The Promise Is Still Here

By Jesper Helt

Five years ago, I joined Commvault and immediately started working on two objectives: scale the culture, and improve talent acquisition and retention. While Commvault had a strong culture, I found we were not articulate, but almost timid about it. While 90 percent indicated we lived and breathed our values in everything we did, less than 20 percent could say what those values were – leadership included! That may not be a big deal as long as the values are felt, but it quickly becomes an issue when you hire 25 percent new employees per year who need to assimilate and contribute to the culture.

Values are a tricky thing in the human resources field. Many companies espouse a vision, mission and values, but few successfully and authentically ingrain these into their culture. Too often in business, values are just empty words, or as in our case, very meaningful but completely undifferentiated: Integrity, Respect, Passion, Innovation, Collaboration, Execution. Case in point: for 80 percent of our new hires, one or more of these words were also values of their former companies. While none of them came from Enron, it makes you think when you realize Enron’s first value was also “integrity.”  As I said: It’s tricky.

When our Vaulters were asked in our 2017 engagement survey for the words that best describe Commvault, the No. 1 answer was overwhelmingly – FUN. That was certainly a departure from our traditional values, and it definitely wasn’t represented in our values statement. So we embarked on some serious field research – anthropology style!  

With a sample of 100 global Vaulters from all parts of the world and the business – and a drizzle of positive inquiry methodology — we asked employees to describe the Commvault they knew and what it looked like at its best. The results were revealing: not only were there consistent themes and strong ties to the values, but the way it was stated was different and full of the energy our values statements lacked.

For an HR leader, the analysis and insights we received were igniting. We had a company culture fueled by a perpetual energy, products, cutting-edge technologies and amazing people feeding off one another. So, here I was, working in a great company, with great people, who deliver a great customer experience.  But the problem remained: How do we bottle that special energy and describe it in a succinct, yet unique way?

We decided to describe our culture in a different way. We stepped away from the traditional vision-mission-value approach and chose to make our employees storytellers. We created a People Purpose capturing the essence of why we are here: We unlock the potential in data, customers and each other

Instead of the classic – and often clinical – employee value proposition, we stuck our neck out and made a commitment to an employee experience in the form of our People Promise: Freedom to make an impact, together.  Then, we gave our previous values an extreme makeover to make them fresh, relatable and just a little bit quirky.

We officially launched our People Promise and restated values in December 2017 with fanfare and enthusiasm and just a bit of foreshadowing of what 2018 had in store! Already in January, we realized our company had some serious challenges facing us — financially, strategically and organizationally. It spelled major rethinking and restructuring, which was further exacerbated by an activist investor taking strong interest in our stock.

While we clearly had to pause our rollout, it was clear this was the time where our culture and values would be put to the test. Our newly stated “Freedom to make an impact, together,” had never been more important. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that “fun” took a backseat during our restructuring; I will also say that thanks to our spirited and committed employees, we made tremendous strides in making the necessary changes.  Ultimately, I think our company and culture are stronger because of it.

While it’s too soon to declare victory, it’s a new day at Commvault.  We reported strong quarterly results and welcomed Sanjay Mirchandani as our new CEO. He follows the remarkable leadership of Bob Hammer and Al Bunte, who jointly fostered Commvault’s culture.

Sanjay’s enthusiasm is contagious and is already fueling our perpetual energy. He is committed to meeting 80 percent of our employees in his first 60 days – to hear what the Commvault experience feels like in good, as well as challenging times. As a company, we are re-energized, and with leadership committed to connecting to employees. We’re returning to the conversation we started more than a year ago. Now is the time to ask how our values stood the test of adversity, where we succeeded, where we failed, what we learned. And last but not least, to continue to put the fun back in Commvault. 

Our story – which is a great one – hasn’t changed.  The way we tell it is different. Let’s get talking.

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