Has it always just been about the towels?
(Possible book title flashes through my mind.)
Two years ago, Microsoft, in a move to show shareholders it was trying to cut costs, cut some employee benefits, including some sort of towel service. While it may seem meaningless to most of us, this issue became a lightning rod for complaints by employees, who reasoned that the company cared more about saving 63 cents per employee than keeping workers happy, and raised fear that more important benefits could be next.
Also, Microsoft has had a rating scale, in which managers rated the performance of employees to determine compensation. The scale was broken from the start, since it required a curve, which meant employees would be graded against each other, rather than based on job performance, and that it was impossible for everyone to be considered as doing a good job.
Well, yesterday, Microsoft held an employee town hall meeting, where HR chief Lisa Brummel (who is getting praise all around) unveiled an initiative called myMicrosoft (an unfortunate, typical, crap corporate name), in which a lot of the old problems are addressed.
“We’re planning to provide on-campus access to a variety of services, including laundry and dry cleaning, grocery delivery from Safeway and opening convenience stores — all of which are designed to ease the burden given the hectic pace of life. We will expand and upgrade dining services adding great new retail food in select cafes, dinners to go from Wolfgang Puck and other services. We are also arranging discounts on a variety of home services including house keeping, yard care, pet care, auto services and more.
Also, the curve scale is gone. Employees are to be judged on performance, not performance relative to other employees on the team, on a simple Exceeded/Achieved/Underperformed scale. The annual stock award program will also be increased.
Mini-Microsoft says, “If I had my old paper notebook, I’d be drawing little hearts around her name”, something you rarely hear about HR people. Scoble gives Mini the credit. Adam Barr has some important things to say.
Could this be the beginning of the end of the self-destructive Microsoft corporate culture? Maybe. There’s still a lot more to be done. They’ve shown with this move a turn in the right direction on the HR level, but there are still corporate philosophies on software development, competition and innovation that are costing the company billions of dollars, and I’m still waiting for the big Bill Gates speech where he acknowledges these things exist.