Satya Nadella’s Four Tips For A Better Hybrid Workplace


If you want faster growth and higher profits, you should strive to beat your competitors in the race to give customers more for their money. Unless you invent better new products, your competitors will catch up. To do that, you must hire the best people and keep them excited about working for you.

Four years ago, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO since 2014, really caught my attention when a former Microsoft executive told me about how he changed its culture. As I wrote back then, Nadella moved Microsoft’s culture

  • From one that dictated to technical decision makers which of its products to buy 
  • To one in which employee learning — about how interact with new corporate decision-makers and how to master advanced new products — prevailed.

The pandemic has presented a new challenge for business leaders: how to build and operate an effective hybrid organization. Here are four powerful tips from Nadella on how to do that along with my comments about what you should do about each.

1. Collaborate effectively in all work modes.

Teamwork leads to better decisions and more effective execution. How so? Collaboration brings together people with different skills and ways of thinking. Such teamwork can surface better ideas and make people from different functions more aware of the execution challenges of new strategies. 

The widespread adoption of hybrid work opens many more ways for people to collaborate. As Nadella pointed out, people can work together in many modalities. Some team members may meet in person, others remotely. In addition, teams could include some members who interact at the same time while others participate asynchronously, according to the Taken for Granted podcast.

To do this well, leaders must expect and model high standards of quality for such hybrid collaboration. This means encouraging people to

  • Show up where and when they promise,
  • Prepare well for the meeting,
  • Participate actively,
  • Disagree respectfully and constructively, and
  • Take action at the end of the meeting.

What’s more, business leaders must choose technologies that will minimize meeting disruptions across global networks and train all participants to use these tools effectively. 

2. Give people a break.

Hybrid work is most effective when a team’s immediate manager sets the right tone, noted Nadella. The team’s manager should let workers to set a schedule that complements their non-work activities.

More specifically, managers should free teams to work outside a traditional 9 to 5 framework. For example, a global team might stop working at say, 5PM Boston time so some team members can spend time with family and resume work later, at say 9PM after children go to sleep and colleagues in India are starting their work day.  

Business leaders also should respect a team’s break times. For example, if teams decide that they will not work over the weekend, managers should refrain from sending out emails over the weekend — or schedule their delivery on Monday — to keep team members from feeling that they must respond during their break time.

3. Make the most of physical space.

Physical office space is far more expensive than the cost of the collaboration tools that enable people to work from home. 

Yet there is value in people working together in the same physical space. For example, it might be the best way for people to feel emotionally closer to their coworkers and to build relationships that enable them to climb the corporate ladder.

Nadella has not figured out how much space a company needs to get the benefits of in-person collaboration. To that end, Microsoft researchers are studying data on how employees use space, developing best practices about the future of office space, and “bridging the gap between the physical and digital,” according to Taken For Granted.

4. Onboard new employees to hybrid work.

Finally, business leaders must encourage their managers to orchestrate the onboarding of new employees. This is a big change from before the pandemic — when people in functions like human resources and IT contributed to new employee onboarding.

Microsoft has managerial methods and technologies to help managers to be what Nadella called “the full-service concierge” for onboarding new employees to hybrid work. For example, he said that Microsoft’s Model, Coach, Care managerial framework and its Viva experience platform can help with such onboarding.

Microsoft is working towards mastery of this process. As Nadella said, “We actually have to put our money where our mouth is and focus on building that managerial capability,” noted Taken For Granted.

Do these four things and your company will be better able to win with your customers by leading a hybrid workplace that attracts and motivated talented people to create valuable new products and deliver excellent service.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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