Employee happiness when times are tough: The Microsoft way

How do you keep your employees happy when times are tough?

October 4, 2010

How do you keep your employees happy when times are tough? It’s all about employee engagement and open communication, says Microsoft SA managing director Mteto Nyati, whose company was this week named the best small company to work for in South Africa in the 2010 Deloitte Best Company to Work For Survey.

Microsoft was also named best employer in the Information Technology sector. McDonald’s SA won the large company category (more than 2500 employees) and Flight Centre was named best employer in the medium company category (for 301-2500 employees).

The survey, now in its 11th year, sees employees rate their employers across 13 dimensions, including leadership, transformation, communication, rewards and management style.

“The fact that these awards are effectively determined by our own employees is a testimony to our ability to listen and act on employee feedback, create space for our employees to contribute to our growth and a culture of providing a challenging workplace in which our people feel they are making a real difference to the lives of others,” said a delighted Nyati.

David Conradie, Director of Human Capital at Deloitte, said companies which excel in the survey see participation as an essential part of their HR strategy rather than a once-off event. All the 2010 category winners have participated in the Deloitte Best Company to Work For Survey for a number of years, and have consistently ranked as top performing employers.

“These organisations tend to score consistently well despite prevailing economic conditions,” said Conradie.  “Leading companies realise that engaged and loyal staff are their strongest assets and invest in an employer brand strategy regardless of the marketplace.”

Survey findings are a barometer of employee sentiment. The year saw levels of employees’ satisfaction decline noticeably compared to 2009 scoring lower across all dimensions surveyed.

“While the foundations of a positive employment experience remain the same, negative economic conditions have undoubtedly had an impact on overall levels of employee morale and engagement,” says Conradie. “This decline was in evidence across the board – regardless of size of business.”

This year, the area of reward and remuneration was an area of high concern to employees. While South Africa has officially pulled out of recession, the recovery has been uneven with some sectors struggling and others performing well. Conradie believes that it is this lack of uniformity and inevitable comparisons that lead to rising levels of employee discontent regarding this critical aspect of their employment.

Microsoft SA’s HR lead, Jabu Ndhlovhu, said a key element of the company’s strategy had been to use turbulent market conditions to its advantage.

“We had to find a way to create a lean, effective organization that could not only compete effectively under these circumstances, but provide a working environment which challenged our people and made them feel part of something bigger,” said Ndhlovhu.