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Published February 10, 2021
Ryan Weber shares his insights on ServiceNow's journey to develop leaders amidst hypergrowth. Here are the highlights from his conversation with leading researcher and NYT best selling author, Adam Grant, and BetterUp CEO, Alexi Robichaux.
ServiceNow, a high-growth digital workflow company whose purpose is “to make the world of work, work better for people.”, is one of the leading forces today in digital transformation. The company has been open about its ambitions to reach $10 billion in revenue.
Led by Ryan Weber, the Talent Activation and Growth team’s exciting remit is to build the leadership capabilities that will drive the company’s next phase of growth.
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Like many fast-growing companies, as ServiceNow welcomed a significant number of new employees, the company started to see different levels of leadership experience and skills emerge. Partnership with BetterUp enables the company to scale a personalized development approach that adapts to the unique needs of each manager.
Speed and scale were big factors in the decision, but the whole person approach, which allows managers to grow both personally and professionally, stood out for Ryan and his team. As leading-edge thinkers in leadership development and human performance, ServiceNow’s Talent Activation and Growth team knew that learning how to thrive was the underpinning for sustaining the level of leadership performance needed to inspire teams on the path to $10 billion.
Soon after offering senior leaders within ServiceNow the opportunity to sign up, the Better Up program was at capacity with a waitlist. What came next was unexpected.
Ryan and his team started receiving personal messages of gratitude that felt as if they had given people an unexpected gift. Reading messages from managers – “Wow, I feel like you are really investing in me,” and “I feel like you are taking care of me” – the team knew they had tapped into the human motivation for growth. People were seeing development as a gift – the opportunity to improve themselves with a dedicated coach.
This gift delivered unforeseen benefits when the world entered a state of crisis.
After ServiceNow sent its then-11,000+ employees to work from home in early March 2020, Ryan and his team noticed that despite the physical distance, ServiceNow’s distributed workforce hadn’t lost their humanity, a key part of what had made the in-person culture so special.
The blending of work and life gave employees a glimpse into sides of their colleagues they hadn’t seen – kids, pets, partners, and even living spaces – and subconsciously showed how each person’s work and performance was influenced by all of the dimensions of their lives. The team saw a spike in self-awareness and an increase in empathy as leaders learned to listen differently to understand the unique challenges and concerns of the people on their teams.
“We quickly realized that our employees needed space to process and agency to take action more than they needed more learning content and programs,” said Ryan, reflecting on his team’s “aha” moment early in the pandemic.
The partnership with BetterUp enabled leaders to turn to their coach for wellbeing support and advice on managing through a once-in-a-generation challenge, and helped them remain agile through ongoing uncertainty. Ryan shared how valuable BetterUp’s holistic approach has been for leaders at ServiceNow:
“This is where BetterUp has been just a huge, huge win...our leaders needed to work on themselves. One of the things that we're excited about is a lot of the same inner work that we're doing with our leaders around wellness is the same inner work that will make them more effective in the diversity space and being able to listen better, being able to be more empathetic.”
Awareness and empathy across the organization has deepened over the long months, and Ryan describes how the value of this learning will endure over time:
“If I'm more self-aware, I can accept the idea that there's something I don't know. And I can be more open to learning. If I'm more empathetic, I can recognize that different perspectives than my own might be worth exploring and understanding them could be valuable to me. And if I'm more vulnerable, I'm willing to take risks and try new actions and be human knowing that they may fail. One of the bright lights of this difficult time is that I've seen all of those improve.”
While 2020 brought immense challenges, it also accelerated the way leaders and their organizations need to break with the past in order to embrace the new ways of working for the future. What has ServiceNow’s Talent Activation and Growth team learned as they boldly embrace the future of work?
- Work-from-home revealed the human in every worker. It’s possible to become more connected and more human in a virtual environment.
- Learning is as much about human capacity as hard skills. Fostering human capacity for growth, resilience, and agility enables leaders to lead through tough times.
- There is no turning back on well-being: 2020 was the year that made empathy, vulnerability, and caring for employee well-being a fundamental part of the employee experience.
Reflecting on ServiceNow’s commitment to investing in their people, Ryan offers some wisdom to other talent leaders: “I don't think the labor market is going to stop being competitive. So, I would say, if you choose after COVID to stop caring about wellbeing, if you choose to stop listening to your employees, they will gladly and happily find a new company that will.”
What does the Talent Activation and Growth team look forward to in the future? For ServiceNow, continued hypergrowth in the new world of work. For their people, continued investment in building teams that are thriving, resilient and leading with purpose. We’re truly inspired by the culture ServiceNow has built and honored to play a part in their talent development journey.
Hear more from Ryan, together with Adam Grant and BetterUp CEO Alexi Robichaux, in a discussion on driving peak performance during change. Watch the video on demand.
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