Key takeaways from Microsoft’s employee engagement programs


Microsoft has been time and again cited as one of the best companies to work for with the happiest employees. As a category leader, Microsoft has done and still doing the most to make their employees happier. In an organization as wide-spread and large as Microsoft, the biggest challenge would have been to ensure that their employees are not reduced to mere hands that work. But they do have an easy solution for this problem.

Microsoft has been coming up with brilliant engagement programs every now and then. These programs have spanned from one-on-one conversations to becoming an integral part of this highly globalized world.Their top down policies integrates a large number of people within and without into the organization’s culture. And that was the sure-shot takeaway. Here is a look at their top employee engagement programs:

Carbon Fee Program

In 2012, Microsoft introduced a Carbon Fee Program that held its business units financially accountable for carbon emissions. Although the program began on the financial level, but it developed into an engagement strategy by holding everyone accountable for lowering company’s environmental footprints. It created a bustle in the tech-based company as employees began teaming up to come up with strategies that best suited their work. This led to the creation of a new equation between employees from different departments. It also helped them feel committed towards the company’s larger environmental goals and integrate environment commitments in their day-to-day activities.

ES Leads Program

Inspired by the huge success of the Carbon Fee Program, Microsoft came up with another global cause to engage their employees – The ES Leads program. It involved creating a leadership body with a presiding mentor who’d ask each employee to contribute an idea that would link them to the larger goal of a better environment. Since each employee was to give an idea, they felt more responsible and an inevitable part of the organization. And the promise of greater visibility, in case their idea was to become the path-breaker, was a motivation they couldn’t ignore.

At a generic level, Microsoft’s primary goal is to ensure that their employees are forever motivated to perform better and thereby lead to the betterment of the organization. To achieve this, they tweaked the age-old annual survey method (that gives you mere statistics) to suit their needs.

For example, their performance review process had the following question: “How long would you like to continue working for Microsoft?”

By merely changing the approach to employee review, Microsoft hit the right chord with their employees. It helped them find out their employees’ personal goals and motivations.

As cheeky as it may sound, but all the engagement policies need to have a subtle goal that works in the organization’s favour. And the catch here was that by figuring out the triggers and motivations of their employees, they could help them set a clear path for themselves, thereby reducing the risks of turnovers and burn-outs.

Key takeaways

1. Assigning mentors:

According to me, what gives Microsoft the upper-hand is the fact that they pay close attention to their employees. Given the strength of their organization, assigning a mentor to each new recruit may not seem like a challenge. The real challenge is to develop individual plans for each employee on the basis of their talents and interests. And Microsoft was way ahead of its time to develop this strategy as an integral part of their work culture.

2. Giving space:

While most of the organizations overlook the importance of having a little “me-space” in this era of open-offices and cubicles, Microsoft has debated in favour of it. And did that dampen their engagement strategies? Never!

In fact, the physical environment of Microsoft’s offices is so inclusive that there is space for group discussions as well as quiet contemplation. This allotment of different spaces for people with different needs provide time for quiet contemplation within the highly-engaging social spaces.

Are you aware of these top trends in the employee engagement and culture space?

While Microsoft kept its employees on their toes with their highly engaging and assimilative programs, their plans for the Skype employees were no different.

3. Going social

Skype was bought by Microsoft in 2011 and it won’t be wrong to say that the newly adopted employees were no less than their own employees for Microsoft (debunking the scary step-mother stories).

Skype employees felt a bit left out during the annual meeting of Microsoft. So they grabbed the opportunity by its head to develop a better relationship with their new found mates and thus a forecast of the meeting was planned. The videos were uploaded and the employees were asked to watch them in the comfort of their office space. And in addition to making the meetings a mass-phenomenon they even gave giveaways to people who bothered to like or comment on the videos. This created a new hustle with people flooding their page with comments and likes.


The tech-savvy employees welcomed this with open arms. So Microsoft was motivated to pull at this string they caught-up and went social.

Skype employees were asked to tweet/post whatever queries they had about their product and an expert would answer all their questions. This helped the employees to know more about their products with a simple click.

Social Media became the new target of Microsoft, as they realized that their new employees “felt heard” if they got quick online responses.

So they developed interactive activities around it, like asking their employees to give a funny caption to any picture they uploaded.

Had they stopped at that, the benchmark wouldn’t have been raised so high for other organizations. But the story is a bit different, since Microsoft never falls short to address their employees and to forge a long lasting bond with them.

They realized that their tech-partners/employees were a bit too tech-y for them, so they started creating a series of infographics with all the “Facts and numbers” and the engineers obviously loved it.

Check out the infographics here.

What do we learn from Microsoft?

  • People matter. Period.
  • You need to move beyond mere statistical reviews and get to know the real problems faced by your employees.
  • Have a bigger vision that is all inclusive.
  • Be more flexible and understand that different people have different needs.
  • The key to employee engagement is to make the environment more light and friendly.

“Listen to your customers and your employees- they are the most important thing and define your business”

– Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft)

Listen to what Engagement managers have to say about their experience at Microsoft:


Want to know what the rest of the world is doing to engage their employees?

See how a large telecom infrastructure company increased its employee engagement index by 65%!

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