Microsoft’s latest Labor Trends Index urges an end to productivity paranoia

Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft has invested in a series of studies aimed at measuring where leaders and employees are in their expectations for the future of work. This week, Microsoft released its latest study focused on hybrid working. Microsoft surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries and analyzed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, as well as LinkedIn work trends and Glint People Science results. The data collected points to three urgent actions leaders need to take to meet alignment expectations and empower people to work the way they want to. Because according to Microsoft, “when employees thrive, organizations thrive,” and who could argue with that?

Ending Productivity Paranoia

Productivity was the biggest concern when we entered the pandemic. How could employees work away from their peers and the office? And yet, despite outdated PCs, poor connectivity, kids and pets everywhere, and sharing our home office with spouses and roommates, we made it. We were more productive than ever. So much so that many of us were burned.

As companies contemplate returning to the office, there appears to be a substantial gap between how employees feel and how leaders feel about productivity. Most employees (87%) report being productive at work, and productivity signals in Microsoft 365 continue to climb. At the same time, 85% of leaders say the shift to hybrid working has made it difficult to trust employee productivity. This lack of trust in their own staff leads companies to use technology to track activity rather than impact. Additionally, employees lack context about how and why they are being tracked, which can undermine trust and lead to what Microsoft calls “the theater of productivity.”

Eighty-one percent of employees say it’s important for their managers to help them prioritize their workload, but less than a third (31%) say their managers have ever given clear guidance when individual interviews. Unfortunately, managers themselves seem to lack direction, with 74% of people managers saying more guidance on prioritizing their own work would help their performance, and 80% saying they would personally benefit from greater clarity. from senior management on priorities that have an impact.

At an event in London to discuss hybrid work and study, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said of the work, “Work is about making employees thrive. And for employees to thrive , several things need to happen. They need to have that sense of empowerment, feel the energy, and do meaningful work. These three things need to be true and measured and something that all leaders and managers need to drive. So this is really the work ahead of us, acknowledging that this is real structural change, not looking back to 2019, but looking at expectations for the future.”

Accept that people come for each other

The mismatch between employers’ wants and employees’ needs doesn’t stop at the view of productivity. Driven by this productivity paranoia, many organizations have tried to bring people back to the office. Due to burnout and a new sense of worth, employees are asking for more flexibility. At a minimum, employees want a good reason to justify the trip to the office. Politics alone won’t reverse this reality: 73% of employees and 78% of business decision makers say they need a better reason to come in than company expectations. Although some employees may return to the office due to concerns about career progression opportunities, particularly in a less secure job market, they will do so reluctantly, which will impact their overall engagement and job satisfaction. .

Returning to the office should be about people. More specifically, the return to the office must aim to rebuild social capital. At the start of the pandemic, when we had to adapt, we were able to work remotely because, in most cases, we had built social capital that we could leverage. However, as the pandemic dragged on, our social capital began to erode. This is why new employees and young employees have the hardest time staying connected. Their social capital was lower at the start.

The study says it very clearly: the return to the office is about people. Connecting with colleagues is a key motivation for working in person. 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with colleagues, while 85% would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds. Employees also say they would visit the office more often if they knew their direct team members would be there (73%) or if their work friends were there (74%).

Going back to my previous point, younger employees are especially eager to use the office to develop their social capital, those relationships that will facilitate career growth and create a sense of belonging. Seventy-eight percent of Gen Zers and Millennials versus 72% of Gen Xers and above specifically seek to connect with senior management and their direct reports. Seventy-nine percent of Gen Zers versus 68% of Gen Xers and above are also particularly motivated to work in person to see their work friends.

After almost three years away from the office, the need to reconnect is evident. About half of employees say their relationships outside of their immediate work group have weakened (51%) and feel disconnected from their company (43%).

That said about the office, we know remote work is here to stay. In September, 15% of LinkedIn job postings are posted remotely, underscoring that connecting employees can’t just happen in the office. Timely and transparent communication is key to keeping everyone engaged and informed. According to almost all business decision makers (96%) and employees (95%), effective communication is the most critical skill they will need in the coming year. And the communication should be authentic, not just informative. Employees cite authenticity as the number one quality a manager can have to help them perform at their best (85%) and 83% of business decision makers say it’s essential for their senior management to be authentic.

Recruit your employees

The final point of the report is the importance of investing in your talent by prioritizing learning and development. Employees want to grow in their work, otherwise they will leave. Worse still, they will stay and disengage. Fifty-six percent of employees and 68% of business decision makers say there aren’t enough growth opportunities in their company to make them want to stay long-term. However, many employees believe that to learn, you have to leave: 55% say that the best way to develop their skills is to change companies.

As employees embrace a new “worth it” equation, they are increasingly turning to job switching, the maker economy, side hustle, and entrepreneurship to achieve their career goals. Younger generations are the most likely to aspire to be their own boss, with 76% of Gen Zers and Millennials saying this is a goal compared to 63% of those who are Gen Xers and older. These younger generations are also more likely to say they would stay in their current business longer if it gave them the opportunity to pursue side projects or businesses for additional income (77% vs. 66%).

At Microsoft’s London event, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky said LinkedIn had reassessed the entire culture and values ​​for the new world of work as it went through a reintegration process for 20,000 employees. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been there for 20 years or two months. We take everyone through a process of reintegration. People want to feel very connected to their work. They want to feel connected to the company, connected to their manager. They want to know that their work matters. And one of the most important ways to do that is to make sure you have the right people with the right skills in the right role.”

As economic pressure mounts, organizations will face tough decisions. Balancing employee needs and shareholder values ​​will not always be easy. Yet leaders must recognize the real value of energizing and empowering employees. Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s CVP of Modern Work, said it well: “Energetic, empowered employees are truly every organization’s competitive advantage.

Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analytics, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author has no ownership interests in the companies mentioned in this column.

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