Allow me to start with a "duh": Microsoft is big.
Like a lot of Microsofties, during the time that I've been here the company has doubled in size. Doubled with some pretty unrealistic expectations for continued need of all those folks it hired during the swelling of the Internet Bubble.
Truth be told, some groups must have been pretty desperate to hire any warm bodies who could spell HTML because somehow during that time the hiring-bar got lowered and we hired poor performers. Suddenly, there's mandatory training for managers available about how to manage poor performers.
And guess what: getting fired by Microsoft is about as hard as getting fired by the government. You've got to have documentation and a tight, time-consuming process to avoid lawsuits. And you have to get over a lot of psychological hurdles to even darken the doorway of the employee who you want to start the termination process (which is still delivered with hope as getting that employee "back on track" or, you know, out of here).
To help enable the culling at Microsoft, one straight-forward way is to require folks who stand out as poor-performers to re-interview for Microsoft. Message it as, "We are cutting back, and due to your lifetime review score average you've been identified as a candidate for cut-backs. As part of the process to ensure we don't terminate without due diligence, we are offering you the chance to re-interview."
So let's say you have some folks who have a lifetime review average under 3.25 and they have been around for three or more major reviews. This means they have at least more 3.0 reviews than 3.5 reviews. Are they long-term top quality material? Do they have the potential to reach the top expected ladder level for their discipline? Let's find out!
- Set up a three person + an as-appropriate interview loop for them.
- Set out the job responsibilities according to what they do and the requirements of their level.
- Have the interview loop outside of their business group, by a most-likely disinterested party.
- If they don't get a "hire" they immediately go on a 30-day action plan geared towards termination. If their General Manager can't justify that person staying at Microsoft, they're gone and ready to find new opportunities in the world.
- Accountability: any General Manager fighting to keep people becomes personally responsible for that person's future performance, no matter what group they are in, for the next three review cycles. If that person continues to be a 3.0 or lower contributor, that General Manager is held accountable and his / her bonus and stock rewards are downgraded. GMs, if you don't know good contributors from bad contributors, you should be punished.
This can surely be scheduled over a year's time, starting with the lowest scorers first.
Think of the folks you work with. To help set context, two questions: (1) Who would you rehire? (2) Who would you instead prefer a hot, fired-up new college graduate or an experienced external hire? Some folks plain just plateau at Level 60 and they aren't going much further. They are swirling around the bottom of the stack rank like so many bitter, hopeless dregs.
Honestly now: do you just plain not give these people challenging work because you doubt they can deliver? We'd be better off without them and the late feature cuts we have to make when they can't come through for us. They need to be moved on. Make it happen.