How to create a fantastic work culture, with Pat Wadors and Chaya Weiner

Studies show that exhaustion is spilling into the workplace — especially underrepresented talent — so how do we recharge? How do we help ourselves and each other? In my opinion, the onus is on all of us — managers, leaders and peers — to support our co-workers and teams in order to build trust and psychological safety. Being empathetic and showing compassion can […]

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Studies show that exhaustion is spilling into the workplace — especially underrepresented talent — so how do we recharge? How do we help ourselves and each other? In my opinion, the onus is on all of us — managers, leaders and peers — to support our co-workers and teams in order to build trust and psychological safety. Being empathetic and showing compassion can only make all of us stronger and healthier, allowing all of us to be our best selves. For example, my self-care plan is to create more art this year. It gives me joy, brings me balance and is a way that I meditate.

As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pat Wadors, Chief Talent Officer at ServiceNow. Prior to ServiceNow, Pat was the Vice President of the Global Talent Organization at LinkedIn, before being promoted to Senior Vice President. While there, Pat led a variety of initiatives that helped to establish LinkedIn as one of the best companies to work for, including nurturing a highly-engaged workforce and growing the Company’s global footprint. Before LinkedIn, Pat was Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Facilities, at Plantronics. A believer that the workplace environment is an important element in a thriving corporate culture, she redesigned Plantronics’ workplace philosophy to align with the Company’s vision of “simply smarter working.” Prior to Plantronics, Pat was Senior Vice President, Human Resources, at Yahoo! where she led the HR business partner function for the Company’s entire global business line: more than 14,000 employees in 17 locations. Pat received her Bachelor of Science in business management and human resources management, with a minor in psychology, from Ramapo College of New Jersey. For more information and background on Pat, you can view her LinkedIn profile and her ServiceNow Executive Team profile.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I found my passion early in life. I’ve always been passionate about people, growth, business and change. When I was 19-years-old, I remember my uncle telling me that in companies, HR was responsible for about 80% of a company’s operational expense — the people, hiring, salaries, learning and development, promotions — and I started to imagine that I could blend a passion for people with a critical component of business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

ServiceNow is a purpose-driven company. Our mission is to make the world of work, work better for people. For our customers — as well as our employees. Since I joined ServiceNow, my favorite part has been the ability to influence our employee experience. We’re people-based, and my team and I are on a mission to make the experience of working at ServiceNow delightful each and every day. When I see the smiles in the hallways, feel the energy around campus and make true connections with our people, I know we’re making a marked impact on our employee base and the world.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Creating a people-first culture at ServiceNow is my Number One priority.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I believe there are a number of things contributing to worker dissatisfaction, but the biggest ones center around a lack of meaning in their work. We also fielded a study late last year where we found that “meaning” is the most important facet of work to employees, beating money, benefits and even work-life balance by a long shot.

Employees want to be engaged and feel passionate about the work they’re doing. Yes, they’ll agree that some routine work and other less-inspiring tasks are inevitable, but the vast majority want and need the majority of their work to be meaningful. Contrast that with on average, half an employee’s time being spent on non-meaningful, mundane tasks and you have the recipe for an unhappy and unengaged employee.

In addition, I believe part of employee unhappiness stems from inefficient technology and processes. We hear from our customers that nearly every company is undergoing some form of digital transformation, and fortunately, what used to be disjointed and clunky systems are starting to be replaced by streamlined, intuitive technology. I believe that’s important. Technology in people-centric organizations can streamline old work processes, facilitate collaboration and provide insights that improve decision-making. Ultimately, good technology will digitize the routine parts of a job and free up an employee’s time to be more creative and focus on the value-added aspects of their role.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

It all starts with people. Investing in people — their personal and professional well-being — pays dividends. In this case, figuratively, but in business, it’s often literally! McKinsey has some great research about how to make work meaningful. They have found that people are more motivated and more willing to contribute positively when they are working toward something bigger than themselves.

On the flip side, when work doesn’t have meaning — when employees lack the sense that their companies care about a great employee experience — there’s a direct and declining impact on productivity, profitability and health. Plenty of research — as well as my own personal experience — exists to support this.

It’s especially interesting with the next generation of the workforce: millennials. I’ve found that millennials are constantly curious and especially interested in making an impact at home and at work. If an employer can harness this talent and incredible sense of working toward a larger purpose, they can create the next moment of great opportunity within their own walls.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  1. Stay human.
  2. Be “human-centric” as you design your employee experience. Place employees and their families, along with your customers, at the center of everything you do. Infuse empathy and a sense of belonging into your culture. Let people know you care about them and their well-being, whether at the office or at home. Companies often install technologies that they assume will make their workforce more productive and efficient. That is an important step, as digitizing routine tasks can free up people’s time to focus on the work that really matters. But taking a more human-centric approach and then adding technology that complements the culture you want to develop actually delivers better outcomes. it brings sentiment and employee engagement — two key measures of a great workplace — into the equation and shows people that a company cares about them in ways that go beyond their immediate job scope.
  3. Have a plan for the “moments that matter.”
  4. The most successful cultures map the entire employee journey, from Day One to alumni status, and then define the experiences employees should have along the way. At each of these “moments that matter” — significant life activities, such as a promotion or the birth of a child — developing compassionate and consistent ways of treating people builds trust, which is key to maintaining a strong company culture.

3. Start employees off on the right foot.

  1. This is really important as every new hire starts with uncertainty — asking themselves, “Will I not only survive here, but will I thrive?” From Day One, tailor great experiences to what new hires should expect, both in the office and in their specific role. Center these experiences first on human connections, and layer on the technology that delivers on your promise. Something as simple as assigning a buddy on Day One can be the difference between great onboarding and one that has an employee thinking about a new job.
  2. Ensure technology is in service of people.
  3. Give employees the types of systems and technologies that make their routine work easier, simpler and faster. Provide space to pursue their full potential. This will free up time for people to focus on the more challenging, essential and fulfilling aspects of their jobs.
  4. Create empowering environments.
  5. Design spaces, both physical and digital, where employees can be their best selves. It’s important to remember that a “workspace” is no longer just an office. Because it’s so easy to stay connected and collaborate from anywhere, and because many companies have teams located around the world, make sure that wherever employees work, they feel like they’re part of a team. That means providing mobile-native technologies and collaboration tools that allow this increasingly global and mobile workforce to effectively and efficiently work.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

There isn’t a day watching the news or engaging with social media that I don’t start to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the negativity and lack of progress on building a healthier, more human world. As we face challenging times, I worry about how each of us are navigating our mental health — staying motivated and positive.

Studies show that exhaustion is spilling into the workplace — especially underrepresented talent — so how do we recharge? How do we help ourselves and each other? In my opinion, the onus is on all of us — managers, leaders and peers — to support our co-workers and teams in order to build trust and psychological safety. Being empathetic and showing compassion can only make all of us stronger and healthier, allowing all of us to be our best selves. For example, my self-care plan is to create more art this year. It gives me joy, brings me balance and is a way that I meditate.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

At its core, I take a human-centric approach to leadership, one that’s steeped in compassion. When I was at LinkedIn, I started a ritual at the start of each meeting where I posed the question, “What has your attention today?” and had those in the room give answers. Their answers didn’t have to focus on work, a project or an impending deadline. And, more often than not, they centered around personal obligations — a child’s recital, a spouse’s birthday, a sick parent they were caring for. Regardless of the response, the intent was to establish — right at the start of the meeting — that we are all people, coming together for a common goal. We all have lives outside the office, distractions and obligations that might be pulling our attention. Starting from that place of understanding and empathy always helped the meeting run smoother and gave a glimpse into the person behind the title.

Wherever I am, I like to lead following three key principles:

  • Transparency — I want to work on a team and at a company where I feel confident I’m being told the whole truth. Being transparent about what’s really happening builds trust and helps people rally around both the ups and downs of a company (which at any organization are sure to be frequent).
  • Consistency — I hold regular staff meetings for my organization, I speak at all hands, and I keep 1:1s on the calendar with those I manage. Consistency is key to building trust and creating a work environment in which people feel safe to be their best selves, contribute new ideas and push the boundaries of what success looks like.
  • Clarity — I’ve helped companies navigate significant change. Transitional times can create unrest if there is no clear purpose or North Star. I see my job as helping to clearly establish a company and team mission, put structure and organization in place to drive toward the common mission and empower people with a strong sense of purpose.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My dad and uncle were the most pivotal for me in HR. Both were heads of HR and taught me the foundation and the importance of learning the business while also caring for employees.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I strive to be a compassionate leader and bring humanity back to the workplace. As we’ve discussed, we have to change the culture of work in order for employees to be happier and more engaged, ultimately, for companies to thrive. My goal each and every day is to get us a step closer — not just as a company or industry, but as humankind — to treat each other as people and work towards a collective goal, grounded in our empathy and compassion for one another.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Treat people beautifully.” I have this as a neon sign in my office and I reflect on it every day. In my world, I have the immense privilege and responsibility to affect the lives of not only company employees but also their families’. I’m committed to making their journey here at ServiceNow graceful and enjoyable, freeing people up to do meaningful work and to live full, rich lives outside of the office. To me, that’s success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Be you. You belong. Just a few simple words that make people feel like they have superpowers. Too many of us mask who we are or try to be someone we’re not. But when you’re given — and most importantly, you give yourself — the permission to be your most authentic self, you unleash your full potential.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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