At ServiceNow’s annual conference last week, Jacqui Canney, Chief People Officer, told Protocol why talent is critical to the company’s growth ambitions, what role compensation plays in retention, and how ServiceNow will sustain its culture. while doubling its workforce from 18,000 to 35,000 employees.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How does your part of the organization fit into the overall business strategy and what can we expect from it?
I had the opportunity to meet Bill [McDermott, ServiceNow CEO and former SAP CEO] –– I can’t remember what year it was, 2016 or something, when I was at Walmart. And we were between choosing SuccessFactors and Workday, and we chose Workday. And Bill and Jen Morgan came over, because we were a big SAP store anyway, and I remember meeting him, admiring him, and thinking about the products they were selling. It just wasn’t the time for us to buy what they were selling.
So when the opportunity arose that this job opened up Bill was the new CEO relatively new 2019 I guess is when he started he called me for an interview for the job. He didn’t have someone who he felt could help with culture, with scaling an HR organization, with DE&I, and then on developing our people. It was kind of the initial conversation, and I was excited to work for him because I had already looked up to him, but also this human capital challenge at my career stage was a great opportunity.
How do you think you inject enough stability where employees don’t feel like everything is changing every second, while at the same time trying to increase those numbers?
In my experience, you need to have purpose and values and these need to be real, not just words on a wall or on a piece of paper, that people can anchor themselves to. And you have to live these things in a palatable way; you don’t just talk, you can feel it and you can see it. I think the other thing that’s important to being successful when you have so many changes going on is that you have a CEO whose focus aligns with the corporate focus because that lack of connectivity shows up in the job because the CEO determines so much how that change is absorbed.
And specifically this year, to make that even easier, we’ve created something called our People Pact, which is our employee value proposition. So if you come to ServiceNow, you can live your best life, do your best work, and achieve our goal together. And we talk about it in every town hall, we talk about it in every one of my meetings, we talk about it enough, and I hope it’s simple enough that it seems to catch on and it should stand the test of the time. It’s not like we have to repeat this every time to keep changing where we’re going. And I think that creates stability and we bring that to life.
Why was it important to double the workforce? Obviously, you’re trying to increase your revenue, but why is the number of employees important to achieving some of these metrics?
If you look at our current footprint and where we want to grow, it’s not just in the United States. We have a strong presence here in the United States, [but] our opportunity is quite global, even more than it is today. So if you want to cover the rest of the world, as well as grow the turnover, that’s how we interpret to get to double. Is this going to be accurate? I don’t know, but we’re kind of on this path, and it looks like the math is working.
Have you found it difficult to hire globally?
Yes of course. ServiceNow is a net importer of talent, which is a really good position; our brand, while growing, has a good brand to come to work here. Our products are highly regarded if you have experienced the products and many of our people we hire, and we provide a good entry and career experience for people who are just starting out, so the hiring momentum is real and there.
What I would say is a challenge is that we have to keep everyone we have here as well and recruit like that. So you can’t lose sight of retention opportunities and hiring opportunities.
When you say keep, have you seen the number of attrition increase in the last year?
We did it lightly. Not as big as others, but they have definitely increased.
When do you think these stabilize and return to normal levels?
They’ve started to stabilize right now and I think the market may be to blame as we’re proactively trying to mitigate it. We are also going through a cyclical period around premiums and that was only in the last quarter. So I think that also helped up but now down.
You hired at times when your stock price was very high [and now] it fell. Have you made any changes to level the playing field between those who joined when the stock price was lower and those who joined when it was higher?
We haven’t made any changes to anyone at any level. I know this is something other companies are starting to talk about.
The CFO and me actually [talked about] this: Is there anything we need to do? Do you focus on high potentials? Do you focus on hotspots? You have to make choices because there are a lot of implications in doing something like this. I also believe that our business is very strong, and that it’s a cycle: it’s going to go back the other way as quickly as it went the other way. And I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think we don’t want to tour too much either.
You see at other companies, Google and Amazon, there’s a lot of employee-led activism in terms of pay raises and talking about raising base pay and things like that. I’m curious if you’ve seen this in your own squad [at] ServiceNow?
We moved our bases quite systematically. We haven’t made a big announcement about it, because it’s not the title we’re trying to make, it’s just who we are. We’re constantly evaluating the market, constantly re-evaluating pay scales and things like that, and it seems like we’ve been tracking well.
This cycle is definitely one that with war, with inflation, with everything, it’s a time I’ve never seen, I don’t think in my career.
This cycle is definitely one that with war, with inflation, with everything, it’s a time I’ve never seen, I don’t think in my career. But I think our practices have kept us online and on pace, so much so that I don’t have the same situation as some of these other companies.
And what happens in that situation, because there are so many corresponding factors — you mentioned inflation and what’s happening in the market — what if those start to stabilize? Is there then a need for a readjustment? Are you raising wages now to match higher inflation? And should they then be reassessed in the event of a drop in inflation?
I mentioned that we have advisers, on whom I rely a lot, from outside [companies], not only internally within the company. We also have a great philosophy on how we manage compensation, including what’s performance, what’s base, what’s bonus. I think you need to be careful how you use your comp philosophy and [wavering] too much of that. You have to walk a very fine line.
You don’t want to miss something because you’re late, but it’s also people’s pay and rewards and they rely on things to be in a certain place. So you have to be careful not to go one right, one left, and then confuse people about the value of their rewards package. And so we try to keep a cool head, to be informed, to continue to assess the market and to take action when we need it.
In terms of salary, when you switch to flexible working, do you adjust the salary according to the region?
We haven’t done that.
And do you plan to maintain this policy?
I think there will be times when we might slow the increases, like if someone moves to a lower bracket or a lower salary zone, I could see that. But we haven’t officially implemented any sort of pay cut.