Dawn Klinghoffer hero

Microsoft’s Head of People Analytics on Using Data to Guide Collaboration and Well-Being Efforts

Dawn Klinghoffer, Vice President of HR Business Insights at Microsoft, will speak at the i4cp 2022 Next Practices Now Conference (both in-person and virtually) about how the revered company is helping its employees achieve work/life balance in a hybrid world, using data-backed tips and technology innovations.

In this brief interview, she sheds some light on the trends she’s observing, what Microsoft is doing to tackle the right balance between collaboration and employee well-being, and measuring success as organizations continue to experiment with how to “get hybrid work right.”

Your analysis of Microsoft employee data showed that as collaboration time has increased, well-being has decreased. How has Microsoft adapted (or intends to adapt) based on this reality?

This has been a huge focus for us since the start of the pandemic.  The health and safety of our employees has been our top priority – and that includes the wellbeing of our employees.  Our research found many areas that we are focused on to address wellbeing as collaboration time has increased during the pandemic. One is prioritization – having a conversation with your manager on a regular basis about the prioritization of work can greatly improve your ability to manage your week.  Another is in the category of re-evaluating meetings.  Do you need to be in every meeting?  Do you need to be in meetings where you already have multiple team members as well?  Building in breaks during the day is also important – many teams have adopted a best practice of starting every meeting 5 minutes after the hour – to build in a break between meetings.  Avoiding bookending the week with meetings – meaning, blocking time on your calendar Friday afternoons and Monday mornings allows you to wrap up the week and start your week off being caught up on email or other projects.  Finally – encouraging focus time by blocking time on your calendar to do just that, and really stressing the importance of taking time off.

Download the Next Practices in Holistic Well-Being Report

As you’ve examined pandemic-era work trends, what is the role you and your team have played in working with other managers to help inform and drive decisions related to well-being and productivity? What would you recommend to people analytics leaders at other companies to better turn data into action?

Throughout the pandemic, we have partnered closely with our Manager Excellence team to provide the most relevant data and insights that can help managers be more productive and engaged.  Regular emails are sent out to our manager community with resources, tool-kits and other tips/tricks to help them manage and keep their well-being and the well-being of their team members a top priority.  People Analytics leaders should start with a hypothesis and then create testable predictions that you can prove with data.  In addition, whenever we start an analysis, we ask ourselves what outcome we are trying to drive.  When the analysis is completed, we think about the “So What, Now What” and that’s where the actions come from – it is always a strong partnership with our program team.

From an analytics perspective, has your definition of productivity changed?

There has never been one definition of productivity.  Productivity is a multi-faceted concept that is highly dependent on the work the person does and the outcome they are trying to drive. 

i4cp research outlines that high-performance organizations are much more purposeful when it comes to collaboration. Based on the data you see, where do you see room for opportunity for companies, including Microsoft, to be more purposeful in the way their workforces collaborate?

As I mentioned above – being intentional about the meetings you attend is a first step.  Also – it is important to understand how you work best, and how you work best with your team.  Hybrid has really made us think differently about how we work – and the importance of understanding how others work best.  Having intentional conversations with your direct reports and your teams about that can really help you collaborate better which leads to more positive outcomes in the end.

How do you (or expect to) define hybrid success? Do you have a sense for how you will know when Microsoft has found that happy medium between flexibility (in terms of when/where people work) and productivity and collaboration?

We think about the hybrid operating model across three dimensions:

  • Work Site: Physical space where you work
  • Work Location: Geographical location where you work
  • Work Hours: Hours of the day or week when you work

Hybrid built on flexibility is our future state – we are currently still in a hybrid model driven by COVID.  We are making a big bet on flexibility as we believe this is a critical part of a successful hybrid workplace – flexibility being driven by employee choice. That said, it is very clear that success is not about creating new policies or establishing guidelines, that’s just the start. Success will depend on building capability and truly operating in a ‘hybrid, by design’ approach – across the full employee experience from hire to retire. Our hybrid workplace is built on a commitment to flexibility that welcomes and enables diverse ways of working, relies on new learning and mindset shifts, considers business needs and individual needs, is built on trust and technology.

With a look to the future, especially as it relates to truly hybrid work, what kind of metrics or analysis are you thinking about? Excited to explore?

We are watching carefully things like…How many people left our company due to ‘personal relocation’ in the past, and has the number gone down as a result of increased access to flexibility? When we post job descriptions that highlight the flexibility in the role, do we attract a broader more diverse set of candidates?  Will flexibility also allow for diverse workstyles to feel welcomed and thrive?  It isn’t all about the individual, we need to explore, analyze, and enable our teams to work effectively together – to be productive, connected and inclusive. And this isn’t limited to direct reporting teams, but v-teams and other organic groups of people who work together.

Our robust employee listening systems, which includes active and ambient listening, will continue to be instrumental in helping us answer these questions.

Erik Samdahl
Erik is the head of marketing at i4cp, and has nearly 20 years in the market research and human capital research industry.