Cricket Australia uses Microsoft Viva ‘data power’ to improve employee experiences – and the game itself

CRICKET Australia has known for a long time that delivering a great cricket experience for players and fans is inextricably linked to ensuring the wellbeing of its staff.

Looking for better ways to do that – and measure results – Cricket Australia has turned to Microsoft Viva Insights to help empower employees to take ‘a moment for mindfulness’ to prevent burnout.

While the Australian public sees cricket come to the fore in summer – with big events such as the Boxing Day Test drawing huge public attention – for those working behind the scenes to bring the game to life locally and overseas, cricket runs all year round. This can prove challenging to many staff who have to meet high expectations on a constant basis. 

According to Cricket Australia senior client services manager, Emma Cashen, in delivering a great experience for players and fans, staff have to remain passionate about what they do.

“So, our employee experience at all levels and in all interactions nationally is really important to us,” Ms Cashen said. “It’s about putting our employees first to deliver the best outcomes.”

Like all professional sports, COVID-19 had a big impact on how cricket was played. Border closures and venue restrictions resulted in a lot of matches being rescheduled or cancelled.

Cricket Australia staff could not travel as often as they used to, or work from headquarters, and the organisation was also forced to reduce its headcount.

While conducting quarterly employee engagement surveys during the pandemic, Cricket Australia found that all of this was taking a toll on staff.

“Quite often, people feel tired and overworked, and the commute to and from the office that no longer exists had blurred the lines between their home life and their work life,” Ms Cashen said. “It was this tired workforce that was potentially going into a planning season and feeling under-resourced.

“What the surveys indicated was that the workforce had their busy periods at different times of the year. Some were busy during a cricket season, others were busy in what is [traditionally] the off-season.

“We wanted to better understand what groups were going to be impacted at what point during the year. So, it was about how we use data from our engagement surveys to make sure we’re putting an action plan in place to try and protect those employees from those situations.”

A new partnership at the crease

Cricket Australia teamed up with Microsoft partner Engage Squared in September 2021 to deploy Viva Insights, a module of the employee experience platform Microsoft Viva.

Powered by Microsoft Office 365 and experienced through Microsoft Teams – which Cricket Australia was already using – Viva Insights enabled the organisation to identify groups of unidentified people who were feeling overworked and were working longer hours. 

“Interestingly, our data shows that it’s our senior managers and above who were working longer hours and potentially looking to burn out,” Ms Cashen said. “With this insight we can encourage them to take their own advice and take breaks where they can.

“What we learned is to lead by example and, when they’re taking leave or switching off to do that, it also empowers their staff to do the same. We’ve seen a big shift in them going offline and delegating somebody else to be acting in their role.”

Cricket Australia is also looking to educate staff on how to view their insights at individual and team levels, and then take action based on the data-driven recommendations from Viva Insights.

“What we’re finding is people are always available just because we’re working flexibly at any time of the day. This means people don’t know that boundary anymore, so we want to help them create those boundaries at an individual level,” Ms Cashen said.

“Getting a reminder to take a moment and really have that mindfulness opportunity within Viva Insights is amazing to see. As an organisation, we’re supportive of people taking a moment.

“I couldn’t recommend the Virtual Commute feature more, because it’s so easy to blur your day, and this allows you to disconnect.”

Recognising team play

Ms Cashen said the Praise feature was also popular among Cricket Australia employees. They used it to recognise the contributions of co-workers, either in a private chat or a Teams channel conversation.

Looking forward, the organisation wants to integrate its engagement survey results, which are currently run through Culture Amp, into Viva Insights.

“The idea then is we can really start to see the correlation between how people are behaving on a regular basis and the end result of our engagement surveys. We can see if there are any similarities as we go into our action plans,” Ms Cashen said.

Cricket Australia will also focus on broadening the insights to the state cricket associations to deploy Viva Insights so that it can integrate their data and insights, giving “an Australian cricket-wide view rather than a Cricket Australia-only view”.

“I can see some of the state associations jumping on board really quickly,” Ms Cashen said. “They’ve got a big focus on their data as well for employee experience, and insights and employee engagement are part of their strategy planning.”

Adding more Viva modules to the line-up

Cricket Australia plans to deploy other modules as part of the Viva suite, such as Viva Connections and Viva Learning, to further enhance the employee experience.

“Viva Learning would be an easy one to roll out next if we wanted to. We have LinkedIn Learning, which we can embed in Viva Learning,” Ms Cashen said.

“But I think Viva Connections is going to be the biggest game changer for us. We have an intranet and an enterprise social media platform in place however they are standalone and they won’t work in the flow of your work.

“Bringing them into Connections makes total sense. It gives the organisation the ability to have a really clear communication channel and reach their staff when they need to.”

Ms Cashen said Cricket Australia was also keen to explore how it could leverage the Viva suite and Teams to bring everything together in a central location.

“We’ve got a high adoption rate for Teams, so it makes sense to bring everything into that platform and really centralise all other experiences,” she said.


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