Microsoft Case Study

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Microsoft: Competing on Talent
Microsoft has had a long standing practice of aggressively pursuing and hiring the brightest engineers in the software field. Yet by 1999 Microsoft had matured and many of its talent employees were leaving the company as documented in a Wall Street Journal article “As Microsoft Matures, Some Top Talent Chooses to Go Off Line”. The article reported that many employees were tired of grueling deadlines, frustrated by the bureaucracy, and lured away by high-tech start-ups. Newly appointed president and COO recognized that Microsoft had to change or adapt some of the human resource practices it had used in the past. This paper will analyze the case study and discuss Microsoft’s human resource policies past and present. WORKING AT MICROSOFT

Microsoft Corporation is considered the New York Yankees of computer software. They have built a reputation on only hiring the most talented and intelligent developers in the industry. Not only do they focus on hiring the brightest, but they also make a point to retain their employees through competitive pay, generous stock options, and engaging work environment. Engineers see working at Microsoft as a status symbol, similar to being accepted at an Ivy League college. Developing software is much like being an artist, you take an idea or concept and turn that into something concrete, similar to a painting. If people like what you have created they will buy it and that is ultimately how the product is judged. Microsoft is the leader of the personal computer and workstation industry, so developers feel that working at Microsoft is an opportunity to showcase their talents and products to the widest audience. Knowing the breadth of customers utilizing Microsoft’s products motivates the employees to work hard and create something special. In addition, the large customer base also motives the employees not to fail, and this fear of failure contributes to the hard working culture within the company. Microsoft has kept a hiring mantra of hiring smart and hard working individuals who can get things done. These individuals perpetuate the fast pace culture at Microsoft. RECRUITING PRACTICES

Microsoft has a very aggressive recruiting practice. They restrict their college recruiting to elite education institutions such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, Carnegie-Melon, and Stanford. And they also preferred hiring people who didn’t have to unlearn different company values, work habits, or technological approaches. This recruiting philosophy does have some vulnerabilities in that it is suspect to hiring the same personality type and style throughout the company. By selecting people all from similar educational backgrounds, it may limit creativity and the possibility for alternate solutions since many of the employees were instructed in similar manners. In analyzing the selection methods used by Microsoft the reliability of their process may be suspect to random error. The ad hoc nature of the questions presented to the candidate opens up the possibility denying an exceptional candidate, or accepting a lesser one. Asking a person who does not watch TV to develop a remote control will not accurately reflect their creativity. Due to the success of Microsoft and its products that the employees produce, the validity of their process appears to be acceptable. The specific interview process described in the case study is very specific to technical personnel. This particular process is not generalizable in that it could not be applied to other areas of the company such as sales, marketing, or support. Although Microsoft seems to invest a significant amount of resources to their recruitment, the benefits of hiring these talented employees far outweigh the cost; giving the process high utility. I am not aware of any legal action against...
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