Microsoft CEO promises major HR changes in response to sexual harassment claims

Microsoft logo at Ignite
Microsoft logo at Ignite (Image credit: Windows Central)

Following an internal email chain that brought several disturbing sexual harassment claims to light earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has promised several changes to the company's HR practices. In an internal memo obtained by GeekWire today, Nadella outlined the sweeping changes, which include bringing in more HR workers to address complaints, a new "Employee Advocacy Team," and the launch of new disciplinary guidelines across the company.

"I'm disappointed to hear about any behavior in our workplace that falls short of the diverse and inclusive culture we are striving to create," Nadella wrote in the memo. "But I'm encouraged that people feel empowered to speak up and demand change. I want all of us to learn and act on this feedback."

"We each have a role to play in closing the gap between the culture we seek and the day-to-day realities we experience," Microsoft told GeekWire in a statement about the memo. "It is not a simple issue that will ever be solved by the decisions we can announce in a single day, but these new steps will move us farther and faster to create an inclusive culture that values diversity."

While Microsoft works to expand its team of HR workers and investigators, the company also plans to implement required training for its more than 16,000 managers, focused on diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion will also factor into deciding managers' compensation.

You can read the full memo from Nadella below:

Today, I want to talk about something that matters deeply to each of us: our culture. To those who started this conversation by sharing your stories — thank you. To other underrepresented groups and anyone who said they relate to these experiences, I hear you too. I'm disappointed to hear about any behavior in our workplace that falls short of the diverse and inclusive culture we are striving to create. But I'm encouraged that people feel empowered to speak up and demand change. I want all of us to learn and act on this feedback.I also appreciate the pride in Microsoft that many of you have shared, as well as positive stories about colleagues who have been supportive in your careers and lives. This is why the current conversation is so important. We each have a role to play in closing the gap between the culture we seek and the day-to-day realities we experience. Ultimately, this is important to all of us as individuals. And as a company whose mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, it is fundamental to our collective success.I appreciate that leadership in this area needs to start at the top. It also must involve deeds and not just words. As a Senior Leadership Team, we've sought to exercise our own growth mindset, listening and learning from the ongoing feedback and using this learning to take new steps. This is a journey — it is not a simple issue that will ever be solved by the decisions we announce in a single day — but I want to share with you several concrete steps we have decided to take to accelerate our progress.Our expectations for each other: First, we will all come together as teams across the company to better ground ourselves in a common set of expectations. In recent years, we've created a Standards of Business Conduct and rolled out tools and training around leadership principles, inclusive behaviors and unconscious bias. But one lesson from recent conversations is that we need to do more. We will create new content, and all of us will participate in this conversation by the end of the calendar year. Every one of us needs to understand the behaviors that are prohibited by law or policy and, equally important, those needed for a respectful workplace to which we're committed. Our time at work can't be shallow in terms of the commitments we make to each other. No business or product success can replace the human dignity and basic decency with which we treat each other. The empathy we develop to see each other for who we are, where we are coming from and how we make each other feel as we work together is what we will most cherish and remember. Let us be accountable to each other based on this higher standard.Our expectations for managers: Each of our over 16,000 managers needs to be an effective culture champion dedicated to improving the experience of our employees. To help, we will provide managers with additional support, in part by rolling out a required manager learning track in FY20 that includes tools and resources on leading diverse teams and further activating our culture. In addition, all our managers will prepare for the rewards process with enhanced training that includes guidance on advancing and rewarding people for supporting our inclusion priority. If you are a manager at Microsoft, you are making a conscious choice and commitment to raising your hand to curate our culture. Take accountability and pride in this commitment.Improved investigations process for workplace behavior: We recognize the need to strengthen the way we handle our investigations of complaints about behavior in the workplace. A team has been working on a plan for this in recent months, and we will move forward immediately in three key areas:First, we will provide additional support and more information for employees who raise complaints about employee behavior. We will add HR professionals to enhance our listening capacity when issues are first raised. HR is also creating a new Employee Advocacy Team that will focus exclusively on assisting employees going through a workplace investigation, including helping employees understand the process, guiding them through investigations and following up after investigations are finished to check in on the employees involved.Second, we will increase our ability to pursue investigations more quickly. We will centralize in CELA all investigations globally relating to significant complaints about work-related misbehavior. We will add investigators to this team to match the benchmarks we've recently used with other companies, with measurable goals aimed at shortening the median time of investigations to one month or less.Third, we will promote more consistent disciplinary approaches across the company following an investigation. We recognize the importance not only of taking effective action following investigations but doing so consistently across the company. We will develop new company-wide disciplinary guidelines for work-related misbehavior. When an investigation is finished, we will provide to a manager both a factual conclusion about the findings and the range of expected discipline. Going forward, a manager will no longer be permitted to depart from the recommended range without the approval of a corporate vice president.In addition, while we need to remain sensitive to privacy concerns, we will also create more transparency around the outcomes from these investigations. After the process is finished, the employee who raised concerns will receive information about the investigation, including about the investigation's factual conclusion and, at a minimum, generalized information about the discipline that followed. Beginning in FY20, we will also publish, at least once a year, information across the company so all employees will have more information about the kinds of concerns being raised, how often we find a violation and the types of discipline we imposed.Increased accountability and transparency: We will take new steps to hold everyone accountable for diversity and inclusion. This past year, we increased our commitment with a new core priority on inclusion for every employee. If you are not helping to create an inclusive culture, your rewards, your career trajectory and possibly even your employment will be impacted. Today, the compensation of every member of the Senior Leadership Team includes an element that addresses diversity and inclusion, and the Senior Leadership Team reviews performance around diversity and inclusion as part of its decisions about rewards for all corporate vice presidents. As a new step in this year's rewards process, we will expand this review to reach all our senior leaders at general manager and above.We will also take an additional step to promote broader transparency. Currently, we publish annual pay equity and representation data, and all our Senior Leadership Team members share their representation goals and progress. Going forward, we will add further data transparency to our annual representation update, including new data around career progression.And, of course, we will continue to listen and rely on the leadership and insight provided by our Employee Resource Groups to build on efforts already underway and develop new initiatives.Put together, I believe these new steps will move us farther and faster to create an inclusive culture that values diversity and helps us all exercise a growth mindset to learn from each other. But these will not be the last steps we take. There is a role for every one of us. Each of us can ask ourselves: What can I do to help? How can I show respect and empathy for my colleagues? How can I speak up when I see non-inclusive behavior?One of our strengths is that so many of us come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives. Our opportunity is to find better ways to connect with and value each other. We won't always get it right, but I fundamentally believe this is a journey that will help define the better individuals we each can become.I am committed to this journey, and I ask you to join me.Satya

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl