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#WorkTrends: How to Make Your Work Culture Rock


What does a person do when the pressure is on them? That’s what NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo asked in his daily press conference on March 26. The same could be asked of our organizations. In her #WorkTrends conversation with workplace culture expert Jim Knight, Meghan M. Biro started by thanking everyone working today — particularly those of you in HR and management who are doing your best to keep your people safe. This is a transformation no one asked for — a sudden and mandatory shift to remote, to flexible schedules, to sitting in kitchens, to navigating new platforms and software, and to trying to virtually and digitally maintain the values of a workplace. What enables that to happen is culture.

Jim built his career as part of the Hard Rock International brand, creating award-winning training programs to catalyze learning and growth. He’s also the author of the bestselling Culture That Rocks: How to Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture

As he and Meghan started jamming on the concept of culture, it was clear they agree that culture is anything but a logo or a color scheme. “It’s always going to be about the people that are currently working in the business at that moment….at the core it starts with each individual with their own unique behaviors, and then when you put them together, if you’ve got similar values and shared experiences, that’s when the culture becomes more robust.”

Meghan pointed out that it’s often a challenge for organizations to find out who their rock stars are — and noted that we often know who the innovators and key players are “in our gut,” aside from the data. Jim added that often, the great ones may be flying right under the radar. Finding them is a matter of looking for those great qualities even before they walk in, and then giving them a culture that brings those to the fore, that celebrates those behaviors.“ Then you can keep them because frankly, they’re a bit in love. And part of that culture has to be wanting to help the world, support the greater good — and be larger than your product or service, both agreed. In other words, your culture has to rock — and that’s when you’ll see people lean into the pressure, take on the challenges, and truly lead.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do many organizations struggle with creating a great work culture?  #WorkTrends
Q2: What internal and external strategies can improve work cultures? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help organizations improve their work culture? #WorkTrends

Find Jim Knight on Linkedin and Twitter



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#WorkTrends: The Power of Business Readiness


Meghan M. Biro sat down with Tim Minahan, the Executive Vice President of Business Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix, for a frank discussion about being ready for anything in your business — including COVID-19. Meghan and our team at TalentCulture have been talking about crisis management and business continuity quite a lot — in another time we might even say business readiness is trending. But the gravity of what’s happening today has thrust the challenge into a whole new light. And what Tim pointed out will likely ring true for many of us: “The thing about unplanned events is that too few companies actually plan for them.”

Sustaining a business through an unprecedented crisis — whether a natural disaster or a global pandemic — requires foresight and frank assessments. It also takes more than thinking in terms of crisis management, Tim and Meghan agreed. To truly scale up, scale down, or simply sustain tremendous pressures takes being solidly prepared. As Meghan noted, “That’s when you really know you don’t have cracks in your company’s foundation, when you can turn around just like that.” What followed included some inspiring real-world examples of how businesses can make themselves ready — for anything that happens. And a few thru-lines to note here: employee experience has to stay front and center of the conversation, a flexible, work-from-anywhere environment is going to be key, and perpetual learning is going to be more important than ever.

This post is sponsored by Citrix 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do many brands struggle with business readiness?  #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can improve our ability to navigate change? #WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help organizations improve business readiness? #WorkTrends

Find Tim Minahan on Linkedin and Twitter



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Delivering information and eliminating bottlenecks with CDC’s COVID-19 assessment bot


In a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not only important to deliver medical care but to also provide information to help people make decisions and prevent health systems from being overwhelmed.

Microsoft is helping with this challenge by offering its Healthcare Bot service powered by Microsoft Azure to organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response to help screen patients for potential infection and care.

For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a COVID-19 assessment bot that can quickly assess the symptoms and risk factors for people worried about infection, provide information and suggest a next course of action such as contacting a medical provider or, for those who do not need in-person medical care, managing the illness safely at home.

The bot, which utilizes Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service, will initially be available on the CDC website.

Public health organizations, hospitals and others on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response need to be able to respond to inquiries, provide the public with up-to-date outbreak information, track exposure, quickly triage new cases and guide next steps.  Many have expressed great concern about the overwhelming demand COVID-19 is creating on resources such as urgent, emergency and nursing care.

In particular, the need to screen patients with any number of cold or flu-like symptoms — to determine who has high enough risk factors to need access to limited medical resources and which people may more safely care for themselves at home — is a bottleneck that threatens to overwhelm health systems coping with the crisis.

Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service is one solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help the CDC and other frontline organizations respond to these inquiries, freeing up doctors, nurses, administrators and other healthcare professionals to provide critical care to those who need it.

The Healthcare Bot service is a scalable Azure-based public cloud service that allows organizations to quickly build and deploy an AI-powered bot for websites or applications that can offer patients or the general public personalized access to health-related information through a natural conversation experience. It can be easily customized to suit an organization’s own scenarios and protocols.

To assist customers in the rapid deployment of their COVID-19 bots, Microsoft is making available a set of COVID-19 response templates that customers can use and modify:

  • COVID-19 risk assessment based on CDC guidelines
  • COVID-19 clinical triage based on CDC protocols
  • COVID-19 up-to-date answers to frequently asked questions
  • COVID-19 worldwide metrics
COVID-19 assessment bot screenshots
Screenshots from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 assessment bot.

Providence, one of the largest health systems in the U.S. headquartered near Seattle and serving seven Western states, had previously used Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service running on Azure to create a healthcare chatbot named Grace that could help answer patient’s questions online. Using CDC guidelines and its own clinical protocols, Providence was able to build a similar Coronavirus Assessment Tool in just three days to help people in the communities it serves know whether they should seek medical attention for their respiratory symptoms.

The tool, which launched in early March, can bring a prospective patient directly into a telehealth session with a clinician to get immediate care.  It also aims to prevent healthy people or those with mild symptoms from showing up at clinics and emergency departments, which helps to limit community infection and save hospital beds and equipment for those who need it.

Other providers who are now using Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service to respond to COVID-19 inquiries include:

Virginia Mason Health System, based in Seattle and serving the Pacific Northwest region, has created a patient assessment Healthcare Bot to help its patients understand whether care is needed. The instance is live and has thousands of daily users.

Novant Health, a healthcare provider in four states in the Southeast with one of the largest medical groups in the country, has created a Healthcare bot for COVID-19 information that went live on its website within a few days, with thousands of daily users since its launch.

Across all users, customized instances of Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service are now fielding more than 1 million messages per day from members of the public who are concerned about COVID-19 infections — a number we expect to escalate quickly to meet growing needs. We hope the answers it can provide will curb anxiety that the “worried well” may experience without clear guidance and save lives by speeding the path to care for those who need it most.

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Women as allies for women: Understanding intersectionality


One of my earliest learnings was that my experiences as a woman were not identical to other women’s experiences, although they were similar. As with any dimension of identity, the way women experience the world depends on much larger context. As a white girl growing up in Victoria, British Columbia, there were multiple layers to my experiences. Although my brothers and I had what was necessary, we did not have much socioeconomic privilege. What I learned as I watched the world around me is that as a benefit of my race, it was easier for me to cover my socioeconomic status than it was for my friends who were not white.

The United Nations marked March 8 as International Women’s Day by declaring that “fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women everywhere.” This declaration is inclusive of all women with intersectionality in mind.

Understanding intersectionality in the workplace

It starts with something as simple as the way we think about all the dimensions of our identity, including things like race, ethnicity, disability, religion, age and sexual orientation. Even class, education, geography and personal history can alter how we experience womanhood. When Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality 30 years ago, she explained it as how these overlapping identities and conditions impact the way we experience life’s challenges and opportunities, the privileges we have, the biases we face.

So simply focusing on a single dimension of identity, without that context, is not always helpful. When we consider women as a single category, as a monolith, it can be misleading at best, dangerous at worst. Doing so overlooks the variations of circumstances and perspectives within the group and obscures real lived experiences as outliers or exceptions. “Women’s workplace issues” is a vague term without enough specificity to drive action. Women of color, women with disabilities, transgender women, women who are the first of their family to work corporate or professional jobs, women who are caregivers — all women deal with additional social, cultural, regional or community demands that may not exist for others. Although all women navigate varying degrees of conscious and unconscious gender biases, intersections of identity can place compounded pressure on a woman to downplay other aspects of her life to conform — a behavior called covering, as explored by Kenji Yoshino — leading to even greater workplace stress.

To increase hiring, retention, representation and the development of women in the workplace, companies must be intentional and accountable for being aware of the diversity within the diversity. Conventional strategies to increase the representation of women in a workplace have mostly benefited those who do not also experience intersectional challenges. By getting curious and exploring the lived experiences of women through the lens of intersectionality, we become more precise about the root cause and about finding ways to generate systemic solutions for all.

Setting the stage for allyship

 Understanding all this can be a powerful catalyst for change, not just for organizations as a whole but also for individuals. At Microsoft we are refining how we think about allyship. Part of that exploration is the recognition that as Microsoft employees each of us has some dimension of privilege. This isn’t meant to minimize or negate the very real ways that communities experience significant, systematic historical bias or oppression. But rather it is meant to shine a light on our opportunity to show up for each other. For example, as a community of women we have an opportunity to be more thoughtful about the experiences of our peers who face greater challenges due to their intersectional identity. So although traditionally we might look to men in the workplace to carry the full weight of allyship, women in the workplace also have an opportunity to be thoughtful allies for others in their community.

Such an awareness opens the door for true allyship — an intentional commitment to use your voice, credibility, knowledge, place or power to support others in the way they want to be supported. I am very aware of my opportunity, due to my personal privilege, to show up for other women in a meaningful way. I embrace my obligation to create space for other voices to be heard, not just on International Women’s Day, but all year round.

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#WorkTrends HR + Marketing: Employer Brand Superteam


Meghan M. Biro brought not one but two guests to the #WorkTrends podcast this week: Diane Adams, Sprinklr’s Chief Culture and Talent Officer, and Grad Conn, Sprinklr’s Chief Experience and Marketing Officer. The topic: what happens when HR and marketing really work together on talent strategies. In this case, the result is nothing short of alchemy. The two will be appearing at the upcoming HR Transform conference, later this year. “Creating a Winning Culture Where People Thrive Personally & Professionally.” The #WorkTrends audience got a taste of things to come.

Diane and Grad Conn talked about the approaches they’re using at Sprinklr to attract engage and retain top talent — which openly draws on the best of marketing and HR in order to build a workplace culture that people can be proud of — and are. They shared marketing strategies that cross over from customer engagement to candidate and employee engagement. Brand messaging takes on a whole new meaning when it has to do with the employer — but when your employees are on board, the benefits extend directly to your customers as well.

Diane talked about how they built a dynamic partnership between HR and marketing, establishing values for Sprinklr that drove stellar employee as well as customer experiences. She said, “We referred to it as The Sprinklr Way —  our foundation for how we live, how we work, and how the values of our employees and our company are then transcended externally to our customers. Happy employees, happy customers.” 

“People sometimes think of marketing as just an external function. But you have to sell to your own employees just as much as you need to sell to customers,” Grad pointed out.  

This was a conversation that hit home: employer brand isn’t just an idea, it needs to be a reality in every organization. In this era when your employer brand is only as good as the outside world’s perception, crafting an authentic and appealing culture is a smart business strategy. As Meghan noted, given today’s focus on crafting great workplace cultures, “it all makes sense.” 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions 

Q1: Why are some employers losing ground at attracting and engaging talent?  #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help organizations create a great workplace culture? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders help their organizations better bring in and keep top talent? #WorkTrends

Find Diane Adams on Linkedin and Twitter
Find Grad Conn on Linkedin and Twitter

This post is sponsored by HR Transform.



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Continuous Listening: How to Foster Stronger Communication with Employees


This is the first in a two-piece guest series on Continuous Listening. 

Human Resources departments own many responsibilities that directly contribute to the overall success of a company. According to Sari Levine Wilde, managing vice president of Gartner, “The businesses that are successful today and in the future, will be those that win when it comes to talent…This means helping employees build critical skills and developing employees into leaders.”  One of the burning questions today is how we can achieve that mission. 

Howard Moskowitz, a psychologist in the field of psycho-physics and a renowned market researcher, was hired by PepsiCo to determine the optimal quantity of artificial sweetener for a Diet Pepsi product. He faced a similar challenge, as mentioned by author Malcolm Gladwell in his TED Talk. With the aim of maximizing sales, Moskowitz conducted empirical tests, which provided unexpected results. He examined the data and concluded that there was no such thing as a perfect Diet Pepsi! Due to the multitude of variations between human tastes, Moskowitz found that the best option to maximize the number of sales was by offering a collection of lower calorie flavors along the scale of taste. 

Returning to the HR dilemma, a one-size-fits-all approach to HR is guaranteed to overlook the needs of many employees. More specifically, each employee journey is unique and thus HR must find ways to observe, tune in, and adapt to address individual employees in a more personalized manner.

Disjointed Employee View and Continuous Listening

In order to understand employees and their level of engagement when it comes to business goals, HR must continually gather information by asking questions and listening to employee responses. These standard HR processes currently serve as milestone events for gathering data, but with so many aspects of the employee lifecycle to monitor, it can be difficult to build a comprehensive view of the culture, engagement, retention, and success of employees. The process of data collection is usually transactional, though sometimes there are opportunities to gather evaluative information as well. In this respect, many challenges that HR professionals are faced with when attempting to gather this comprehensive data can be addressed by a strategy known as Continuous Listening. 

Continuous Listening is a methodology grounded in the philosophy that feedback matters all the time — not just once a year during a performance review, or once a year during an engagement survey. Feedback matters even after employees leave an organization and unofficially serve as alumni ambassadors for your brand. It matters because every employee has a unique journey that begins with a handshake and a contract that says, “We will do this for each other.” 

HR organizations that begin gathering evaluative feedback from employees during such milestones will gain valuable insights that leaders can use to better manage the workforce. An added benefit is that once in place, this feedback process can gain further traction as employees witness leaders responding to their feedback. This reinforces more open lines of communication, which is a recipe for future success. For every milestone along the  employee journey milestones, here are some sample evaluative questions that HR should be asking in order to enrich the information that is later provided to company leaders: 

Employee Journey Milestones Sample Evaluative Question 
Recruiting Would your employees recommend your organization to their professional network? 
Onboarding Do your onboarding processes achieve the cultural immersion and integration you need? 
Development Is your development process providing the right knowledge and skills to drive successful employee outcomes in meeting the needs of tomorrow?
Performance Management Is the performance management process identifying, recognizing, and rewarding talent? 
Engagement How much do you really know about your employees’ experiences? Are your efforts encouraging or destroying employee goodwill, motivation, and engagement? How often do you measure employee engagement? Once every two years? Annually? Bi-annually?
Promotion & Career Growth Are you identifying employees with strong potential and directing them toward leadership positions? Is your leadership pipeline full enough to meet resource planning goals?
Compensation & Benefits Is your compensation and benefits plan competitive? Is the plan sufficient to keep high-value employees engaged?
Retention Do you know what motivates your employees’ decisions to stay and grow with your organization, and what motivates them to seek opportunities elsewhere? Are you systematically collecting the data needed to analyze and improve the employee experience from hire to retire? 

Feedback matters because whatever the expression, it contributes to the roadmap aimed at improving the overall organization. By implementing a Continuous Listening strategy, we can begin to explore how to best address specific HR challenges. For that, stay tuned for the second piece in this series. 

 



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Creating a world of good: Microsoft launches the Global Social Entrepreneurship program


Imagine what it would mean if communities that lack access to safe drinking water had a simple, affordable way to test their water supply for cholera, a water-borne disease that sickens 4 million people every year and causes an estimated 143,000 deaths? Or if we could skim plastic bottles, bags and microfibers from coastal waterways around the world? And what if there was a way to connect Africa’s growing community of young data scientists with organizations that have valuable data sets but lack the expertise to uncover the insights that the data might provide?

Whether it’s by saving lives, protecting the marine environment or focusing the talent of up-and-coming experts in machine learning on local issues in Africa, each one would mark an important step toward addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The good news is that today, this work is already happening. It’s happening at startups that are creating new businesses, built around powerful technologies and designed to make the world a better place. A smartphone-based cholera detection system developed by OmniVis is already being tested in field studies in Bangladesh and elsewhere. More than 800 trash-skimming devices deployed by Seabin Project have collected more than half a million tons of marine litter, the majority of which is microplastics. And more than 10,000 data scientists have signed up for Zindi’s web platform, which has hosted dozens of competitions that have yielded valuable artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for companies, nonprofits and government organizations across Africa and around the world.

This is truly just the beginning. Around the world, innovators and entrepreneurs are finding new ways to harness technology to fuel purpose-driven social enterprises that measure success not just by the profit they generate, but by the good they do. At Microsoft, we are deeply inspired by the commitment of these social entrepreneurs, who are focusing their passion for positive change on improving human health and the environment, advancing social and economic equity, and much more.

But these are huge, complicated problems and far too large for any single organization to hope to solve alone. So to empower social entrepreneurs, Microsoft is launching a new Global Social Entrepreneurship program to offer qualified startups access to technology, education, customers and grants.

Our global initiative is designed to help social enterprise startups build and scale their companies to do good globally. The program is available in 140 countries and will actively seek to support underrepresented founders with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. The criteria to qualify for the program include a business metric that measures impact on an important social or environmental challenge; an established product or service that will benefit from access to enterprise customers; and a commitment to the ethical and responsible use of AI.

At Microsoft, we believe in providing the foundational building blocks to help social entrepreneurs create companies that can achieve worldwide impact. Social enterprises that become part of the Global Social Entrepreneurship program will receive access to free Microsoft cloud technologies, including up to $120,000 in Azure credits, along with technical support and guidance. A dedicated program manager will help Global Social Entrepreneurship startups market and sell solutions and connect to large commercial organizations and nongovernmental organizations that are potential customers. Participants focused on sustainability, accessibility, and skills and employability will also be eligible for grants. And social enterprises that join the Global Social Entrepreneurship program will be part of a worldwide community of like-minded innovators who come together to share ideas, foster connections and celebrate success.

To help us identify promising social entrepreneurs from around the world who are pursuing innovative tech-based solutions that can have a transformational impact, we’re excited to be working with organizations like MIT Solve. A marketplace for social impact innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Solve currently supports more 130 teams of social entrepreneurs – more than half of which are led by women – from 36 countries. With its global reach and reputation, Solve will ensure that we recruit talented social entrepreneurs who might otherwise be overlooked.

I see social enterprise startups like OmniVis, Seabin Project and Zindi as examples of one of the most important trends of the past decade – the growing recognition that building a business can be a powerful way to be a force for progress to benefit people and the planet. It’s an idea that has been gathering momentum. A 2016 report by the Global Entrepreneur Monitor found that one-third of startups around the world were focused on social good rather than just commercial success.

Today, social entrepreneurship is much more than a trend. It has developed into a global movement as more and more entrepreneurs find innovative ways to use AI to pioneer new approaches to solving the problems the world faces. For many of them, it is a chance to turn a lifelong passion into mission-driven enterprise that can thrive because it is doing good and driving positive change.

Dr. Katherine Clayton, the founder of OmniVis – which was selected as a 2019 Solver with MIT Solve – is a great example. After her uncle died of AIDS when she was just 7 years old, she declared she was going to get rid of disease when she grew up. It was a promise that led her to study biomedical engineering in college and then work on water safety issues in rural Thailand in a study-abroad trip alongside Engineers Without Borders. When she learned about the impact of cholera on vulnerable communities around the world, she saw a perfect opportunity to bring her knowledge of technology together with her desire help rid the world of life-threatening health issues.

One reason cholera is so difficult to control is that current tests for the bacteria must be processed in a major laboratory, which takes days and comes with high costs. Working with colleagues at Purdue University, Clayton has developed a simple, cellphone-based device that can analyze a few drops of water and provide an answer within minutes and then transmit location data to let health authorities know where to send the supplies needed to prevent an outbreak. And all for less than $10 a test.

Seabin Project is a similar story of lifelong passion applied to a contemporary problem. It was co-founded by Pete Ceglinski, who grew up in a small coastal town in Australia, where he learned to surf at age 8. He began his career as a product designer in Perth while still in his 20s and then became a builder of high performance boats for America’s Cup racing teams.

In 2014, Ceglinski quit his job and used his life savings to launch Seabin Project. Based on a business model pioneered by Patagonia, Seabin Project combines education and technology, with a goal of removing debris from the ocean and teaching people that if we are smarter about the use of plastics, we can keep them out of our oceans in the first place.

Named one of the world’s 50 best inventions by Time magazine in 2018 and recognized by the U.N. as a technology that can help address ocean pollution, Seabin trash skimmers are now trapping an average of 3.6 tons of marine litter per day in ports and marinas in more than 52 countries. And the devices not only collect trash, they collect data that scientists can use to better understand the impact that plastic debris has on marine life and human health.

At Zindi, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa, CEO Celina Lee sees incredible opportunities to be a catalyst for applying the power of AI to challenges for businesses, nonprofits and governments in Africa. A platform for hosting online machine learning competitions, Zindi connects engineers and data scientists at every level of experience with organizations that have difficult problems that machine learning and AI can help solve. Recent Zindi competitions include a UNICEF-sponsored effort to use AI to predict the impact of flooding in Malawi, a challenge to be presented at the International Conference on Learning Representations to use computer vision to recognize crop diseases, and a competition sponsored by Tunisia’s Ministry of Finance to use AI to detect tax fraud.

As important as the results of these competition are in creating AI solutions to meet the specific needs of African communities and organizations, Lee believes Zindi can have an even greater long-term impact by helping to build and support a thriving AI ecosystem in Africa and by giving young data scientists opportunities to improve their skills, build their work portfolios and connect with potential employers.

I never stop being inspired by the passion and purpose of people like Katherine Clayton, Pete Ceglinski and Celina Lee, who have dedicated their knowledge, time and resources to making a difference in the world. At Microsoft, we are honored to stand with them by offering access to technology, financing, partners, customers and a community that recognizes that people have great power to effect positive change if they have the right resources.

I believe more than ever that amazing things happen when startups work together with investors, enterprises, governments, nonprofits and communities. Through Global Social Entrepreneurship, we look forward to working in close partnership with social enterprises from around the world. I can’t think of a more compelling way to help create a sustainable, accessible and equitable world. To learn more and apply, please visit: https://startups.microsoft.com/en-us/social-entrepreneurship/

 

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Delivering on the promise of security AI to help defenders protect today’s hybrid environments


Technology is reshaping society – artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling us to increase crop yields, protect endangered animals and improve access to healthcare. Technology is also transforming criminal enterprises, which are developing increasingly targeted attacks against a growing range of devices and services. Using the cloud to harness the largest and most diverse set of signals – with the right mix of AI and human defenders – we can turn the tide in cybersecurity. Microsoft is announcing new capabilities in AI and automation available today to accelerate that change.

Cybersecurity always comes down to people – good and bad. Our optimism is grounded in our belief in the potential for good people and technology to work in harmony to accomplish amazing things. After years of investment and engineering work, the data now shows that Microsoft is delivering on the potential of AI to enable defenders to protect data and manage risk across the full breadth of their digital estates.

The AI capabilities built into Microsoft Security solutions are trained on 8 trillion daily threat signals and the insights of 3,500 security experts. Custom algorithms and machine learning models make, and learn from, billions of queries every day. As a result, Microsoft Security solutions help identify and respond to threats 50% faster than was possible just 12 months ago. Today, Microsoft Security solutions are able to automate 97% of the routine tasks that occupied defenders’ valuable time just two years ago.

Microsoft Threat Protection, generally available today, does the heavy lifting for defenders by proactively hunting across users, email, applications and endpoints – including Mac and Linux. It brings together alerts and takes action using AI and automation. Microsoft Threat Protection breaks down security silos so security professionals can automatically detect, investigate and stop coordinated multi-point attacks. It weeds out the unimportant and amplifies signals that might have been missed, freeing defenders to work on the incidents that need their attention. With identity protection as a core component, it is the only solution of its type that is designed for Zero Trust. More details on the Microsoft Threat Protection announcement can be found on the Microsoft Security Blog.

It also builds upon solutions recognized as leaders in their categories, like Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for endpoint security. Microsoft Defender ATP offers preventive protection, post-breach detection and automated investigation and response for Windows and macOS. Today we’re announcing support for Linux and plans for iOS and Android as well.

Azure Sentinel, the first cloud-native SIEM with fusion AI technology turns huge volumes of low fidelity signals into a few important incidents for security professionals to focus on. In December 2019 alone, within Microsoft, Azure Sentinel evaluated nearly 50 billion suspicious signals that in practical terms would be impossible for people to manually analyze and emitted just 25 high-confidence incidents for SecOps teams to investigate.

Microsoft was the first major cloud company to embrace the reality of the hybrid and multi-cloud enterprise, with more than 60% of enterprises using two or more cloud platforms. We’re committed to helping SecOps defend the entire stack, not only Microsoft workloads, and that’s why Azure Sentinel brings together events generated by security products from leading vendors such as Palo Alto Networks with the signals generated by cloud platforms such as AWS, providing security teams with visibility across their estates. To further help our customers secure their entire multi-cloud estates, today we are announcing the general availability of the Azure Sentinel connector for IoT and the ability to import AWS CloudTrail logs into Azure Sentinel at no additional cost from Feb. 24, 2020 until June 30, 2020. With this offer AWS customers now have seamless access to the best in-class, cloud-native security information and event management (SIEM) technology from a major cloud provider. More on the details of the Azure Sentinel announcements can be found on the Microsoft Security blog.

Funnel diagram of Azure Sentinal Fusion

An example of Azure Sentinel machine learning activity from the 30-day period of December 2019.

Securing the enterprise is not just about external attackers, but also managing insider risk – which has become a top concern of CISOs. Insider Risk Management in Microsoft 365 – the first born-in-the-cloud, integrated insider risk management solution – helps customers tackle the problem with no agents to deploy and no data ingestions to configure. Extending the same Microsoft Information Protection technology that already classifies and protects more than 50 billion documents for Microsoft customers, machine learning in Insider Risk Management brings together signals, sensitivity labels and content together in a single view, which saves security teams time by allowing them to quickly make informed risk decisions and take action. The general availability of Insider Risk Management is rolling out to customers’ tenants over the coming days.

When people and technology come together, we can accomplish amazing things. The world is indeed getting more complicated, but the public cloud combined with human expertise and industry collaboration are delivering innovation that gives the advantage back to the defenders of cyberspace. We have never been more optimistic about the potential for technology to support and scale your most precious cybersecurity assets – your people.

 

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#WorkTrends: Email Still Matters: Etiquette for Today’s Users


Here’s a term for you: email brick. It’s that dense blob of text in an email that starts at the top and doesn’t come up for air until the end. No line breaks, paragraphs or bullet points, and often, no readers. We tend to avoid reading those emails, eyeing them warily and opting to get back to them later. Much of the time, we don’t. 

When #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro got to talking with email etiquette expert Bruce Mayhew, it was soon apparent that we’re emailing each other all wrong. Bruce is President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting (BMC), a corporate trainer, executive coach, expert on productivity and generational differences, and passionate advocate of emailing better.

90% of our communication is done by email, and the email brick is just one of many sins we commit. Others include incoherent subject lines, putting the main idea down at the end of the message and, on the receiving end, answering emails too quickly. On that last point, Meghan asked for a best practice. “I could spend three hours a day in constant communication back and forth, just trying to do the right thing and respond,” she said.

Don’t do it, Bruce answered. “If you train your audience that you respond to an email in 10 minutes,” they will start expecting it every time. “You end up playing Whac-A-Mole with your inbox.” Our time management gets derailed along with other priorities, too.

Problem is, we learned to write and then learned how to email, he noted, and these are very different forms. He shared three simple tips for writing emails worth opening: put your main point in the first sentence, use bullet points, and write a clear subject line with enough information to indicate exactly what’s going on in the message. 5-7 words usually does the trick he said. Don’t start with “Hey, quick question.”

The underlying reason to clean up our emails isn’t just housekeeping, it’s trust. Sending emails that hit the sweet spot boost personal credibility, he said. They set up a positive feedback loop faster than you can say dopamine high. The next time we see an email from the conscientious sender, we open it. We look forward to it, thinking this person knows what they’re talking about — which goes miles in improving that relationship. 

“Email still counts, and it’s the way we’re all communicating,” Meghan reminded the audience. Time to practice those bullet points.

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are we failing at email etiquette? #WorkTrends
Q2: What techniques can help us write better email? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders help employees get better at emailing? #WorkTrends

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We are the dream of our ancestors


Blacks at Microsoft group shot at NASDAQ
Microsoft executives and Blacks at Microsoft leaders, award winners and chapter members rang Nasdaq’s closing bell to kick off Black History Month. In the front row, from left, Stacey Mahoney, Tekisha Thomas, Melinda Moyo-Turner, Amma Kwateng, Emmeline Jean, Rodney Williams; middle row, Felicia Gardner, Fanta Dicko, Albert Dankwa, Aissa Bautista, Mallory Banks, Erica Rhoden, Bianca Francis, Michael Dunner, Nicole Smith, Curtis Clay III, Brandon Clark, Kimberly Powell, Ray Wilson, Danielle Skeen; back row, Cassandra Young, Bambo Sofola, Ryan Trollinger, Travis Walter.

As I reflect on the importance of Black History month, the words from Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise,” come to mind.  “Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.” Yesterday, my friends and colleagues proudly stood on the floor of the world’s largest stock exchange and rang the market’s closing bell, signaling an end to the day’s trading and serving as our kickoff for Black History Month festivities at Microsoft.

YouTube Video

There’s so much to celebrate during Black History Month, as it’s an opportunity to acknowledge and recognize the incredible contributions that our community has made to the very fabric of this country. While there’s plenty to celebrate, we must recognize that this is only possible because of the hard work and sacrifices made by our ancestors. Like many of us, I am a product of American history – a great-great granddaughter of slaves. Our ancestor’s struggles, triumphs, joys, perseverance and sacrifices have paved the way for our generation, and future generations yet to be born.

A spark of that same perseverance and strength inspired the vision of the Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) founders more than 30 years ago. We were the first of many Microsoft’s employee resource groups. As we rang that bell today, some of their dreams were being realized. We stand on their shoulders and recognize how hard they worked to create a community that has meant so much to so many, and with that, we’re eternally grateful.

For me, BAM represents our journey as black employees to learn, develop, grow and support each other through our collective community, with the ongoing support of many allies. That journey in turn, informs Microsoft’s diverse and inclusive culture which has a direct impact on our customers and partners as well. The journey is never complete, but the ongoing engagement and support of our collective community has had a lasting and positive impact on many, including me.

As we celebrate our history and the accomplishments of many extraordinary people this month, I encourage you to reflect on your own learning journey. We all have a responsibility to learn from others and lend our help and support to others who can benefit from the same. At Microsoft we are all striving to become thoughtful and informed allies to others. While Black History Month is one moment in time, this commitment can allow us to understand and support each other all year round. Now more than ever, we need to galvanize as a community to pave the way for generations to come.  

We’ve come so far, but we still have a long journey ahead of us. It’s more important than ever for us to come together and work toward opportunity, equity and equality for everyone.

Watch BAM team members in a “Behind the Bell” interview with Nasdaq on LinkedIn.

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