Tuesday, March 18, 2008

MS Poll 08

MS Poll 2008: what parts of the employee poll do you see as critical in communicating any changes that need to happen at Microsoft?

Act Local: first of all, usually when I review poll results, my team looks at the questions and comments directly relevant to things that we can change. So if you want change in your day-to-day group, look hard at those questions that managers who report to a VP are accountable for. I can't count the number of times that we've looked through poll spreadsheets and some of the harshest numbers might be around "Microsoft is headed in the right direction" or something, and nothing but shrugs result from those number since the reaction is usually, "What can we do about that?"

I've also been in meetings where we sit down and look at every comment, and figure out ownership and actions. Again, for things beyond our scope of impact we have to move on. But for serious comments that are relevant to the team a lot of attention is given. Strongly disagree about something? Note it and put in a fix for it in the comments later.

What I'm saying: act locally first and honestly assess your workgroup and put some effort into comments relevant to your group, probably noting the group's / VP's name specifically in the comment for any roll-up your comment goes into, should you have a senior VP (or heaven forbid, a president) that actually glances through any of this.

Next, Think Globally for the Company: then there's the broader company wide feedback.

  • Do I think we're headed in the right direction? No, not with our explosive employee growth and our highly questionable acquisition pursuit of Yahoo (oof, sorry, I just had a mental image of a smirking Kevin Johnson wearing a black top-hat + cape and stroking his long, skinny waxed mustache). And I fear with all these new people and buildings, Redmond and Bellevue are about to turn into a constant parking lot (especially when that monstrosity opens near Highway 520).
  • Our systems and processes have exploded - and I'm not just talking about the pain in the butt magical commitment tool (magical in that it can make comments *poof* disappear).
  • Our rank and yank employee calibration doesn't align with valuing contributing to other people's success, so why even ask a question about being rewarded and recognized for that? Bring in some sort of team-based recognition and rewards and this will change.
    • Follow-up: hell yes your success is assessed relative to your peers. Duh.
  • This is the first time I've pulled in and shorted the number of years I expect to continue working at Microsoft. Usually I'm all "Here till I drop!" highly enthused, but now I'm concerned about the recent business decisions and the potential for that to make Microsoft go south, let alone the long-term impacts being felt now by the accrual of so many unneeded hires. Microsoft has the unfortunate potential to change so much that it will no longer be Microsoft to me.
  • As for a message to send upwards loud an clear about what motivates people to put in the extra effort, I think I can sum it up as: stock.

The stock has to start performing well. Our executive leadership doesn't believe that the stock performance matters, especially to employees. Does Microsoft stock price matter to you? I imagine you just said, "Hell yeah it does, Mini!" Let them know. If our stock started shooting up (like it did oh so briefly) would you be more highly motivated and engaged in your job? If we hit $40? $50? If you started seeing the rewards of working at Microsoft around the stock you own and it actually being a benefit vs. a woeful joke going on over a half-a-decade, how would things change for you?

Employees have to say loud and clear, whether through the poll or other communications with leadership, that the Microsoft stock price does matter and it does make a difference. Want us to be bold? Re-invigorate the stock. Want us to take risks? Re-invigorate the stock. Want us to work above and beyond what's required of us? Re-invigorate the stock.

And do other things like have a better 401k match and bring back the old ESPP. There it is, stock again.

I encourage you to put in any positive remarks about things going well so that they don't change for the worst. And if something needs to change, it's always best to put in the positive business-based solution vs. just asking the problem being addressed. Otherwise, you might not like the solution.

I do think the poll is worth the effort, especially for provoking useful change in your group. As for a broader message, there's a potential that if key numbers radically change this year that it will be a wake up call. You might as well ring that bell.

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