Microsoft CEO explains pause on raises, Docusign contradicts its own research with return to office

Plus, how tech employees feel about AI.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s look at some news stories from this week and see what lessons we can learn from them.

1 . Microsoft skipping salary bumps this year

The recent economic turmoil across the nation has caused massive layoffs at several major tech companies including Alphabet, Amazon and Meta, and now tech giant Microsoft said it will cease to grant pay raises. The move is part of Microsoft’s efforts to reduce costs amid slowing revenue growth and tighter client budgets. The decision follows a January announcement that the company would cut 10,000 jobs.

According to CNBC:

Last year, as inflation rippled through the economy, Microsoft nearly doubled the budget for merit increases and boosted stock allocations for certain employees. This year, compensation will look more normal.

“We will maintain our bonus and stock award budget again this year, however, we will not overfund to the extent we did last year, bringing it closer to our historical averages,” CEO Satya Nadella wrote in the email. Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Insider reported on the message earlier.

While it’s understandable that organizations need to get their financial houses in order during tough times, this might not be the way to go about it. Compensating employees more for their continued efforts is a major part of a strong employee experience. Compensation isn’t the only thing that keeps an employee at an organization, but a pay freeze that suddenly comes from the top isn’t a good culture or retention builder.

  1. Research shows that employees are open to using AI

We’ve written quite a bit about AI and its impacts on the future of work here at Ragan. Some might approach it with apprehension — but one report from Microsoft claims that employees are more willing to embrace AI in their roles than previously thought.

According to Fortune:

The prevailing narrative around artificial intelligence is that people are afraid it will take their job. And there’s some truth to that–49% of people we surveyed held that fear. But that’s only part of the story. Due to the crushing weight of work today, even more employees (70%) say they’re willing to embrace AI as a means of offloading as much of their work as possible. They know what’s in it for them, and the promise of relief outweighs the threat.

The need today is more acute than ever. But what makes this moment truly unique is the technology itself. Today’s A.I. places people at the center and delivers an experience that almost feels like magic. A.I. has been part of our lives for years, powering everything from search engines to autocorrect suggestions. Until now, it has largely run in the background, on autopilot. But the future will place it alongside the user, as a copilot.

With any emerging tech, it’s natural to worry about what the implications of its use might be. But if we frame the use of AI as a tool to help people do their jobs, we can better view it in a human-centric light. AI has the potential to free up time normally spent on more rote tasks, allowing employees to reach their creative potential. It’s going to be interesting to see how the conversation around AI evolves as time progresses.

  1. Docusign releases report on benefits of remote work after forcing employees back to the office

We’ve covered how remote work can be beneficial for a number of reasons before, and pushback to in-office mandates is bound to occur at times. But we haven’t seen a company formally state that remote work is great, only to call back employees to their desks.

According to GeekWire:

The 30-page report found that more than three-quarters of the business executives polled agree that the flexibility to work at any time and from any location has boosted productivity.

We’re heartened by the survey results, showing that so many executives and consumers share our excitement about the possibilities that the anywhere economy presents,” DocuSign CEO Allan Thygesen wrote in the report.

In a foreword included in the report, Thygesen said: “The anywhere economy is giving people greater flexibility in how, when and where they work. This is boosting diversity and inclusion, and creating new economic opportunities for people who previously have been marginalized, including those in rural areas and developing economies.”

Uh oh — looks like a bit of hypocrisy here! Docusign’s situation is a classic case of do as I say, not as I do. If remote work is so beneficial, let it remain in place. The workplace changed forever in the wake of the pandemic, and the patterns developed are going to stick. Companies should communicate expectations clearly, but if it works, they should be consistent in those communications too, and follow the data.

  1. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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