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Diversity Programs: The Microsoft Way

In the 21st century recruiting and maintaining a talented workforce has become a true area of concern. Globalization has completely changed the work environment today and international mobility of the workforce has almost become a rule than exception. This led to a situation where companies are hunting the right people worldwide. Hence, recruiting the right people for the right positions, developing them through trainings and retaining these skilled employees have become very important (Coetzee Jan, “Confront the Talent Crunch and Find the Employees Your Company Needs”).

Companies that are working in knowledge-based industries like IT/ITes treat their workforce as one of the ways to get competitive advantage and therefore hugely invest in them. Microsoft being the leader in software providers, exercise a well orchestrated strategy to get the best employees, nurture their talents with proper training and development and provide them various types of benefits to balance their professional and personal lives. HR Practices at Microsoft The company website declares that “At Microsoft, people are the source of our energy”.

It claims to treat its employees as the most important asset and hence to keep them healthy, happy and moving ahead. The company further states its employee benefit philosophy as to “empower people with the healthcare, resources and financial incentives they need to be successful”. From the very beginning Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates focused on recruiting intelligent employees – favoring intellect over experience. The company made it a point to go for campus interviews in well-known universities like Harvard, Yale, MIT, Carnegie-Melon, Stanford etc.

the students had to undergo a thorough selection process where the clarity of thought process, problem solving abilities and work-habits were checked. Generally some unexpected questions were included to test their creative problem solving skills. Microsoft offers 45 hours of paid professional training to all its full time employees each year. Generally, the top management coach lower levels and assist in their development. The company is transparent regarding its promotion policy and the employees are given a guideline regarding when and how they will get promoted to the next level. Accordingly, they can plan their career in the company.

Microsoft values the technical skills of the employees and offers two career advancement paths. Employees with sound conceptual skills become technical experts and those with conceptual skills as managers. Once a company recruits some of the best talents and develops them into skilled employees, retaining them in the organization becomes the biggest concern. Microsoft has taken up a number of measures for that. To begin with, the company offers employee ownership through stock options. The employees are given an opportunity of investing 1% – 15% of their after-tax salary to buy Microsoft stock at a 10% discount.

Further, they can opt for some special banking and financial services at a discounted rate. The services include – brokerage services, banking services and financial planning and education opportunities. The company facilitates its employees with a number of health benefits (“Benefits at Microsoft”, http://members. microsoft. com). It has a ‘Stay Fit’ program that provides medical and dental support and paid health club membership. There is a Group Health Co-operative plan for the employees that allow them to choose any Group Health Co-operative doctor of their choice and enjoy same day appointments at any covered medical center.

The Group Health Co-operative plan offers 100% coverage for employees and covered dependents, no payroll contribution, no deductible, 100% coverage for most prescription drugs. Besides, there is a health savings plan. Under health savings plan, a health savings account is being opened. Both the company and the employee contribute towards this account, building a portable health fund for the future. The employee’s contribution is deducted annually from his salary. The company also contributes cash to the account in each pay period.

The health savings plan protects the employees against large medical expenses by paying 100% of charges above a certain limit. Further, there is a vision care program, which covers one annual eye exam and reimbursement for one pair of glasses or contact lenses per person, per calendar year. Then, there is a health care flexible spending account that lowers the taxable income of an employee by reimbursing eligible, out-of-the-pocket medical, dental and vision expenses on a pre-tax basis up to $5000 a year. In addition to all the above, the company has developed a health care portal exclusively for its employees and their family members.

The portal provides Microsoft health benefit information, order and refill prescriptions, view medical and dental claims and also manages personal health information. Also, there is a 24-hour health-line that provides easy-to-understand health information to help employees make proper health care decisions. Besides, there is a employee assistance program that provides confidential counseling services. The company offers disability benefits as well. For long-term disability maximum 168 days are permissible and 60% of the basic salary is provided during this period.