BeanTalk: Stijn Nauwelaerts

Corporate Vice President Human Resources bij Microsoft

How the famous data company is focussing on its most important asset: people

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In this podcast hosted by Bean Greet Verhaest, she talks with Stijn Nauwelaerts, the Corporate Vice President of Human Resources at Microsoft.
Stijn shares insights into Microsoft’s evolution and the importance of its organizational culture. Stijn describes Microsoft’s transformation from a software-producing company to a major player in cloud services. The focus has shifted towards offering cloud applications and maintaining an operational platform that is accessible 24/7 for customers worldwide. Microsoft employs various profiles, including engineers responsible for developing and maintaining solutions, as well as specialists who integrate digital concepts into customers’ industries.

Stijn emphasizes that Microsoft’s primary business opportunity lies in cloud services and data utilization, combined with artificial intelligence. The widespread use of digital infrastructure has necessitated digital interactions across various domains, from banking to government services. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this digital transformation, making cloud services and data-driven insights more critical than ever.

Regarding the HR focus at Microsoft, Stijn highlights the significance of fostering a growth mindset and cultivating a culture of trust. The company has been dedicated to promoting a growth mindset, as researched by Professor Carol Dweck, which recognizes the potential for development in every individual, irrespective of their background. This approach encourages continuous learning, open dialogue, and embracing failures as opportunities for improvement.

Stijn also mentions the importance of “unlearning” outdated habits and norms, which requires constant communication and awareness of the ongoing change process. Microsoft has reevaluated its processes, including business reviews and performance evaluations, to shift the focus from performance to development and impact. Continuous feedback and collaboration among teams have replaced annual evaluations, emphasizing the importance of learning together and building on each other’s strengths.

Microsoft has invested significantly in leadership development, with an evolving leadership philosophy centered around generating energy, creating clarity, and delivering success. Every employee is considered a leader, and Microsoft encourages positivity, clear communication, and taking action as key leadership traits.

To support its managers, Microsoft launched an online coaching course based on the “model, coach, and care” model. This initiative received an overwhelmingly positive response, allowing managers to learn and exchange thoughts with each other in an interactive online environment.

Data collection is crucial for Microsoft, given its status as a data-driven company. Stijn emphasizes the importance of starting with specific objectives and questions when analyzing data, rather than drowning in vast amounts of information. The company combines neuroscience and careful word selection to shape its culture and then uses data to validate assumptions and gain insights. For instance, Microsoft examined the connections and networks of managers and found that those with a broader network achieved more and received positive feedback from their teams.

Microsoft also values employee input through a “daily pulse” survey, where around 1,000 employees are questioned daily. This provides valuable insights into employee experiences, team connectivity, and well-being, allowing Microsoft to adapt and respond accordingly.

Regarding personal well-being, Stijn stresses the importance of building a supportive team, fostering trust, and promoting a work-life balance. Taking care of mental and physical health is crucial, and Stijn ensures he dedicates specific time for personal well-being.

In conclusion, Stijn Nauwelaerts highlights Microsoft’s journey from software production to cloud services, the significance of a growth mindset, and the company’s emphasis on trust and collaboration. By prioritizing employee well-being, fostering continuous learning, and leveraging data insights, Microsoft continues to drive innovation and adapt to the evolving digital landscape.

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