These days, managers don’t simply need to verify that employees are being productive—they need to know whether or not they are thriving. But is it possible to measure that?

Microsoft attempted to do so. The company began seeking twice-yearly feedback from employees, presenting them with a straightforward survey with subjective questions that let them answer on a five-point scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” Based on their responses, 77 percent of employees qualified as 'thriving'—a number Microsoft sees as strong, but one that could still be improved.

Microsoft’s Head of People Analytics Dawn Klinghoffer helped create this survey. She leverages data to help the company’s leaders understand and improve employee experience. Klinghoffer joined us on the podcast to discuss how companies can determine if employees feel empowered, energized, and eager to embrace a growth mindset. She talks us through her fascinating methodology, as well as how leaders can make use of this data. What boosts employee energy? What drains it? And how did “generating energy” become a leadership principle at Microsoft?

Three big takeaways from this conversation:

  1. Klinghoffer discusses how Microsoft defines thriving. “Thriving is to be energized and empowered to do meaningful work. I mean, work can be hard, and you want to be energized every day and wake up in the morning and say, ‘Wow, I'm really excited to tackle this challenge.’ It’s bringing that energy to everything that you do. And if you have a leader that's generating that energy, it can be contagious.”

  2. She talks about how managers can spot when an employee’s battery is running low and help them recharge. “You can be intentional, really understanding what makes your employees tick. And that’s not something that you can just get from a survey. That's about manager and employee relationships. One employee might need something very different than another employee. Understanding what it is that you can do to help your employee can really help them deal with the human energy crisis .”

  3. Klinghoffer’s research showed the importance of establishing a strong connection between managers and employees during onboarding. “You can’t be on vacation when your new employees start. You can't say, ‘I’m too busy, just do your training and I'll see you soon.’ Meeting with them is really important for building that trusting relationship, and then having these ongoing conversations that are not just check-the-box exercises, but really digging in. ‘How are you doing? What can I do to support your well-being?’ ”

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Here’s a transcript of the Episode 5 conversation.

ELISE HU: This is WorkLab , the podcast from Microsoft. I'm your host, Elise Hu. On WorkLab , we hear from leading thinkers on the future of work—economists, technologists, researchers. They share surprising data and explore the trends transforming the way we work. 

DAWN KLINGHOFFER: At Microsoft, we have intentional career conversations during our Connect process, which is twice a year, but you don't just have to do that twice a year. You can sometimes see it, and hear it, when you're having a one-on-one with your employee that they might need a change. And even initiating that conversation to say, ‘Hey, is there something I can do to help you get to that next move that you're looking for and provide you with a little bit more energy?’