A middle-aged woman with short blonde hair flecked with pink, with black glasses, smiling at the camera. She’s the HR head of ServiceNow.
Pat Wadors. Image: ServiceNow

ServiceNow HR head: ‘Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong’

21 Jan 2019

Pat Wadors is the chief talent officer of computer software company ServiceNow. Here, she shares her thoughts on the HR industry.

HR leader Pat Wadors has been passionate about her industry since she was 19. She spent the first decade of her career developing her skills and learning her craft across the different areas within HR, from employee engagement to retirement.

Her current role as chief talent officer of ServiceNow is her fourth role as head of HR, but she told Siliconrepublic.com that the learning never stops. “I am humbled and feel privileged to come to work every day with the goal of serving people.”

What are the biggest HR challenges facing ServiceNow right now?

What I’ve learned is to always start with the business. Where’s the business today? Where does it hope to be in three to five years? That is your anchor point for your talent strategy. Then, reverse-engineer from there. If ServiceNow is going to be a $10bn company that’s world-class and the best place to work, then you’ve got to build your platform from here using the language of the business to cut through.

Of course, every company has its own unique talent challenges, but start with building your platform and your hygiene layer in order to adapt to innovation or differentiate to become an attractive ‘best place to work’, and do it in a physically responsible, repeatable and scalable way. Set up your principles, your core systems, and then figure out your employee value proposition and how the company can compete for talent. Then, how you grow, hire and absorb great talents so they’re productive and feel engaged, and doing their best work is an art and a science.

At ServiceNow our growth rate is phenomenal, so I have the challenge of ramping up to meet a company that is experiencing 25-30pc year-on-year growth. This is really fun for me. You have to compete and create an environment people want to do their best work at, taking into consideration macro-influences and bringing a consumer-like experience at work as well as at home, so you can outperform the competition.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on recruitment?

I’m always recruiting and thinking about talent, so I would say 24/7. There’s so much to consider: the pipeline, the talent brand, the conversion rate, the right hiring – always asking if we are looking at the right attributes, and if we are embedding the right leadership expectations that are going to help us scale.

I believe strongly in the growth mindset; I believe in iterating, learning, sharing your learnings, growing from your learnings, and making sure that we embrace that in our culture and DNA. It’s really, really important. That’s always on.

What are the HR technology trends and opportunities that you’re capitalising on?

For the first time, we’re going to have four substantial generations in an organisation, each raised with different technologies and methodologies with which to serve their business. Therefore, embedding the right learning and tools is more relevant than ever before to ensure optimal employee experience.

Whilst in the past you might have taken a course in how to use Excel or a new ERP system, now there’s software like our WalkMe platform, which eliminates the need for extensive training. If you’re unsure how to go about a specific execution, it will provide you with flags that will ask you if you need any help, and give you ‘how to’ instructions or a training byte and short video explaining how to do it, which enables you to stay productive in the moment and not have to go on a two-hour training session.

If you learn something when you need it, your attention span is more than 50pc. If you apply it right away, it’s 70pc. If you teach someone else, it’s 90pc.

Embedding learning bytes as you go along and evolve creates better outcomes, and technology is enabling that. And the likes of AI and machine learning are removing and accelerating processes that are administrative and repetitive. There is no need to fear it, it is assisting in portions of a role, not full roles. To remain agile or curious with a growth mindset, machine learning is a necessary thing in an organisation to make you profitable and more efficient. Who wants to stay stagnated?

What has been the biggest culture change within ServiceNow in the last five years?

I think it’s bringing the human back into the workforce, bringing that sense of belonging to a community and engaging with everybody about what it means to be ‘uniquely me’. We want to encourage people to be their authentic selves in the workplace and excel at their job, be accepted, be respected, and be cared for.

ServiceNow CEO John Donahoe, myself and other leadership members are really embracing our growth mindset, coupled with this sense of belonging, talking about diversity and inclusion, and putting the human into the community and showing care in every interaction – always listening, responding and being transparent.

Figuring out what that diverse voice is that’s missing at the table – to unlock innovation, better outcomes, and to have conflict through collaboration – is where the magic happens.

What key strategies are you using to prepare for the future of work?

Culture and employee experience are increasingly becoming more ‘top of mind’ for every organisation.

Not that long ago, employee experience was seen as the front-end funnel of hiring – ‘How graciously can I court you and onboard you?’ Then it stopped.

I said, “If you actually map the employee experience, what is that?” It is three big things: one is culture, the employee value proposition that the organisation will deliver through behaviours, policies and practices; secondly, the systems and tools that allow employees to do great work to drive productivity; and thirdly, the environment in which they work.

By this, I mean both physical and digital environment; for example, video-conferencing is really valuable to read body language and to see that everybody is listening to you rather than putting you on mute while a team at work all have a conversation and you’re none the wiser.

What is the one thing you think HR teams should stop doing, or start doing differently?

Translate your language into the business’s language and echo back to clarify understanding. If you’re driving change and you feel there is tension or lack of understanding, just pause and listen more in an effort to seek to understand their side. I always tell my team, “Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.” Don’t get so wedded to your HR speak. Help to translate it into language they understand and the DNA of the business to make it part of their agenda.

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