If you run a $2 trillion software company like Microsoft, for example, you probably have a lot to do. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, seems quite calm when I hear him speak, but let’s face it, it must be a stressful job. There are products to design and ship, customers to care for and shareholders to keep happy. Any of these can lead to some major challenges at any time.
The last thing you want to worry about is losing your best employees. That’s because a CEO doesn’t do those things alone. By the way, the CEO doesn’t actually do most of those things. That just isn’t possible in a company as big as Microsoft. In fact, I’d say one of the biggest challenges – if you happen to run one of the world’s most valuable companies – is finding and retaining talented people who can help you deliver whatever you make.
That doesn’t just apply to really big technology companies like Microsoft. It applies to every company and every CEO. Managing people is always the most difficult and important part of your job. Everything else rises and falls with the way you lead your team.
I think it’s fair to say that the last two years have been particularly challenging on that front. First, companies had to figure out how to keep people working if they couldn’t come to the office. Everyone who manages people unexpectedly received a crash course on how to lead a team meeting via Zoom. Many of them failed.
Now many of the same companies are trying to figure out how to keep employees coming back. That’s a challenge because the past two years have proven that many of the jobs that we thought should be done in the office don’t. Many people are just as — if not more productive — working remotely than they’ve ever been in a cubicle. They are also a lot happier.
That’s a big problem. Keeping your people happy is a pretty important part of keeping them productive.
Not only that, but if your company isn’t willing to adapt and be flexible, your employees will just, you know, get another job. If nothing else, in recent years workers realized that their highly marketable skills made them much more influential in their working conditions. In Microsoft’s case, that means competing for talent with some of the richest companies in the world.
Microsoft’s solution is quite simple. On Monday, GeekWire reported on a memo from Nadella, in which he told employees that the company is doubling the amount it will spend on merit-based pay increases. Let’s face it, few things make employees happier than getting more money.
“We see time and time again that our talent is in high demand because of the amazing work you are doing to empower our customers and partners,” Nadella wrote in the memo. “Across the leadership team, your impact is both recognized and valued – and for that I want to say a big thank you. That’s why we invest in each of you for the long term.”
What is most noteworthy here is that in many cases the paragraph would have ended a sentence earlier. In many companies, the CEO would have sent a nice memo thanking everyone for their hard work and encouraging them to stick with it. That’s fine and all, but your employees can’t pay their mortgage with your appreciation and encouragement.
That’s why the last sentence is important. Nadella doesn’t just tell employees how valuable they are; he also backs it up with the ultimate form of employee appreciation: a bigger salary. That last sentence is the difference between a platitude and a brilliant strategy for retaining the company’s best talent.
“This increased investment in our global compensation reflects the continued commitment we have to provide our employees with a highly competitive experience,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. statement to CNBC†
Look, of course, if you work for Microsoft, that’s good news. And by the way, not just if you’re a senior executive. Microsoft isn’t targeting these salary increases at senior employees, but at everyone else. That in itself is a lot.
Microsoft cannot afford to lose anyone. It’s hard to find highly skilled people who can build complex things. Hiring and training those people is expensive. It’s both easier and more cost-effective to pay your best employees more than it takes to retain them.
By the way, if you work for a big tech company, that’s probably good news, since the company you work for has to do something similar, or you’re just going to work for Microsoft. Which is probably the point.