Last week I wrote that I am a big Apple fan, and I am. I think its products are better than other technology companies and that's especially true of Microsoft.
Anyone who's ever spent hours trying to debug a Windows-based PC or closing out pop-ups ad that appear with all the frequency of horse flies on any New England beach during Labor Day weekend knows what I mean.
For years, the Microsofties would argue this point with me, boasting about their dominance in market share and software product availability. Like liberals and conservatives, or Yankee fans versus Red Sox fans, there really is no honest debate between fans of Microsoft and Apple. The other side can never concede a point.
But, to turn a phrase, the apple has turned in recent years. First, with the sleek new G-5's, then the i-Pod, and this year the i-Phone, Apple has dominated Microsoft in the marketplace of technological ideas. Even Microsfot employees have noticed, as flat-lining market share and a sluggish stock price have caused the company to tighten the spending reins and clamp down on former necessities, like dry towels in employee locker rooms, that have now become luxuries to Microsoft bean-counters. In java-crazy Seattle, Mictosoft employees were even complaining about the quality of the company's cafeteria coffee.
With favorite perks on the chopping block and increasingly listless company stock options on the minds of staffers, Microsoft had a burgeoning employee morale program. Employees look at the progress of competitors like Apple and Google and were growing envious.
But Microsoft, like this years edition of the Yankees, isn't throwing in the towel yet (they're just throwing the actual ones out). In what many in the industry are deeming a brilliant hire, Steven A. Ballmer named former product manager Lisa Brummel as HR director.
The antithesis of the staid HR manager, Brummel is all shorts, sneakers, and attitude. She has come in and changed the company's archaic review process, put a stop to silly corporate penny-pinching o staffer perks, and hit the road to meet employees face-to-face to find out just how far off the beam Microsoft has gone with its employee relations philosophy in recent years. A lot of company insiders say she is turning the company's morale problem around, and in two years, no less.
Good for Microsoft. Happy, dry, java-stoked employes are productive employees. Points go to Ballmer for noticing that. Turnover had rose from 6.7% in 2002 to 9.4% in 2004 - a period Microsofties now refer to as "The Dark Ages". Something had to be done.
Thanks to Brummel, there is light at the end of the tunnel.