Microsoft's Evolution

One Wall Street analyst says Microsoft “is on the cusp of one of the largest multi-year product release cycles in history, extending through 2008,” Forbes reported today.

Microsoft is evolving, both from a business standpoint and from an employee standpoint. It’s no longer “just” a software company; it is also a gaming company, for instance. It’s concerned about the pipeline of future leaders. It’s trying to keep its informal atmosphere, a “speak your mind kind of company,” says Lisa Brummel, senior vice president for human resources at Microsoft. This, she says, is more difficult than it was when she started at the company in 1989, when it had about 3,000 employees. Rather than just saying there’s an “open-door policy,” Brummel, the keynoter at today’s ER Expo in San Diego, says that she now needs to get employees in a room and proactively pick their brains.

While holding on to its culture, it’s also trying to leave behind some other habits, such as a reputation for arrogance and a penchant for changing for the sake of changing.
 
The challenge of figuring out Microsoft’s new culture is “interesting, daunting, amazing, and who knows where we’ll end up,” Brummel says.
 
Brummel says the company needs to become less Seattle-centric. “It’s true that there’s a center of energy that sits in Redmond, but if we don’t have centers of energy around the globe,” she says, the company won’t grow fast enough. It needs, for example, to become better at managing people remotely. Microsoft has hired people in Morocco, Bangladesh, Namibia, and Trinidad & Tobago.  
 
Brummel comes from a business, not human resources, background. She’s trying to combine her experience — Brummel has been a general manager in Microsoft’s consumer division and is very comfortable with metrics — with a human touch in which she spends a lot of time talking to employees about their wants and needs.
 
Scott Pitasky, Microsoft’s General Manager of Talent Acquisition, says the company has about 650 people involved in recruiting, and receives about 75,000 resumes monthly.
 
He notes that Microsoft’s CEO once ran recruiting for the company, a sign that staffing is highly valued in Redmond. Pitasky says he takes employee survey data serious; for example, the company is putting more effort into explaining to employees where they can move up and move around in the company rather than it just happening ad hoc, as often happened in the past. Says Pitasky: “We’re an engineering company. We like to tinker with stuff.”
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