A new people strategy has been integral to the success of global data and information management software company Commvault, which has subsequently turned around a decline in revenue to post three straight quarters of increased revenue.
Commvault has gone through a complete transformation over the past few years, according to its CHRO, Jesper Helt, who said the new people strategy and the resulting transformation in the business came about in response to broader market changes.
“Despite seeing early-on how the market was changing, with customers rapidly moving to the cloud, we (along with our competitors) got disrupted by the speed by which this change happened,” he said.
“The challenge of being disrupted can be a make-or-break, and for the past two years we’ve been hard at work repositioning ourselves, our platform, our strategy and organisation for the future that is here now.”
Commvault is a global technology vendor that provides data protection and information management solutions, and it operates across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific.
With 19 offices and almost 2500 staff worldwide, Commvault has been ranked by Gartner as a leader for six years straight in the data centre backup and recovery software magic quadrant.
However, a few years ago it reached the point where it had to “find different answers to the same old questions”, said Helt.
“As our global footprint grew, we had to completely re-evaluate the formula of getting the best out of our people.
“We explained to investors we weren’t going to reduce cost and cut our way back to profitability, we were going to invest our way to success – through our people”
“With growth comes complexity, and with complexity comes the risk of bureaucracy, loss of alignment, transparency and connectedness.
“We had to find new approaches to strategy building and execution, communication, collaboration, talent development, engagement and the list goes on,” he said.
“We explained to investors we weren’t going to reduce cost and cut our way back to profitability, we were going to invest our way to success – through our people.”
This meant investing ahead of the curve in anticipation of the profitability which is now apparent, according to Helt.
However, during this period of uncertainty the business experienced employee attrition at a level unseen before – forcing leaders to “walk-the-talk when it came to people being our biggest asset”, said Helt.
“This didn’t mean throwing more money at employees, instead we doubled down on our culture.”
Doing this required significant buy-in from the senior leadership team, getting them out and about within the organisation, listening to the teams, and actively communicating where the business was headed.
“This communication was focused on transparency; explaining that while going through troubled waters we weren’t losing site of our destination but needed all hands on deck as we established new fix points to get back on course,” said Helt.
“It would be (and was) at times messy, but we’d been in this position before and were confident we could see it through.”
“When you go through a period of hyper-growth as we have, it is extremely important to have a strict process in place to ensure there is consistent cultural socialisation and measurement”
The business moved decisively and revamped its pricing and packaging structures, and refocused its energies on its key capabilities in storage, archiving, back-up and recovery.
HR’s role specifically was to develop a talent acquisition plan, attracting and enable the industry’s best talent to move the company in the best direction, said Helt.
Having previously relied on agencies and recruitment managers to find talent, Commvault took a different approach and built its own talent acquisition capability.
“This was a crucial part of our HR strategy, using modern tools to start building a proactive sourcing engine to identify talent ahead of an opening, instead of always running behind,” he said.
“The results from this are telling; over the last two years we have brought in as much as 1,700 people – almost 50 per cent of the company.”
Commvault has also hired a number of key staff from competitors such as EMC and SAP, and with so many new people entering the business, Helt said it needed to develop a strategy to scale its culture.
“When you go through a period of hyper-growth as we have, it is extremely important to have a strict process in place to ensure there is consistent cultural socialisation and measurement,” he said.
“It is important to screen candidates for culture fit and have them embedded in the Commvault culture so to become meaningful contributors to it.”
A big part of this is around culture and engagement, and becoming clear about what makes Commvault unique, Helt pointed said.
“Focusing on specific parts of our culture and how parts need to evolve, you can then tailor it for an individual’s specific touch point,” he said.
“We focus on strengths and how you can identify and leverage them in more ways, instead of the traditional approach of focusing on the gap fixing”
As an example, the business redefined its approach to performance management.
It has done away with performance reviews and ratings, and instead introduced an unlocking potential process.
“We focus on strengths and how you can identify and leverage them in more ways, instead of the traditional approach of focusing on the gap fixing,” said Helt.
“We refer to Commvault employees as ‘Vaulters’ because of the similarities between our employees and pole vaulters – the speed, the agility, the practice, the courage to fail fast and learn and leveraging technology to defy gravity and get over an ever rising bar,” he said.
“As much as pole vaulting is an individual sport, it also requires a team effort of coaches and surrounding support in order to do well.
“When you watch Olympian pole vaulters you see them imagining the stunt in their mind, imagining what success might look like, looking at the bar and wanting to tackle it better than they ever have before.
“This goes back to the original innovation focus of Commvault.”
Helt said a tagline that is often circulated in the business is “bring your personality, but park your ego at the door”.
“When talking to candidates we try and understand what it is that gives them a kick, and focus on creating this happiness at work,” he said.
“We focus on designing a process, tool, or interaction that meets the original purpose of those conversations, so you can come out of that meeting feeling enriched – not beaten down.
“When we talk about retention it’s the same thing; people want to belong – they want the time at work to be well spent.”
“Fast forward to 2016, profit was up 70.6 per cent from the previous year, and 18.4 per cent from 2014”
Helt said the turnaround in the business has been remarkable.
At the end of October 2014 – prior to Commvault’s transformation program – its profit was almost two-thirds down from the previous year.
“Fast forward to 2016, profit was up 70.6 per cent from the previous year, and 18.4 per cent from 2014,” he said
Its software revenue was also $73.3 million, an increase of five per cent year-on-year, while its customer satisfaction rate currently sits at 98 per cent.
“At the end of the day, you cannot prove that one particular initiative is what makes the difference, as it is a multitude of things,” he said.
“Every part of the organisation – not just HR – needs to get in the game. The transformation we have been through in the past two years is a true example of that …
“Through our modelling we know what improved retention does to our productivity and it’s clear that the ROI on our people are greater to most other investments we could make,” said Helt.
“Having undergone this transformation and come out on the other side, our plan moving forward is to increase our top and bottom line, get back to our past growth trajectory and in short, become a billion dollar company.”