Using human relationships to reimagine the employee experience
Staying connected has never been more important, nor a bigger challenge. Over the past two years, workers all around the world set up home offices and grew accustomed to seeing each other on screens instead of in person – and our relationship to work changed fundamentally, and human resources (HR) has found itself at the epicenter of change.
Along with finding effective ways to help employees adopt new digital tools and embrace flex work and hybrid workplaces, HR is tasked with creating strategies to attract and retain employees in a challenging environment that some commentators are dubbing The Great Reshuffle.
That is no small undertaking. Our research shows that despite 57% of Asian business leaders looking to prioritise employee wellbeing over work going forward, 55% of Gen Zs and millennials say they are likely to consider changing employers in the year ahead.
Leaders need to rethink how we connect and engage with our people. Our research also shows that 57% of managers feel out of touch with employee expectations and 40% of leaders cite relationship-building as the greatest challenge of hybrid work.
Clearly, we can no longer rely on the promise of returning to the office to strengthen our culture and recoup the social capital that we lost to the pandemic. Instead, I believe what is required is a doubling down on the principle of putting human relationships at the heart of everything we do.
Putting people first
At Microsoft, we are doing just that – ensuring that our virtual technology supports company culture and empowers employees through learning, improved wellbeing, and easy access to the information they need.
We are drawing on innovation principles grounded in empathy. Designing our ‘work from anywhere’ tools, for example, starts with the idea that it is vital to ensure people who are not in the room can feel just as engaged as those who are.
Microsoft has found that the solid foundation we have built over the past five years has been critical in guiding every decision made in this respect – both from an employee health and wellbeing perspective, and from a customer support and continuity perspective. And it is paying dividends.
In 2021, we found that despite 160,000 people working from home and 25,000 new employees onboarded remotely, an all-time high of 90 per cent of employees felt included at Microsoft.
That is an achievement I am very proud of, and the approach behind it drives everything we do going forward.
Leading with empathy
So, what are the key tools and frameworks that we have deployed? We have ramped up our ‘model, coach and care’ initiative over the past year. This provides leaders with a framework on how to model wellbeing, coach employees on setting priorities and, most importantly, care for every person on their team.
It is an approach upheld by our entire senior leadership, including our CEO. We are intentional about sharing personal stories and modelling flexibility so that our employees feel comfortable doing the same.
Our commitment to inclusivity has also seen us develop the Microsoft Allyship Programme – a course we provide to every one of our 160,000 employees. Here, the aim is to equip people with the language and tools they need to engage in complex discussions in a way that offers empathy and inclusion to all.
We are also continuing to provide a host of training and development opportunities to help our people grow, both personally and professionally.
Reimagining employee experiences
At the same time, we’ve developed Microsoft Viva, a digital employee experience platform (EXP) that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights to help employees stay connected – whenever and wherever they are working.
Set to play an increasingly central role within the hybrid workplace, EXPs offer an effective way to seamlessly incorporate learning into the flow of work.
Easy access to data-driven insights helps employees prioritise their wellbeing and boost productivity. Microsoft Viva Insights also gives managers and leaders the employee understanding they need, while protecting privacy, to foster team culture in a proactive and engaging way. Managers can explore and build personal habits that impact team culture—for example, by scheduling “no-meeting” days.
Navigating the future of hybrid relationships
Looking ahead, the challenge for HR will be in continuing to navigate a hybrid future. Here, personalising support to employees’ unique needs, drawing on data-driven insights for empowered decision-making and building a culture of inclusion will remain crucial to organisational success.
“As we enter the new world of hybrid work, investing in human relationships and the employee experience will be the most important step HR leaders can take.” – Lynn Dang, Human Resource Lead for Microsoft in Singapore and Vietnam.
The metaverse promises another powerful avenue for HR to create workforce connection, engagement, and collaboration, helping us further overcome barriers of physical distance through virtual technology.
As we enter the new world of hybrid work, investing in human relationships and the employee experience will be the most important step HR leaders can take. During change, understanding each person’s unique perspective is how HR can help employees to learn, grow, and thrive – and ultimately build a more resilient organisation.
Lynn Dang is Human Resource Lead for Microsoft in Singapore and Vietnam. Join her at HR Tech Festival Asia 2022 on Wednesday, May 11, from 12pm-12.30pm (SGT), where she will be sharing insights on how senior HR managers can empower their workforce to tackle the hybrid future of work in her session titled, Leadership Perspectives: Making Hybrid Work, Work. Find out more about how Microsoft navigates hybrid work in their latest Work Trend Index report.