Enterprise

Despite a reeling tech market, ServiceNow isn’t wavering on its compensation approach

Protocol caught up with ServiceNow’s Chief People Officer Jacqui Canney to discuss the company’s talent strategy and compensation philosophy in an ever-tightening job market and a rough year for tech stocks.

ServiceNow Chief People Officer Jacqui Canney

Chief People Officer Jacqui Canney spoke with Protocol about how ServiceNow will maintain its culture while doubling its headcount from 18,000 to 35,000 employees.

Photo: ServiceNow

ServiceNow is at a critical moment in its history. The company is working aggressively to expand outside its core IT department customer and establish itself as a prominent business software vendor akin to the likes of Salesforce, SAP and Oracle.

Part of that ambition entails hiring more employees than the company has ever had – all in the midst of a shaky tech market rife with layoffs and talent shortages. Alongside important sales roles, ServiceNow has also pledged to grow without buying other technology companies, which means increasing the number of developers in its ranks, a position seeing incredible demand right now in basically every major business.

At ServiceNow’s annual conference last week, Chief People Officer Jacqui Canney spoke with Protocol about why talent is key to the company’s growth ambitions, what role compensation plays in retention and how ServiceNow will maintain its culture while doubling its headcount 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 where the company’s overall strategy is going and what we can expect from that?

I had the opportunity to meet Bill [McDermott, ServiceNow CEO and former SAP CEO] –– I don't remember what year it was, 2016 or something like that, when I was at Walmart. And we were between picking SuccessFactors and Workday, and we picked Workday. And Bill and Jen Morgan came down, because we were a big SAP shop anyway, and I remember meeting him and admiring him and thinking about the products that they sold. It just wasn't the time for us to be buying what they sold.

So then, when the opportunity came that this job opened, Bill was the new CEO, relatively new, 2019 I guess is when he started, he called me to interview for the job. He didn't have someone that he felt could help with culture, with scaling an HR organization, with DE&I and then on the development of our people. That was kind of the initial conversation, and I was excited to work for him because I had admired him from before, but also that human capital challenge at my point in the career felt like, what an awesome opportunity.

How do you think about injecting enough stability to where employees don't feel like everything is changing every second, while at the same time trying to beef up these numbers?

In my experience, you need to have a purpose and values and those have to be real, not just words on a wall or on a piece of paper, that people can anchor to. And you need to be living those things in a way that's palatable; you don't just talk it, you can feel it and you can see it. I think the other thing that's important to be successful when you have that much change going on is that you have a CEO whose purpose aligns to the company's purpose, because that lack of connectivity shows up in the work because the CEO drives so much of how that change is absorbed.

And specifically this year, to make that even easier, we 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 fulfill our purpose 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 it's hopefully simple enough that it seems to be catching on and it should stand the test of time. It's not like we have to iterate on that every time to keep changing where we're going. And I think that creates stability and we are bringing that to life.

Why was it important to double headcount? Obviously, you're trying to push towards more revenue, but why is headcount important to hitting some of those metrics?

If you look at our footprint now and where we want to grow to, it's not just in the United States. We have a strong headcount presence here in the United States, [but] our opportunity is quite global, even more so than it is today. So if you want to cover the rest of the globe, as well as build out to the revenue number, that's how we're interpreting to get to the double. Is it going to be exact? I don't know, but we're sort of on that road, and it seems to be the math is working.

Have you found it a challenge to hire globally?

Yeah, for sure. ServiceNow is a net importer of talent, which is really a good position to be in; our brand, while growing, has a good brand out there to come work here. Our products are very well regarded if you have experienced the products and a lot of our people who we hire have, and we provide a good early in-career experience for people who are just getting started, so the momentum in hiring is real and there.

What I would say is challenging is we need to keep everybody that we have here too, and recruit like that. So you can't take your eye off of, what's the retention opportunity as well as what's the hiring opportunity.

When you say keep, did you see attrition numbers go up last year?

We did slightly. Not as material as others, but definitely they went up.

When do you expect those to stabilize and go back to normal levels?

They've started to level off right now and I think the market may be causing some of that as much as we're proactively trying to mitigate it. We also go through a cyclical time around bonuses and that was just in the last quarter. So I think that that's also contributed to the tick up but now the tick down.

You did hiring at times when your stock price was very high [and now] it's dropped. 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 have not made any changes to anybody at any level. I know that is something that other companies are starting to talk about.

The CFO and I actually just [talked about] this: Is there something in this that we need to do? Do you focus on high potentials? Do you focus on hotspots? You’ve got to make choices because there's a lot of implications to doing something like that. I also believe our company's very strong, and that this is a cycle: It's gonna go back the other way as quickly as it went the other. And I don't have a crystal ball, but I do think that we don't want to over-rotate either.

You see at other companies, Google and Amazon, there's a lot of employee-led activism in terms of salary increases and discussions around increasing base pay and things like that. I'm curious whether you've seen that within your own workforce [at] ServiceNow?

We’ve been moving up our bases pretty systematically. We haven't made a big announcement about that, because it's not the headline we've been trying to go for, it's just who we are. We're constantly evaluating the market, constantly reevaluating the pay bands and things like that, and it seems that we have been tracking well.

This cycle is definitely one that with the war, with inflation, with everything, this is a time that I've never seen I don't think in my career.

This cycle is definitely one that with the war, with inflation, with everything, this is a time that I've never seen I don't think in my career. But I think that our practices have kept us in line and at pace, so much so that I don't have the same situation as some of those other companies.

And what happens in this situation, because there are so many corresponding factors — you mentioned inflation and what's going on in the market — what happens if those do begin to level out? Does there then have to be a readjustment? Are you raising pay now to match higher inflation? And then do those have to be reassessed if inflation goes down?

I mentioned we have advisers, which I rely on quite a bit, from external [companies], not just internally in the company. We also have a great philosophy of how we are moving pay, including what is performance, what's base, what's bonus. I think you have to be careful about how you use your comp philosophy and [wavering] too much from it. You have to walk a very fine line.

You don't want to miss out on something because you lagged, but also this is people's pay and rewards and they rely on things to be at a certain place. So you have to be careful not to go one to the right, one to the left, and then confuse people about what's the value of their rewards package. And so we're trying to keep a level head, be informed, keep evaluating the market and make the moves that we need to make when we need to make them.

In terms of salary when you switch to flexible work, are you adjusting pay based on region?

We have not done that.

And do you anticipate maintaining that policy?

I think that there's going to be times when we might slow down raises, like if somebody moves to a lower band or a lower salary zone, I could see that. But we haven't officially put in any kind of like, take a pay cut.

Climate

New Jersey could become an ocean energy hub

A first-in-the-nation bill would support wave and tidal energy as a way to meet the Garden State's climate goals.

Technological challenges mean wave and tidal power remain generally more expensive than their other renewable counterparts. But government support could help spur more innovation that brings down cost.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Move over, solar and wind. There’s a new kid on the renewable energy block: waves and tides.

Harnessing the ocean’s power is still in its early stages, but the industry is poised for a big legislative boost, with the potential for real investment down the line.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

Keep Reading Show less
Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Entertainment

Watch 'Stranger Things,' play Neon White and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Here are our picks for your long weekend.

Image: Annapurna Interactive; Wizard of the Coast; Netflix

Kick off your long weekend with an extra-long two-part “Stranger Things” finale; a deep dive into the deckbuilding games like Magic: The Gathering; and Neon White, which mashes up several genres, including a dating sim.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt

Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Fintech

Debt fueled crypto mining’s boom — and now, its bust

Leverage helped mining operations expand as they borrowed against their hardware or the crypto it generated.

Dropping crypto prices have upended the economics of mining.

Photo: Lars Hagberg/AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin boomed, crypto mining seemed almost like printing money. But in reality, miners have always had to juggle the cost of hardware, electricity and operations against the tokens their work yielded. Often miners held onto their crypto, betting it would appreciate, or borrowed against it to buy more mining rigs. Now all those bills are coming due: The industry has accumulated as much as $4 billion in debt, according to some estimates.

The crypto boom encouraged excess. “The approach was get rich quick, build it big, build it fast, use leverage. Do it now,” said Andrew Webber, founder and CEO at crypto mining service provider Digital Power Optimization.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

Policy

How lax social media policies help fuel a prescription drug boom

Prescription drug ads are all over TikTok, Facebook and Instagram. As the potential harms become clear, why haven’t the companies updated their advertising policies?

Even as providers like Cerebral draw federal attention, Meta’s and TikTok’s advertising policies still allow telehealth providers to turbocharge their marketing efforts.

Illustration: Overearth/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In the United States, prescription drug advertisements are as commonplace as drive-thru lanes and Pete Davidson relationship updates. We’re told every day — often multiple times a day — to ask our doctor if some new medication is right for us. Saturday Night Live has for decades parodied the breathless parade of side effect warnings tacked onto drug commercials. Here in New York, even our subway swipes are subsidized by advertisements that deliver the good news: We can last longer in bed and keep our hair, if only we turn to the latest VC-backed telehealth service.

The U.S. is almost alone in embracing direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertisements. Nations as disparate as Saudi Arabia, France and China all find common ground in banning such ads. In fact, of all developed nations, only New Zealand joins the U.S. in giving pharmaceutical companies a direct line to consumers.

Keep Reading Show less
Hirsh Chitkara

Hirsh Chitkara ( @HirshChitkara) is a reporter at Protocol focused on the intersection of politics, technology and society. Before joining Protocol, he helped write a daily newsletter at Insider that covered all things Big Tech. He's based in New York and can be reached at hchitkara@protocol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins