TAIPEI, Nov. 6th, 2021. The fourth session of Leaders Forum took place last Saturday in the form of a rousing and inspiring speech led by Ms. Flora Chen, Chief of Marketing and Operations for Microsoft Taiwan.
Ms. Chen has nearly 20 years of experience as professional cross-area manager. She has directed complex and cross-region projects from concept to fully operational status in big organizations, such as: Far EastTone and Hewlett Packard, in the function of customer facing, technical engineering and operation. Currently in an upper management position for Microsoft, her topic for the session was the company’s experience during the outbreak of COVID-19 and Microsoft's future direction towards the post-pandemic era.
Digital transformation is a topic that has been touched upon many times as we move unto a more competitive world, Ms. Chen began. Most recently, however, the focal point has shifted from digital transformation to digital acceleration, especially in a COVID-19 affected world. Driven by the company’s mission and growth mindset, Microsoft highlights the importance of customer obsession and industry clouds to gather data that helps them make critical decisions.
“Digital transformation is not only for big companies anymore, but also for small and medium sized enterprises.”
Ms. Chen explained that the digital feedback loop is becoming increasingly important to aid the company listen to their customers and achieve more, allowing to empower employees, engage with customers, transform products, and optimize operations, always revolving around data, cybersecurity, and intelligence. This results on products becoming more user friendly than before and customers recognizing their trustworthiness.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reshaped the workplace. For Microsoft it was no different. Ms. Chen described how the company implemented hybrid work mode and how employees now want flexible remote work options to continue. Although flexibility was welcomed, she also noted that the majority of workers also crave more in-person time with their teams. As hybrid work has been inevitably implemented worldwide, digital overload is real and climbing, draining employees. Consequently, Microsoft’s culture changed to give time back to the employee to let them prioritize their wellbeing and boost productivity. Based on their own experience, Microsoft developed and recently launched Viva, a new platform inside Microsoft Teams that aims to help businesses with remote work.
Regarding the direction of the company post COVID-19, Ms. Chen mentioned some of the projects Microsoft has been focusing on in several fields, such as financial service solutions, tele-health services, online education, implementation of 5G, blockchain, cloud computing and data science for manufacturing areas and other industries to improve operation and productivity. All these projects fall in line with Microsoft’s vision reimagining a better future for the society.
Ms. Chen then approached the topic of effective leadership, especially in a big organization. She remarked that leadership, in order to be fruitful, is not only the responsibility of top and executive management but requires all employees within the company. To keep engagement, Microsoft guides itself with three fundamental principles: Create clarity, generate energy, and deliver success. To create clarity, they ensure the strategy of change cascades through the organization to ensure each worker is on the same page. To generate energy, they create safe environments for workers to talk freely and inspire creativity, growth, and optimism. Finally, to deliver success, they drive innovation through constant pursue of the right outcomes by dynamic feedback and encouraging role models that lead change with curiosity and patience.
After her speech, students were grateful to Ms. Chen for a wonderful presentation and her generous insight, and enthusiastically posed questions about the company’s vision into the future, increasing accessibility features, and tips for time management. When asked about some guidance to become better professionals and ways enhance leadership, Ms. Chen simply said:
“Keep learning. Keep reading. Treat everyone equally and respectfully.”
As her final reflection, Ms. Chen stated that successfully leading others mostly involved reminding oneself of what their own true value is. In her case, it is the question of how she can help other people up in the society, and that she always guides herself by the “Respect the capability, not the seniority” principle, which she tries to instill in everybody. Leading with empathy, diversity, and inclusivity, you can start to change the organizational culture to empower the employee and nurture the innovation that every business needs to grow and make a difference in the society.
Ms. Chen begins her presentation.
Ms. Chen explains how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the workplace.
Ms. Chen was happy to answer the many questions students raised and provide leadership advice.
IMBA students and Alumni pose with Professor Shang and Ms. Chen.