Microsoft HR leader: IT pivotal to driving culture change

Aug 16, 2018   |  

It’s no secret we’re living in a time of transformation. The digital era is creating work environments and styles like we’ve never seen before—everything is moving faster than ever.

To stay current and competitive, organizations of all types and sizes have to flex to meet the needs of their employee base in terms of when, where, and how they work—including how they interact with human resources.

From everyday activities like submitting time off to capturing peer feedback to more specialized and specific tasks, Microsoft HR is rebooting how it works and the tools it provides employees by upping its technology game, built on the foundation of the Microsoft intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.


Encouraging employees to embrace the company’s evolving culture and allow human resource leaders to make data-driven decisions to help lead that culture change, HR practitioners are embracing transformation to create a more modern HR organization. And this also means working closely with IT to think through what tools and process are needed, why, and how they will be deployed.

Microsoft People Manager Kathleen Hogan in a corporate photo.
Microsoft Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan is driving a digital transformation in Microsoft HR. She says her team’s partnership with CSEO is playing a key role in that transformation.

Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s Chief People Officer, explains it this way:

“Like the rest of Microsoft and our customers, we’re going through a digital transformation in HR, and it’s really important that we have a close, strategic partnership with IT so we can work together to create the experiences we want for HR leaders as well as our employees.”

To do this, HR has partnered with the company’s IT team, Microsoft Core Services Engineering, and Operations (CSEO). “This partnership is absolutely essential to us, and we’ve actually embedded the leader of CSEO’s Human Resources Team in HR,” Hogan says.

That IT leader is Jay Clem, who spent two years working directly in human resources, so he could really understand how the organization works. His experience as an embedded HR team member helped Clem and his HR IT team improve the technology, tools, and processes that Hogan and her team are using to embrace digital transformation.
Clem says helping Hogan starts with a desire to understand what HR needs and why.

“Open dialogue and active listening are so important to make sure we’re creating the solutions,” he says. “We want to find the right balance between self-service tools and, when needed, getting human help.”

Clem’s team just moved HRweb, the Microsoft HR employee portal, to SharePoint Online, creating lots of new cloud-based opportunities to transform how HR serves company employees (including more personalized experiences and better search results). Read about the Microsoft employee who drove that migration.

Nurturing culture change

Using tech to help HR drive culture change is manifesting itself in many ways in the CSEO organization.

For starters, Clem’s team is a power user of PowerApps, an easy-to-use embeddable HTML client that can live on any platform.

“The same app that’s on your phone is now literally on the web,” he says. “A lot of people who are working on their PCs at their desks want the same app functionality they get on their mobile devices.”

And then there is data—one of the most important assets in any HR organization.

“There is so much data that’s available when people use Office 365 and SharePoint Online,” Clem says. “It’s a real opportunity to better understand your employees and what they want.”

Clem is particularly fond of keywords—the phrases that employees type into the help box when they don’t immediately find what they need when they land on the HRweb homepage.

“Keywords are literally the answer to the question, ‘What are people coming to my site to do?’ They’re trying to get something and they’re not finding it, so they type it in,” Clem says. “If you know that, you can tailor your services to address those particular questions.”

Clem has personal experience with this—he helped spearhead the creation of an app that easily shows Microsoft holidays.

“We wouldn’t have built the PowerApp app for Microsoft holidays if we hadn’t looked at those keywords,” he says. “We never would have guessed that finding out what our holidays are would be that popular. But once we saw the numbers, we knew an app could save employees time, immediately giving them what they need.”

Rethinking the ‘out of the office’ function in Outlook provides another example—remembering to input vacation time and schedule out of office notifications previously required two separate steps and being on corpnet on a PC.

Now, employees just need to type “time away” into Bing, and the Time Away PowerApp pops up and lets them report their vacation or sick time—from their PC or cell phone. Bumping it up a notch, Clem’s team recently added functionality that will ask employees if they want to turn their “out of office” message on when they use the app to schedule their vacation.

“It’s novel,” he says. “It allows you to do two things at once, and it saves our employees time and helps them get back to their other work.”

Clem says his CSEO team has more work to do to pave the path for Microsoft HR’s transformation.

“It’s a journey,” he says. “We need to make sure we keep checking in with HR, so we know what they’re looking for—if we do that, we’ll get there.”

Learn more about how Microsoft HR is using the technology that CSEO helps build on the new Modern HR site.

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