The Microsoft-Yahoo alliance decided the first step to building a sense of belonging among the two teams would be to involve them in setting up a common workspace.

Two years back, two powerful brands in the world of IT, Microsoft Corporation and Yahoo Inc, came together in a business and tech alliance.

On the ground this meant that globally, over 400 employees from Yahoo had to be brought into the Mircosoft fold. In India, 150 Yahoo employees had to be on-boarded into Microsoft.

A basic question then was one of office location — would it be in Hyderabad (where Microsoft is located) or Bangalore (where Yahoo has its office).

“It would not have been right for us to ask 150 Yahoo employees to uproot their families and move to Hyderabad although we had ample space to accommodate them there,” says Sanjay Anand, General Manager, of the adCenter at Microsoft India (R&D) Pvt Ltd.

Anand says there were two other reasons for the Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC), the new entity, being located at Bangalore: being a vibrant city technology-wise, it made sense to have a core R&D centre there. The second was that a common location would help both teams generate new ideas and benefit from a free exchange of the same.

Once Bangalore was chosen as the base for the new centre and its location in the city was also decided, the company hit upon an idea that is, perhaps, one of its kind in the industry: employees of the newly formed entity would collaborate to design their office.

As a first step towards integration, it would help break the ice between the team members.

But it was no mean task as it involved selecting a taskforce from within three teams in the company, defining team roles and tasks, creating the blueprint, ensuring costs remained within budgets, while not compromising on quality.

The MOMY (My Office My Way) team had an interesting but tough task staring at it: collaborating to create ‘a second home' for all the employees.

What made the task more complex was the fact that multiple cultures had to come together in the office: The Yahoo culture, the MS culture, the MSIDC culture, the Hyderabad culture, not to speak of the Bangalore culture. All of these factors had to combine together to create a magical curry.

“We realised that a sense of ownership drives a completely different level of employee engagement,” says Abid Khan, Project Manager.

While on the one hand, the MOMY team enjoyed shopping for the new office — from the upholstery to the rosewood pillars, coffee tables and arm chairs — on the other, it also meant longer working hours for some employees including Vandana Bachani from the Development team (ex-Yahoo) and Abid Khan from Microsoft R&D.

It was decided that the office would be a blend of Indian design (courtyards, Mangalore tiles, and sky lights) and Western concepts such as semi-closed collaboration rooms and workstations, workout areas (a gym and a recreation space) and a large cafeteria at the ground level.

The mandate for the MOMY team was clear: it had to be a collaborative effort that would evoke a sense of belonging and create an environment in which the employees would be comfortable.

The general thinking behind this was that more the sense of belonging, the better the output (products) of the team, and better would be the business value that was created.

“Happy employees directly bring better bottomlines,” says Anand.

The project (end-to-end) took nine months to complete and as Anand points out, marks the culmination of the employee side of the MS-Yahoo alliance.

“It is our hope that over time, the ideas that emerge will help each of the businesses benefit from the other,” he says.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 29, 2011)
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