Microsoft Enhances Employee Benefits

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - Microsoft Corp. has given employees who may have thought about jumping ship a reason to stay. That's because the software giant has rewarded some executives and software engineers with a broad new range of incentives, including additional stock-option grants, unlimited vacation for top executives and promotions for 30 managers to vice president, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.

Some employees will receive as many as 200,000 shares of stock. "It shows that Microsoft is committed to offering the best compensation packages to its employees," said a Microsoft spokeswoman.

Howard Rubin, a research fellow at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, said the enhanced perks would help Microsoft compete against Internet start-ups that can offer stock options to employees before the company goes public.

Although working for Microsoft may not have the same cash payoff as a company that hasn't had its initial public offering, the new benefits should help the firm compete for people by addressing quality-of-life issues that dot-com companies are hard-pressed to meet, said Rubin. "Maybe their population is aging a bit," he said. "The 20-year olds in 1980 are now 40."

"Microsoft is thought of as a place to hone your skills," said Kazim Isfahani, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Norwalk, Connecticut. The lure of promotions and additional stock options will give Microsoft employees more reasons to stay, other than remaining at the company to pad their résumés, Isfahani added.

However, both Isfahani and Rubin were skeptical as to whether "unlimited vacation" offers would be useful to senior executives who probably don't have the time to take much vacation. "It's probably career suicide to take advantage of it," said Isfahani.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the employee incentives weren't related to the Department of Justice's antitrust trial. "Microsoft is constantly looking at ways to make sure it is competitive," said the spokeswoman. She also said some of the new vice president nominations were part of a minor reorganization announced by the company last month.

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