Going from a relaxed, carefree, and familiar environment at university to working for a massive corporate company can be extremely daunting. Before I started my first day as an intern at Microsoft, I had a thousand questions running through my head. What are the people like? What time do I start and finish work every day? Where do I eat my lunch? I even remember emailing my manager asking about the dress code!
The fact is, these are all valid questions, no matter what level of experience you have. And these questions have made me realise the importance of creating a positive culture at work where all employees can do their best work.
Here’s some of the best practices I’ve discovered from my time at Microsoft around how to create a positive employee experience:
1. Create an inclusive culture where everybody can achieve their full potential
Being a Dutch/Indian national, born and raised in Amsterdam for 18 years and then moving to the UK in 2016 to pursue a BSc in International Business at Loughborough University, I’ve experienced many cultures, people, and environments. As a result, I’ve come to quickly realise at a young age the significance that diversity and inclusion (D&I) play in our lives. I find it incredibly important that D&I is championed everywhere, but especially at work. It should be promoted and supported across the whole business in order to create an environment where everyone can participate and achieve their potential.
Microsoft is striving towards building an inclusive organisation, and it recognises that this starts with the attitude and behaviour of its leaders. I love this quote, which comes directly from our CEO, Satya Nadella—I think it portrays Microsoft’s forward thinking really well:
“[Inclusion] shows up in every meeting, starting with me. Am I able to actually conduct a meeting where everyone is able to contribute their best because we all come with different styles, we have different cultural upbringings, and what makes us tick is different. So, you got to have leaders who are in-tuned with that.”
When I look around the company, not only do I see people who look like me, but I see people from all cultures, backgrounds, and countries. Microsoft also drives its D&I message through various employee resource groups (ERGs) such as, Women@Microsoft, Global LGBTQ+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft (GLEAM), LGBTQ+, and Black Asian & Minority Ethnics (BAME). As an intern, I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with these ERGs, helping to drive the immense impact that they have. This shows me that Microsoft is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for its employees.
2. Allow your employees to be themselves and put the focus on having an impact
I’m sure you’re wondering what the dress code is like around here—it’s definitely something I thought about! I knew that doing an internship for a year would mean I would need to invest in some work clothes, because at university I lived in leggings, oversized hoodies, and trainers. As my first day was getting closer, the question running through my head was: what work clothes do I need to buy? Should I invest in suits? Heels? I knew that typical work clothes for women were skirts, a blouse, and heels. I was just about to go shopping when I thought I’d email my manager to be sure I was on the right track. He replied saying, “Anything that you feel comfortable in—trainers, jeans, and a top will do.” When I read this, I was so glad that I’d reached out to my manager with the question. I was surprised by his response, but extremely relieved. It gave me the impression that I could be myself and be comfortable when working.
Within the first week of my role I came across Microsoft’s mantra, “Come as you are, do what you love,” and that’s when it all clicked for me. I felt like I was in an environment where I could be myself. My experience has been that Microsoft cares about my development, the work that I do, and the positive impact I can have on the world. Also, as you start working, you’ll get a sense of what people around you wear on a day-to-day basis. My suggestion would be to wear what makes you feel confident and comfortable. If I had to describe the dress code at Microsoft, I would say it’s smart casual. I go from wearing heels and a skirt one day, to trainers and jeans the next!
3. Empower your employees to do what they do best – no matter what their background
A concern I had before joining Microsoft was being a 20-year-old intern with no corporate company work experience. I was fearful that I would not have a voice and would not be spoken to or treated the same as more senior employees. Being eight months into my role, I can say with confidence that this is not the case. Everyone is extremely friendly and talks to you the same way they would talk to anyone else in the business. The truth is, those who are early-in-career can have just as much impact as a senior employee. You might find that senior employees can learn from those who are early in career too and hiring early in career talent could be a great way for your business to challenge the status quo and identify new ways of working
My internship at Microsoft has been fascinating so far. I’ve been able to dive into so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have dreamed of – from public speaking, to delivering a webinar to more than 100 charities and planning events for members of parliament. Microsoft’s inclusive culture has given me the confidence to challenge ideas and have an impact.
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About the author
Alisha is an International Business student in her third year at Loughborough University. She’s currently doing a 12 month internship at Microsoft within UK Corporate Affairs as a marketing intern. Her role involves supporting and delivering high profile activity, examples being AI focused events and launch events. She ultimately ensures the rhythm of business and continues to drive trust in Microsoft as a globally trusted provider of technology. Outside of work, Alisha has a passion for the fashion and beauty industry where she enjoys the dynamics behind photography, media influencers and staying engaged within the social media world.