Thursday, 15 January 2015

What's Microsoft UK doing right? (Glassdoor Employees Choice Awards)

One of the things I'd meant to post on before Christmas was Glassdoor's Employee Choice Awards - the only awards which rely on the perceptions and commentaries of employees.

My desire to do this is partly because of my press relationship with Glassdoor as their UK HR Expert, and partly because this is the first year the awards have been made in the UK and this is an important new activity here.  But mainly just because the rankings are really interesting!

No surprise about the top two companies in the UK - Google and John Lewis, sitting on their own short tail with 4.3 and 4.3 points out of 5 respectively.

In 3rd place, just at the start of a rather denser distribution, with 4.1 points, is Microsoft.

Microsoft?  That's Microsoft whose technologies increasingly belong to the last decade, which is cutting 18,000 jobs, whose CEO wants women employees to let karma take care of their careers and whose organisational culture is so competitive that collaboration is almost impossible - see the Bonkers World visual about Microsoft's and other tech firms organisation structures (though Microsoft has restructured since then).

In the US Microsoft didn't even manage to join Chick-fil-A on the awards list.  So what's happening in the UK?

I could of course contact the couple of people I know who work at Microsoft here but probably the better, more accurate, way to assess the company's culture is to consult Glassdoor:

The site summarises positive comments as:

  • "Really good work-life balance compared to other tech companies of the same caliber" 
  • "You will get the opportunity to work with smart people solving real world problems"
  • "Great benefits that are truly 1st class when compared to other companies in the industry"
  • "Lots of opportunities to move around in the company to try new things"
  • "Generally good benefits (though they've been cutting back in recent years)"

And the negatives:
  • "Work life balance is not good in some places but it really depends on your role"
  • "Performance review system basically encourage competition inside the team"
  • "Stack Ranking poisons team work (you're only as good as your last performance)"
  • "Review process focused too much on politics rather than actual accomplishments"
  • "Typical big company disadvantages that are uncommon for most tech companies"

These comments give some idea of the culture of the firm - the same great benefits which are common on the tech sector but also the particular issues around competitiveness which I referred to above (though Microsoft has abandoned its stack ranking too now.)

Individual ratings add support to this analysis as well:

  • Compensation and benefits 4.0
  • Career opportunities 3.6
  • Work-life balance 3.5
  • Culture & values 3.4
  • Senior management 2.9 (though this seems to relate more to the leaders reporting to the CEO than Satya Nadella himself - 82% of approvers approve of him.)

But these comments and ratings are based on the 8,900 all time reviews for the company (which give it a rather lower ranking of 3.7) rather than the 52 reviews that contributed to the 4.1 and the award.

Looking through comments from the UK over the period of the award calculations does give some insight on what may be happening in the UK - people complain about senior management, but also suggest that in the UK employees tend to be further away from them.  This presents some problems in terms of projects being cancelled and timezones slowing down decision making, but in general it's a good thing.  If your senior management is poor it's better to be less impacted by their leadership.

Ie it's not actually something Microsoft in the UK is doing right - it's just that we're further away from what the more generally excellent company in the US is doing wrong.

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