When Microsoft researched what made employees happy

The year 2020 has been unprecedented. It has changed almost all of us. As the pandemic continues and so is its effect on our lives, organizations are finding ways to gauge their employees happiness and wellness. In what appears to be similar endeavor, people analytics researchers at Microsoft – Dawn Klinghoffer and Elizabeth McCune – set on the task of measuring what the company calls “employee thriving”. The duo have written about the same in Harvard Business Review (HBR). Klinghoffer is the head of people analytics at Microsoft; while Elizabeth McCune is the director of employee listening systems and culture measurement at the company.

“At Microsoft, where we work on the People Analytics team, that means learning what the data can tell us about how our employees aspire to live their lives meaningfully. In particular, we landed on a new way of measuring thriving, at both work and outside of it, that goes beyond engagement only, “writes the duo.

What is “employee thriving”
At Microsoft, we define thriving as “to be energized and empowered to do meaningful work,” says the article. To measure the same, the company reportedly started asking employees for feedback through a shorter yet more focused survey every six months. The company reportedly sought to define a new, higher bar that went beyond engagement only, and draw inspiration from many sources. One is what Microsoft chief people oOfficer, Kathleen Hogan, calls “The 5 P’s.” This seeks to break down employee fulfillment into five key, successive components: pay, perks, people, pride, and purpose.

“After analyzing the results, we found that thriving averaged a 77 across the company – a number we see as strong, but one we can still work on. When we broke down thriving into its three components, we saw that meaningful work (79) and empowerment (79) both scored higher among employees than energized (73), “says Klinghoffer and McCune in the HBR article. This made the company further go down to understand the employee experiences behind the numbers. And in the results three themes reportedly stood out.

What the three big ‘takeaways’ are
The first being that “Culture matters”. Thriving employees reportedly spoke about a collaborative environment and teamwork with colleagues, an inclusive culture with autonomy and flexibility, and well-being support. Employees who weren’t “thriving” shared about experiencing “siloes, bureaucracy, and a lack of collaboration”.

The second is what the Microsoft execs term as “Thriving takes a village”. Here the role of managers comes in and it appears to be largely pleased with the results. “My manager treats me with dignity and respect” scored a 93, meaning almost every employee selected “strongly agree”, as per the survey. But the article does say that this can be further improved, “this also means we still need to ensure that’s the experience for every single employee, “says the two in the article.

The third theme that stood out is: “Thriving and work-life balance are not the same thing”. As per the article, “Employees rated their satisfaction with work-life balance as a 71, …” The Microsoft execs say that while work-life balance improving, it has not fully recovered yet to pre-Covid levels.

While summing up Klinghoffer and McDune write that while “… employees scored” I feel included in my team “highly at 86, by far the most common thread among those who were not thriving was a feeling of exclusion – from a lack of collaboration to feeling left out of decisions to struggling with politics and bureaucracy. We’ll continue to focus on ensuring inclusion is felt as part of our culture across all teams and orgs. “

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