“It was necessary to transform the leadership a lot. Many of us needed to be more transparent and bring in more empathy.”

Therése Treutiger, Director Commercial Partner & Innovation at Microsoft

The new normal. We all talk about it. But what if, it doesn’t feel normal just yet? Instead of running blindfolded, head-first into the hybrid era, why not gather knowledge and experience from people who know? 

Obviously, as one of the leading global tech companies, the employees at Microsoft were used to the digital platforms and ways of working long before the rest of us. When we talk about the new normal, Microsoft has already reinvented itself several times during the last decade. So, who is better to teach us about the new hybrid workplace and give insight to the question we all ask ourselves: how can we do it better? 

During Employer Branding Summit 2021, we had the honour to welcome Therése Treutiger, Director Commercial Partner & Innovation at Microsoft. Together with Therése and the audience we unwrapped and discussed the workplace of tomorrow and specifically how Microsoft has gone from a traditional workplace to flexible and digital – a great way of working but also a game-changer for their employer brand. 

How Microsoft created the new hybrid workplace – ten years before everyone else 

Ten years ago, Microsoft HQ in Sweden experienced a challenge to attract the talent they needed. They realized they had to do something different and made some changes focusing on boosting the collaboration between people and teams. Creating, what they thought back then, the most innovative workplace in Sweden. 
 
Turns out, these changes that Microsoft put into place in 2012 were similar to what other companies have been forced to do during the pandemic years. As a tech company, they wanted to test out their own technology. Could you have a successful workplace where people work remotely? Could you work remote with customers and still have access to all documents and information? And remember, this was ground-breaking in 2012.

“We needed to break down the silos and shake the organizational structures to get people to really work together.”

They worked hard to create the digital opportunities and virtual teams around projects to be able to collaborate across teams and country borders. The office space in itself was also transformed from an individual focus to a more open, collaboration-friendly environment, not only for employees but also for customers and partners. Since 2012, Microsoft has continued to reinvent itself staying close to the community, start-ups, and customers by shifting into the city centre and dedicating 2/3 of the office space to innovative collaboration. But, how has this transformation from desk and chairs to flexible and digital affected the employees? And what about the leadership?  
 
Like all our speakers, Therése got several questions from the event chat and from our moderators. Here are some of her answers.  

How did you manage to get your employees to switch to a hybrid workplace?  

The simple answer is that we engaged people in projects regarding this change. They took part in how we should design the new office and also what the new work principles should be – so it was embedded with the culture and values. 50% of the project was how to implement the new way of working, so we got everyone onboard straight away.  

What about the working hours, did you change those too?

Yes! Everyone has 100% flexible working hours and works from wherever they want. You are never measured or judged on how much you are at the office and how much you are working from home. Of course, as a manager you need to balance this freedom with performance-focus and empathy, staying closer than ever to your employees.

Are there other demands on the leadership in the hybrid workplace?

We needed to transform the leadership a lot. Many of us needed to be more transparent and bring in more empathy. Also, to have shorter meetings. But more meetings. It’s even more important now to have a solid structure and clear KPI’s. In general, as a manager, you need to both prepare more and follow up more on a regular basis. In general, to be more present.   


TOP THREE RECOMMENDATIONS on how to move from traditional workplace to digital flexible

  1. Simply embrace the hybrid work situation. This is fundamental because there is no going back.  
  1. Work actively with the office space and don’t get stuck in the internal perspective – think bigger. How can we engage our employees, customers and partners with our office layout?  
  1. Regarding the culture and leadership: find role model managers that lead the way with empathy, clear goals and guidance.  

The workplace of tomorrow – a hybrid paradox? 

Many of us are dealing with the hybrid work paradox: people want the flexibility that remote work offers, but they also want the inspiration and energy of in-person. As Microsoft say themselves; a true hybrid workplace won’t be defined by where people gather but by how they feel included in the collective effort and the shared mission. We could learn a lot from that: not to look at it as a contradiction but to get beyond that and reimagine what ”workplace” really means for you and your employees.

About

Therése Treutiger has a solid background in the telecom business, and experience from media and retail. In 2015 she joined Microsoft and today she’s Microsoft Sweden’s Director Innovation & Commercial Partner. 

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