the preferred communication method for those people outside your organization. That is alright however, because your internal email burden will be lessened and there will be an obvious separation between internal and external communications. External communications will occur in email, internal communications will occur in Teams. (You’ll find that you MUCH prefer communicating internally!)

I’ll cover some of the ways to use Teams to collaborate on files in next week’s post. Be sure to read that one because email attachments are quite possibly the most wasteful collaborative technique used in your organization.

While this has been a lengthy explanation of the process of rolling Teams out for your staff, I think you’ll find that the actual process during the staff meeting is not that hard.

Email me if you have questions or need remote/on-site assistance.

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