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The message Microsoft is sending to managers after a decline in team connectedness

Source | | Eric Rosenbaum

  • Microsoft internal data indicates that overall team connectedness slipped as the remote work period dragged on.
  • The technology company, which has been surveying its own 150,000+ workforce daily, says the data shows that managers who take a more active role in helping employees manage work/life balance and prioritize tasks have the more engaged teams.
  • Microsoft is bringing more workers back to offices this week, but says lessons it has learned from the pandemic are here to stay in a hybrid work era and include new keys to effective managerial performance and onboarding of new employees.

Microsoft is bringing more employees back to offices, but it is continuing to learn big lessons about keeping hybrid and remote work productivity up in the Covid era. That has been slipping.

Recent surveying of 150,000+ Microsoft employees by the tech company’s head of people analytics, Dawn Klinghoffer, and her team, picked up a significant decline in team sentiment about connections since the mass pandemic work from home experiment began. Microsoft saw employee reporting about feeling connected decline, though not in a straight line, from 91% in April 2020 — its baseline for this data point as it did not track it pre-Covid. Connectedness fell to 75% by November 2020; went back up to 79% in December 2020, and then began to plateau in February of this year.

“The shift to remote work was slowly eroding team connection,” Klinghoffer notes in a report out Tuesday. “At the beginning of Covid, people were really focused on staying connected in new ways,” she says. “But as time went on, those team connections grew harder to maintain.”  

What hasn’t worked (hint: virtual happy hour)

So what hasn’t got the job done? According to Kathleen Hogan, chief people officer at Microsoft, one ineffective method was the attempt to lead with the recreation of team experiences in a virtual environment— from lunches to offsites, desk-side chats and happy hours. 

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