A blonde smiling woman against a scenic outdoor background. She is the CHRO of Symantec.
Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, CHRO, Symantec. Image: Symantec

Symantec HR chief: ‘Gone are the days of bureaucratic HR systems’

21 Nov 2018

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf is the chief human resources officer in Symantec, with experience spanning three decades.

The future of work is changing rapidly, and HR leaders are at the frontline of this future, looking at how they can adapt their organisations and prepare for what is coming down the line.

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf is the chief human resources officer (CHRO) in cybersecurity firm Symantec. She has more than three decades of experience leading companies across high-tech, entertainment and consumer product industries through complex transformations.

Prior to joining Symantec, Cappellanti-Wolf was CHRO at Silver Spring Networks. She has also held key HR roles at Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, The Walt Disney Company and Frito-Lay.

What are the biggest HR challenges facing Symantec right now?

We are in a transition of moving more to a cloud, software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model, and with this transition comes a shift in our operating models, talent and capabilities, organisational structure, and supporting systems (such as rewards, incentives, performance) to enable the shift.

Our strategy in HR is focused on ensuring that we have the necessary capabilities and talent plans in place to buy or build; that we have the right structure in our ‘go-to markets’ and development teams, and in our performance and pay systems, to reinforce our business priorities.

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

First and foremost, I am a business partner helping the business tackle both short- and long-term strategy and tactics to enable the business to thrive. I work very closely with the CEO and his leadership team on ensuring we have a cohesive leadership team, that we have alignment at the top on the three to five most critical business initiatives, and that we have the right operating mechanisms in place for our employees to understand their role and performance in executing our plan.

I also spend a lot of time teaching and learning with our high-potential leaders as we build out our succession depth and next generation of leadership. In software you must be agile, fail fast and take your learnings to the next development cycle. With this as the backdrop, it is critical that we create a learning environment, which I call ‘learn, teach, learn’, so we can build this muscle throughout the organisation.

Lastly, as we are in the midst of a cultural transformation, I have been working with the business on identifying the key values and capabilities necessary for us to drive our business. This work is especially fulfilling as it not only captures the hearts and minds of our employees, but helps us better tie our business strategy to the culture that we need to develop to realise our success.

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

There are several:

  • Bringing consumer-based experience to the employee interaction with HR.
  • Leveraging bots as appropriate for elimination of redundant activities, and coordinating content management with chatbots.
  • Bringing cultural and diversity sensitivity into global HR technology trends.
  • Consolidating data elements across the company for metric reporting off a single platform in order to present one human capital lens with finance and HR.
What has been the biggest culture change within Symantec in the last five years?

Symantec has undergone a significant amount of change over the last five years. To position ourselves as the largest cybersecurity software leader, we divested two of our businesses over the last two-and-a-half years.

In 2016, we spun off our $7bn storage business, Veritas, which required separating the company in two, dividing our sales force and setting up new infrastructure for this business to run independently.

In 2017, we divested our $500m-plus website security. We have experienced a CEO and leadership team change at the top while also making two large acquisitions in Blue Coat ($4.5bn) for our enterprise business and Lifelock ($2.3bn) for our consumer business, along with several tuck-in acquisitions.

As a result of the leadership changes and the number of acquisitions, we are now in the midst of a cultural reboot to better develop and align the culture that we need to reinforce the mission of our company and to enable our business strategy.

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

How people work today is undergoing significant change, along with how workers relate to their employers. We are moving towards less-traditional working engagements and more freelancers showing up in the workforce, who come into work on a project basis, and have different engagement needs and less longevity with ‘the firm’.

We are focusing on building our ecosystems of employees and partners, as people will move fluidly between these roles. How we engage with them and build deeper relationships is key for a sustainable workforce, whether they work directly or indirectly with us.

Employee engagement will become even more of a challenge. The composition of the workforce will turn more diverse, with four generations now working together, and multiple genders, races and different capabilities showing up in the workforce.

We are actively working with our leaders to develop their leadership skills to manage across this diverse audience, building inclusive leadership to enable better innovation in an effort to lead to differentiated business performance.

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

HR has to view their work with an outside-in perspective and look at everything we do through a consumer lens. Gone are the days of standard operating procedures, bureaucratic HR systems and processes that aren’t human but check the box to follow the process.

Employees are consumers of our services and we have to walk in their shoes to understand what data they need available to them in order to make informed decisions; how best they learn and readily apply the learning on a daily basis; and how they juggle work-life integration, since work and life are so often intertwined.

What resource can you not live without?

Since I do most of my researching digitally, I don’t rely as heavily on periodicals. One of my biggest sources of reference is often networking with my peers in both the CHRO suite but also business contemporaries in strategy, business intelligence, technology enablement and AI.

I have to say, what I find absolutely essential is the sharing of real-life case studies coupled with live interaction and lessons learned from practitioners in both HR and the business.

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