Thursday, July 20, 2006

Is It All About The Towels?

Our second guest post from the Blog Swap comes from Tod Hilton. Tod shares with us an insider's view on a company and employee retention issue that I blogged about earlier. I don't want to give it away though so I'll just say - Welcome, Tod and thanks for the great post.


A quick little intro for those of you tuning in to the Big Bad Recruiting Blog Swap ... My name is Tod Hilton and I will be your host for this post. What I am: a software developer at Microsoft and a bunch of other things [father, husband, gamer, snowboarder, etc.]. What I’m not: a recruiter or hiring manager, although I do interview candidates and give the infamous ‘hire’ or ‘no-hire’ recommendation.

I seem to be driven by routines. They become easy to remember over time and comfort my inner need for order in the universe [well, at least my little part of it :-)]. With regard to the Big Bad Recruiting Blog Swap, I spend at least a good hour reading through the archives of the blog I’m about to swap with so I can get an idea of how they write and the topics they seem to enjoy. Beth has a penchant for taking current events out of the news media and then providing the readers [you and I] with her own well formed opinion on the topic or subject matter. Good stuff! While reading through her archives, obviously I had an instant connection with the post, Cheers for Towel Service in the Locker Room, because, well, I work for Microsoft. ;-)

Two years ago (May 2004) Microsoft made several hard-hitting cuts to our benefits package (Microsoft cuts some perks with an eye on bottom line by Kim Peterson) and many employees were very vocal about their criticism (Microsoft workers vent over cuts in benefits by Kim Peterson). There were several changes made, but the one that seemed to grab the attention of employees and the media was the one that saved the company the least amount of money... the removal of towel service in the on-site locker rooms. I think the reason this became the ‘benefits poster child’ was that it was a prime example of the thought process behind some of the cuts. If I remember correctly, removing this service saved the company around $250,000-500,000 per year. For a company with $50 billion in the bank that is even less than chump change...that’s like you or I bending over to pick up half a penny! It was the epitome of ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ and people (employees and the industry) latched on with a vengeance.

Fast forward a year to April 2005 and Lisa Brummel is appointed the senior VP of HR. I remember the first time I saw her at our company meeting in Safeco field later that September. She came on stage wearing shorts and a sleeveless sweater over a t-shirt (while the other execs were in typical business casual)! She spoke for 30-45 minutes about herself and the things she wanted to do for Microsoft, one of which would be her “listening tour” to every campus worldwide so she could hear employee’s concerns straight from them. I remember thinking to myself “well, that sounds good, but we’ll see where it goes.” Sure enough she stuck to her word and did the “listening tour.” Not only that, but she sent out several company-wide communications asking for direct feedback if you couldn’t make it to one of the sessions and, honestly, I think she really meant it.

Now fast forward to present day, May 2006, and big changes have been made once again (Under pressure, Microsoft fights to keep its workers by Benjamin J. Romano), but this time the pendulum has swung back the other way with many new benefits and old ones reinstated. I’m not going to go into the details of what was taken away 2 years ago and then given [back in some cases] to Microsoft employees this year because that’s not the point I want to make. So what exactly is my point? :-)

Companies need to listen to their employees AND react accordingly!

I don’t want to turn this into a Microsoft-love-fest, but this is one reason I really enjoy working here. Lisa Brummel and our benefits changes over the past few years are a prime example of a company that listens and then takes specific action based on the feedback. The second part is where most companies fall down. They say over and over that they’re listening to what employees want, but they NEVER do anything about it. You get the same old water-cooler conversations happening year after year with management giving the official ‘we are reviewing possibilities’ statement to appease the masses. People eventually get used to the status quo and accept it or they get fed up and head off to greener pastures. The company loses good people and the ones they retain aren’t necessarily happy, productive employees as much as they might just be getting by. That’s a lose-lose situation if I ever saw one!

Now that I’ve made my point, is there anything you can really do with it? Of course there is! :-)
  • If you’re a manager/employer then be sure to follow my advice and keep your people happy. Don’t just listen to your people...make changes based on the feedback to keep them around for the long haul.

  • If you’re an employee/jobseeker then look closely at your employer’s history and see if they follow this mantra. If they don’t then you might want to consider just how happy you are with the current state of affairs, because it’s not likely to change during your tenure.



Blogger Unknown said...

I'm looking for a few bugs in my post. But I think I should have someone look and point out it.

10:26 PM, November 28, 2017  

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