The Skills App that makes Managers Shine
In a recent article from Microsoft’s WorkLab research entitled “Why Microsoft Measures Employee Thriving, Not Engagement.” It headlines “Managers at Microsoft Shine”. Results from its annual employee survey were in and across multiple manager engagement metrics employee rate managers very highly for example, “Confidence in my managers effectiveness” scored 87 on a 100pt scale and most significantly “My manager supports my career” scored an all-time high at 85pts.
This research is particularly significant given the shift we have seen to remote and more recently hybrid work where employees have felt more disconnected from the team than ever. The pressure placed upon managers to meet “Hybrid work” employee expectations has never been higher, and the prevailing view is that managers have been struggling to meet these expectations. But not at Microsoft as the research shows Managers have been shining, so what have Microsoft Managers been doing differently?
To understand what Managers at Microsoft do differently let’s go back to a 2018 article by Gartner entitled Sales Managers That Drive Performance that noted that the average frontline manager devotes just 9% of their time developing they’re on average seven direct reports, that amounts to just 2 hrs. per direct report per month. Microsoft decided that it was unlikely they could suddenly give 3, 2 or even 1hr back to managers to focus on employee skills and career development. Instead, what they decided to do was optimize the 2hrs of Managers time spent on career and skill development. The optimization strategy had three goals.
1. Focus on the fundamentals: Microsoft decided that the most fundamental thing managers could do to develop direct reports was to help them inventory their skills and determine what skills are most important for them to develop to help accelerate work and career – In short, help them to prioritize. This focus on the fundamentals was highlighted by Microsoft itself in an article entitled “Managers keep teams connected”.
2. Connect teams with the right resources and experts: Microsoft realized that it was impossible for their managers to know everything about everything. In the new world of work with the breadth of solutions and services that Microsoft offers managers needed to be able to connect their teams to the right resources and experts that do have the knowledge to help their teams grow. Microsoft noted from the Gartner podcast entitled “Why Connector Managers build better talent” that the Connector Manager coaching profile improves performance of teams by up to 26% and triples the likelihood that their direct reports are high performers.
3. Adopt a new Skills App for Managers: Microsoft decided to adopt Skill.me from Pipe9 as the Skills App that would enable managers to help teams prioritize skill development and connect teams to the right resources and experts based on the skill priorities that were most important to them. Microsoft chose Skill.me because it was a Microsoft TEAMS based App and enabled employees using Teams to access Skill.me from any tab within any Teams channel. Microsoft set up access for employees from its employee development channels run by its Learning and Readiness teams.
Managers using Skill.me spend 1hr per direct report per month completing skill perspectives for team members sharing with them in discussions called “Connects” their view of the important skills for them to prioritize. Managers can make smart suggestions on skill development, share great resources, and make recommendations regarding experts who can help accelerate skill development. Some of the experts are local, in the same team, others are globally renowned experts who can help direct reports go much deeper in learning new skills.
One of the features that connects managers with their direct reports in Skill.me is “Skill Plan”. Based on completing skill perspectives, setting skill priorities, and connecting skill priorities to an academy of relevant resources and experts Skill.me auto creates for users a “Skill Plan”. Skill Plan is the basis for the monthly “Connect” discussions bringing managers and direct reports together. The big benefit of Skill Plan is it auto creates and tracks Skills Plans for every direct report enabling “Connect discussions” to be focused not on building the plan but rather on high impact discussion such as the manager asking “What more help can I do to help you develop this prioritized skill?” or the manager making smart suggestions about additional resources that could be helpful or highlighting experts suggested by Skill.me to the direct report.
Another benefit of using Skill.me and enabling Managers to complete Skill perspectives for their teams is the data is aggregated across all teams to provide Microsoft’s WW Learning and Development teams with great insights on Skill priority alignment between Corp and field teams and top Skill gaps. This data helps Microsoft align learning and Readiness investments against the things that are most important to the field. Again, enabling Microsoft to focus on the fundamentals – In short helping them prioritize.
Monthly “Connect” discussions between Managers and direct reports based on the results of skills perspectives, connecting team members to the right resources and experts using Skill.me is what changed for Managers at Microsoft. The results are plain to see, confidence in managers effectiveness and “My manager supports my career” are at all-time highs in Microsoft’s employee survey -The Skills App that makes Managers Shine.
In my latest article I explore how Microsoft’s strategy to make Managers Shine has enabled their employee satisfaction survey to record all time high numbers for key employee manager engagement metrics such as “My manager supports my career”.
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