As a successful service management platform, ServiceNow’s product releases impact HR teams around the world.
Naturally, UNLEASH was keen to find out more about ServiceNow’s offerings and how the company handles its own internal HR challenges.
As a result, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Jacqui Canney, ServiceNow’s new chief people officer, to discuss her career with some of the biggest enterprises in the world, and her approach to people services since joining the company.
Canney joined ServiceNow in 2021 during the pandemic, and while job changes haven’t been unusual in this period, I was keen to find out the reasoning behind her move.
Canney explains that she had met ServiceNow CEO, Bill McDermott, when he was at SAP and she was at Walmart. As a result, Canney knew what type of boss McDermott was, and knew she was keen to work with him in the future.
However, Canney notes: “When it came specifically to ServiceNow, the way you think about the thriving sort of digital transformation, especially in HR, and as a [previous] customer of ServiceNow, I really love the product.
“I knew that with Bill at the helm, and the plans that [ServiceNow has], the growth was going to be pretty amazing. He has drawn a picture of a $15 billion-plus growth for the company and with that there is a big and important human capital strategy opportunity.”
On top of this, Canney notes that ServiceNow is a “defining enterprise software company of the 21st century”. Given the importance of the software to HR professionals, it’s hard to argue with this comment.
Of course, when joining a company it is important to get a lay of the land, and Canney discusses how she went about doing this: “I spent the first few months really just listening to the business and to the HR team, [asking questions like] what do they need? What do they want? What are they hearing? And the way we’re shaping the people strategy is around three large pillars.
“One is scaling innovation, and how do you grow a function in a company.
“The second is around being a place for all employee experience, inclusive employee experience for all, and then growth and development for our people underpinned by data systems and insights.
“And obviously, this is done with an eye on our culture and purpose. So those three pillars are guiding this people strategy work and I think that’s how we will get to the scale [forecasted by Bill McDermott].”
She expands: “I think a key challenge is around scaling innovation; we have a relatively embryonic function around HR. It wasn’t in the DNA of the company when it was founded because it moved so quickly.
Now Canney is working on introducing new functions and making them durable.
“There’s great functional work here happening in human resources, leveraging technology, and then advancing work.”
The team is now focusing on “talent, strategy, talent planning, workforce planning, and we’ve actually changed the name of the function from ‘talent’ to ‘people’ to keep it people-centric.”
Technology inside ServiceNow
In terms of addressing culture, scaling up, and employee experience, Canney notes that ServiceNow’s products are used internally, and technology plays a significant part in the company’s HR strategy.
Canney explains: “We are huge users of our own product. Another draw to this company for me is being able to apply the product inside and be customer number one; we’re the first ones to try and test. I think that’s super exciting.
This means “we also can influence the product to be better, stronger, and more functionally relevant. That’s principle number one.
“The second is that we do use other tech; we have Workday as our human capital management system. We have other partners that we use, and we try to innovate with them on whether it’s a learning platform or capability building.”
Further to this, ServiceNow partners “with other organizations to come up with development planning.”
“It makes us better to be always thinking tech first, or tech enablement first, and digitally savvy for our people, as opposed to thinking about the process. We’re trying to be very human-centered.”
Discussing people, we talk about how working for a tech company laser-focused on employee experience could bring pressure to Canney and her team when they are delivering their HR experiences.
Canney comments: “I look at it, not so much as pressure, but as a really great opportunity.” This is because “it’s also a source of pride for us to be using our tech and innovating on our tech. “
“I know my team is very excited about the times when they’ve innovated and used our tech. For example, just this week, 52 of my people ops team members participated and got trained on the Citizen developer workflow – the low code, no code product that we’ve produced – and they’re getting their badges.”
As a result, these employees can now begin to build applications and address internal issues within the ServiceNow’s own platform.
Canney concludes: “It’s just a really great example of why it’s a moment of pride…They can’t wait to tell clients and customers the story of what they’ve learned and I think that’s inside our culture deeply.”
Developing employees and skills
This discussion of tool adoption and learning leads to a further conversation about staff development. Canney touches on the measures that ServiceNow is taking to upskill and develop staff by listening to their needs and giving them relevant career paths.
Canney notes that this isn’t necessarily purely with the goal of promotion: “My team is focused on a clear people strategy, starting from early in career, all the way up to the people that report to Bill.
This involves “thinking about how do they experience learning on the job, and creating a very consumer-grade experience for that using the data and insights to be able to guide people to the growth and development that will have a [positive] outcome.”
However, Canney mentions the importance of not having an outcome for the sake of it, but ensuring staff have truly invested in themselves.
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Advice for all companies
Discussing the culture and development of people at ServiceNow, Canney talks about the pride the company has had in its achievements. This includes enabling the return of the NBA with ServiceNow’s customized workflow, which was internally celebrated and also hugely appreciated by sports fans across the world.
In terms of businesses going forward and continuing to operate in uncertain times, Canney comments: “I’ll tell a little bit of story from when I was at WPP because that’s when the pandemic really hit. We were not thinking we could be prepared for remote work; it was just not something that we were ready for. I remember that on Friday 13 March, us calling a meeting to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to go remote around the world.”
With her kids at home because of the pandemic, Canney went up from the basement to discuss the situation with her husband who was formerly in the secret service: “He said, ‘Jacqui, you know, we were working nonstop, you cannot keep working like this, you can’t stay in crisis, because then your team and your company will stay in crisis.”
On the back of this, Canney learned that while some workers need to work to address the crisis situation, there also needs to be an acceptance that traditional work has shifted permanently. As a result, concepts like hybrid work need to be normalized as a present function rather than something that is pushed as the future of work.
Additionally, Canney notes that there must be members of the team who look further ahead so that companies are prepared for changes and can adapt to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 that look set to continue.
The ‘Great Resignation’ and experimenting
Looking at the here and now, it seems only appropriate to discuss the ‘Great Resignation’ that has seen millions leave the workforce and whether it has impacted ServiceNow.
Canney notes that “we’ve done extra listening” by upping pulse surveys to better understand what employees want.
Additionally, Canney discusses the need to support managers with learning materials about remote work and safe spaces to talk about failed and successful experiments.
This led to new parts of the working week like ‘Recharge Fridays’ that enabled employees to take the afternoon off to avoid burning out. This measure was very positively received.
Looking at other companies, Canney comments that now is the time to experiment and try new things. She reflects that this has been a successful approach since joining ServiceNow, and was the case at WPP.
At WPP, the pandemic brought about the possibility of canceling its internship program. Rather than do that, the company went online and set up a curriculum that was headed by Canney and could be used across the globe. This proved to be an incredibly successful pivot that has now set a precedent for WPP’s running of similar programs as the pandemic continues.
The future of work
COVID-19 looks set to remain a large concern in 2022, and businesses will have to continue to adapt.
Through this lens, Canney predicts that inclusion will be a key area of investment in the next year for companies.
Internally, Canney notes: “Our mission is to have employees live their best life, do their best work, and serve our purpose together” and this is enabled through more investment in an inclusive environment.
Secondly, ServiceNow intends to focus not only on its own platform, but on “helping our customers do their great work and be productive in new ways, thinking about the customer-centricity of our customers.”
With this focus in mind, 2022 is set to be an exciting year for ServiceNow as its offering continues to develop alongside the size of the company.
Further related reading: Kate Graham, Head of Content Labs & Insight, explains why UNLEASH is researching why some HR projects succeed and why some are doomed to fail…
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