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Microsoft says this is the ultimate measure of employee productivity (is it nonsense?)

Sometimes, there's a distressing lack of imagination in assessing employee performance.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on
Person using Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio.

Dogma? Or Data? Or maybe actual management?

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The polarization is terrible.

One side sees everything only from its perspective and knows it's right.

The other side sees everything from its own perspective and wonders what the first side is talking about.

It makes for unbearable watching.

Mercifully I'm not talking about politics.

Well, I'm trying not to because in politics too much has been too evident for too long. (At least that's how it appears from my side.)

No, today's subject is remote work, the new hybrid life and how bosses and employees see it differently.

Also: The rules of work are changing, and hybrid work is winning

Dogma vs Data

Recently, Microsoft emitted its vast Work Trends Study that revealed the chasm between management on the right wing -- I'm so sorry, I meant in the right corner -- and employees in the left.

Speaking at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained it like this: "Basically 85% plus of workers or members of the workforce think that they're being productive. Eighty-five plus percent of managers think that there's more to be desired on productivity."

I'm not sure what the difference is between workers and members of the workforce. Perhaps Microsoft classifies freelancers as workers and employees as members. You'd think, then, that membership would have its privileges.

Please forgive the digression because another of Nadella's statements thrust me in the direction of depression.

He said: "So there's that paradox, and I think the best way to bridge the paradox is not to have more dogma, but more data."

Ah, but of course. Data. It solves everything because it is everything.

Also: How hybrid work will empower all workers

Everyone's a number, so everyone's productivity is also a number. Just as the meaning of life is 42.

Perhaps some jobs allow for productivity to be measured by numbers. What numbed me into a torrid stupor, though, was Nadella's very polarization of the question. You're either led by dogma or you're led by data.

The Dogma Ate My Data

Alrighty, then. So who are you going to fire? The 85% of workers -- and members of the workforce -- who clearly have it wrong or the 85% of managers who clearly have it wrong?

There's no point keeping both of them, is there? If it's clear that one side is led by dogma and the other by data, then the dogmatists should be instantly kenneled.

You can't go to the board meeting and say, "The dogma ate my data," can you?

Please forgive me for sounding naive, but of course there should be some consensus about what productivity even means, never mind what data can define it?

Also: Remote work is giving more people free time. Here's what they are doing with it

What if an employee isn't directly as productive as another, but serves as a motivational glue to bring employees together and work better together? So many companies have employees who bring so much more than unilinear results.

The third way

Isn't there at least a third party in the dogma vs data cage fight? How about management?

You know, that thing that used to take skill, ingenuity and not a little human empathy? That thing that sometimes propelled careers forward because the results were self-evident? That thing that actually kept employees committed when perhaps they could have strayed.

If a manager is only led by data, then surely they can be replaced by the machine that generated that data. 

Could it be, in fact, that the 85% of leaders who claim that remote or hybrid employees are deficient in productivity are all inadequate leaders?

I only wonder because leadership doesn't seem to be in vast supply these days. A swift look around at tech leaders might cause one or two employees to wonder: "This is what I'm supposed to admire?"

Do you really want the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg to be the judges of your productivity? Why, the latter reportedly uses an algorithm to decide whom to fire.

Also: Going back to the office is 'a productivity killer'

I suspect that Nadella may be aware of at least some of the nuances. Later in his Yahooed offerings, he mused some more about what he calls this productivity paranoia.

He said: "I think the way to manage that would be to really make sure that you're very clear as leaders and managers about what the goals of the company or the team are, setting the norms for how people collaborate, and communicate."

Certainly that would help.

But isn't the real problem with judging true employee productivity these days the prevalent view that data is the dogma?

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