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Ode to joy at work—Recharging our resilience with focus on employee experience and wellbeing

a person preparing food in a restaurant

While all of us experienced incredible disruption in the past year, retailers and brands emerged as one of the frontline heroes that kept us fed and alive. From farm to fork, from source to store—goods and products still had to flow. Meanwhile, the expectations increased, and many of these products were now expected to arrive directly to our doors. Imagine directing the global flow of goods from your living room. Imagine if your manufacturing plants now had to shift to protective gear and sanitizer production in a matter of days. Imagine if your store associates transitioned to online customer care agents, as customer questions exploded overnight. Retailers and consumer goods brands do not have to imagine. They lived it. Pre-pandemic, two Unilever factories produced about 700,000 hand sanitizer units each month. By May 2020, over sixty Unilever factories were manufacturing about 100 million units per month, while keeping factory employees safe and healthy. Read the Unilever Microsoft case study

As one CEO put it: “What keeps me up at night isn’t supply chain logistics or sales. It’s the well-being of my workforce—because I know our company lives and dies by them.”

There is a lot being written about resilience, well-being, and burnout. Jennifer Eggers, the author of “Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back,” describes resilience as the power to be energized and elevated by disruption. Microsoft WorkLab shares that personal resilience requires agency, compartmentalization, and joy. Mayo Clinic research found that employees need to be invigorated by 20 percent of every day’s work activities. A joyful 20 percent of an employee’s day provides them the energy for the other 80 percent. With each percentage point below that, the risk of burnout rises by 1 percent. And a beautiful thing is that we are all different and find joy in activities that are unique to us. For me, 20 percent of time spent learning something new and mentoring my team is the joy that keeps on giving. Read this Microsoft WorkLab article.

If personal wellbeing results in productivity and resilience, and the key to resilience is 20 percent of joyous moments during the workday, what steps can we take to recharge our batteries?

Grow each employee’s sense of purpose

Nobody feels a sense of purpose when they engage in avoidable repetitive tasks, such as typing in data that could be scanned, or manually counting inventory. Productivity increases overall company profitability, but it also increases the value we feel in our work and sense of purpose, which leads to joy and resilience. An executive from Walgreen Boots Alliance said it best, “Having the tools, resources and technology to do your job more efficiently and effectively definitely makes employees happy” Watch this Microsoft video. Below are examples of consumer goods companies growing their employees’ sense of purpose:

  • Mars Petcare redefined how it upskills its frontline associates to handle day-to-day preventative maintenance on the company’s pet food manufacturing machinery and equipment. When COVID-19 struck globally, Mars Petcare immediately developed what was internally nicknamed its COVID-19 Playbook, to do whatever was required to keep associates safe and operations running at nearly full capacity. My yellow lab, Lucy, would like to formally thank Mars Petcare for ensuring her Greenies kept on coming without interruptions. Read the Mars Microsoft case study
  • Land O’Lakes partnered with Microsoft to pioneer innovations that support farmers and rural communities through AI-based tools, and improved broadband. We all benefit when farmers have access to real-time information, and spend their time and energy efficiently to feed the world. Read Land O’Lakes Microsoft case study.

Design for employee experiences and well-being

Raise your hand if you tried to buy, or bought, a household appliance in the past year. Then, consider how many frontline manufacturing or store employees started their most recent job during the pandemic as brands rushed to fill the unexpected, elevated demand. With the influx of new employees, employee on-boarding experiences and initiatives for employee well-being, such as one-on-one check-ins have never been more critical.

The 2020 LinkedIn Global Work Trends report highlighted the importance of employee experience, as well as the demand for people analytics to improve employee experiences. Microsoft recently announced the availability of the Microsoft Viva Employee Experience platform, or Viva EXP. Microsoft Viva keeps employees connected with their company mission and sense of purpose (remember our first point—we need to know our purpose). With Viva EXP, employees connect with one another and access role-relevant resources. It gives managers additional ways to not only identify signs of burnout but also ways to mitigate it. Training, a company knowledge base, and other resources, become easier to develop and find. I personally look forward to the integration of Headspace into the Microsoft Viva Insights app, to grow how often, and regularly, I have daily mindfulness moments. Read 2020 LinkedIn Global Work Trends report.

  • Unilever, a global consumer goods leader with more than 400 brands and 155,000 employees, has a long history of taking its employees’ wellbeing very seriously. The company adopted Microsoft Viva to provide individuals, managers, and leaders with data-driven, privacy-protected visibility into how work patterns affect employee wellbeing and productivity. These insights help Unilever improve the employee experience and promote greater work-life balance. Read Unilever Microsoft case study.

Reinvigorate joy@work through new skills

People who are challenged, thrive. LinkedIn research has found that 94 percent of employees are more likely to stay in their companies if they continuously improve their skills. Can you create a learning-purpose-joy pipeline in your company?

One year after Microsoft launched a global skills initiative aimed at helping people acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19-impacted economy, we are extending our commitment. The effort maps in-demand jobs to required skills, provides access to learning paths, enables people to earn low-cost certifications, and provides job-seeking tools. You would not be surprised to find out that among top 5 most utilized in-demand, role-based LinkedIn Learning pathways last year were for customer service specialists and sales development representatives. Read about the Microsoft global skills initiative.

Microsoft Viva also enables retailers and brands to build a learning culture by simplifying how employees access LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, Learning Management Systems, third-party content providers, and each company’s own content. Continuous learning not only provides employees with new skills and keeps them engaged, it also provides growth opportunities.

  • For the first time in its 175-year history, Danish brewery Carlsberg offered live, online training sessions that reached employees across Asia, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe. The success of this training initiative has led to a novel approach to growing the company’s employees’ skills, no matter where they work. Read Carlsberg case study.
  • Swedish-Swiss multinational ABB focuses on robotics, power, heavy electrical equipment, and automation technology. “The developers who take the Microsoft training tell us they now have the industry-leading insights and tools to apply AI to our products to create entirely new offerings,” says Marc Leroux, Head of Client Success at ABB. “They understand how to build for the future, how to deliver the most value for our customers, and how to bring those benefits to scale. This is huge for the future of our company.” Read ABB case study.

The opportunity to pay back our frontline heroes has never been clearer. We owe them the opportunity to do their best and succeed through purpose, wellbeing, and JOY. Remember our formula: Personal well-being results in productivity and resilience, and the key to resilience is 20 percent of joyous moments fueled by learning and growth.

Learn how Microsoft empowers every Consumer Goods company to achieve more and enables their employees with the right tools.


1 JAMA and Archives Journals. “Physician Burnout: Time Spent On Meaningful Pursuits May Cut Risk.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 May 2009.