CEOs have an overwhelming amount to worry about and focus on, especially incredibly complex tech companies like Microsoft. That’s why I found Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s sit-down interview on July 25th with cheddar.com so intriguing.
Nadella was asked for the secret behind Microsoft’s resurgence. It passed a trillion-dollar valuation in April, becoming the third company to do so after Apple and Amazon.
Nadella broadened the scope of the question to apply not just to what has been making Microsoft hum, but what the key is to unlocking any company’s full potential. His answer was surprising.
He said that it comes down to the company’s culture; culture as being not what you work on, but how the company can work for you. He said that a strong company culture happens when each employee is able to bring their personal passions and philosophies to work in a way that creates meaning for them. As he said in the interview, it’s “the biggest unlock any corporation can do,” and what Microsoft is trying to pursue.
Connect employees’ work to the meaning behind it.
The Microsoft CEO could have focused on a bevy of things as keys to Microsoft’s recent success but he chose to discuss the company’s culture. More specifically, how the culture allows people to live their personal passions at work and how it fosters meaning.
Last June, I keynoted at Microsoft (at their Redmond campus), and I call tell you first-hand I saw a very mission-driven organization. I dined with some Microsoft employees after the keynote and was struck by how many mentioned to me (unprompted) that the company fostered an environment where they could bring their considerable passion to work every day–and about how personally meaningful they felt their time spent at work was (and how purpose-driven it felt). This jives with what Nadella also speaks publicly about: his desire to drive a sense of purpose in employees’ work.
Employee sentiment is critical for the long-term health of Microsoft or any company, as my research for Make It Matter clearly indicates that Millennials and Gen-Z value meaning in and at work more than any other “perk.” And as I shared in Make It Matter, you too can foster meaning at work for your employees (and yourself) in many powerful ways.
Help employees connect their work to a broader sense of purpose. Help them define what they specifically want their legacy to be at work and help them achieve it. Invest in their learning and personal growth, grant them vast amounts of autonomy and help boost their self-esteem, show up as visibly caring about them and their careers, prioritize building a cohesive and interdependent team, and role model authentic behavior (to encourage them to bring their whole selves to work).
All of this will add up to a meaning-rich culture which will unlock the organization’s fullest potential.
The truth is, fostering meaning is a competitive advantage and a compassionate advantage. If given the means and opportunity, why wouldn’t you want to create a meaning-rich, fulfilling work environment for your fellow human beings? The good news is that it will be meaningful for you too.