A Microsoft exec says tech, not people, makes employees really happy

What defines job satisfaction? This Microsoft executive has an answer that may be biased.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

What if you really don't like them?


Why do you stay in a job?

Is it the money?

Is it the people you work with? The product you're involved in? The deft management you're graced with?

I was moved to this very modern contemplation on hearing the views of Seth Patton, general manager of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Viva.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review with Brad Anderson, president of products and services at Quatrics, Patton mused on the state of work today.

The delicate state of hybrid work that is.

Many people have quit. Many of those people will never come back. Issues of equality and diversity are paramount -- especially for tech companies.

Yet Patton and Anderson offer their own, one-word version of what defines the employee experience.

No, it's not "money." Nor is it "people." Instead, oh, you guessed already, it's "technology."

Hyperbole, perhaps? (Not that I'd ever sink to that.)

Well, their article is headlined: "In a Hybrid World, Your Tech Defines Employee Experience."

Also: Apple employees finally found a reason why Android phones are better

They explain: "The technology experiences that employers provide will more or less define the employee experience -- technology and workplace tools are, for all intents and purposes, the new workplace."

One might, perhaps, expect a Microsoft executive to declare technology the defining factor of the workplace experience.

How very comfortable for a company that makes business technology to believe its technology is the most important thing for business humans.

For Patton and Anderson, this is all self-evident. Technology is "becoming central in attracting and retaining new talent, fostering workplace culture, creating productivity, and more."

Hey, what if we tell you we use Windows 11 for everything? Now, will you join us?

One can see that making it easier for employees to talk to each other is a fine and important thing. Yet, here is Qualtrics offering that "employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay beyond three years in their jobs if they feel they have the technology that supports them at work."

Of course, the technology experience makes an enterprise run more smoothly and therefore enhances job satisfaction.

But here's one thing I've heard less about: What happens when you meet your co-workers remotely for the first time, and their screen presence makes your teeth perform the quickstep of queasiness?

Patton and Anderson suggest that the first step is for bosses to understand what's impacting productivity and employee collaboration.

"Employers should start by asking employees if they have the right tools and technology to do their jobs, especially in a hybrid or remote work environment. Never assume," they say.

I'm sorry to interpolate, but wouldn't it be better first to ask if the employees like and respect their bosses and feel as if they're managed productively? And then wonder how they're getting on with their co-workers and whether any of them are heinous manipulators?

Having excellent technology can make an enormous difference. Anyone who's worked with the substandard kind knows this. Moreover, so many humans are entirely consumed by technology, to the evident detriment of their ability to commune with other humans.

But I'm concerned that this is another case of abdicating responsibility to technology when it's more appropriate to wonder about the humans who are introducing it and using it.

Which all makes me think about, well, Microsoft.

The company has, at times, been a touch slow at creating, well, technology that improves the employee experience. Teams came after Zoom, and it's just fine. But it doesn't have the experiential commitment that Zoom enjoys.

Windows 11 may be one of the more attractive efforts at software, but Redmond has a whole history of forcing software upon companies and people rather than listening to what they actually want and need. With the result that many still harbor vast grudges against Microsoft and its wares.

And wait, hasn't Microsoft just called its employees back to the office?

I hope the company has some new, happy-making technology to show them there.

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