How to Create High-Performance Culture: A #SHRM19 Interview with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf


Amy Cappellanti-Wolf is SVP & CHRO at Symantec, the largest Cyber Security software company in world. In addition to serving on the executive team and managing Symantec’s global human resources function, she leads Symantec’s workplace and workforce strategy planning, real estate and facilities organizations. Amy has over three decades of experience leading companies across high tech, entertainment and consumer products industries through complex transformations. She was recently named one of the top 50 most influential women tech leaders by the National Diversity Council. Amy publishes regularly and is a frequent speaker at industry-related conferences. Amy is also an Official Member, Forbes Human Resources Council since September 2018.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and life at Symantec?

I studied journalism in college with the intention of becoming an investigative journalist. Upon graduation, the market had precipitously dropped and with high unemployment and my lack of experience, work was difficult to secure. So, I decided to pursue a Masters in Industrial Relations. I was particularly drawn to programs focused on organizational effectiveness and compensation. I was recruited by Frito-Lay and was fortunate to build strong foundations in change management, goal alignment and business leadership. I was able to work with multiple functions such as sales, operations and manufacturing while relocating every few years to Florida, Texas and Georgia. Later, I joined a startup production at Disney, where I worked for five years. It was a very different and enriching experience working with creative talent. I moved to Silicon Valley in late 2000, where I worked briefly with Sun Microsystems and then spent eight years with Cisco, where my focus was to build leadership capability and scale. During this time, we expanded our portfolio as well as global footprint and I had the unique opportunity to expand our presence in India. Following Cisco, I took on my first CHRO role with a private smart-grid company, Silver Spring Networks. Following a successful IPO with Silver Spring, I joined Symantec five years ago. At Symantec, it is has been all about transformation in our business and and innovating as cyber security becomes an ever-increasing priority for both enterprise customers and consumers. I have been involved in several acquisitions, divestitures, restructurings and leadership transitions and I can honestly say it has never been a dull moment.

What are some of the must have elements to create a high-performance culture?

First and foremost, it is important to have a clear and articulated business strategy. It has to be clear to the extent that leaders all the way to individual contributors understand the role they play to support the strategy. For example, the business strategy should define how each person/function, such as talent acquisition, can contribute to business success.

Second, financial acumen is a very important element for high-performance cultures. You need to know how money is made and lost in the business You need to know who your competitors are and what threats they may pose to your business.

Another important element is accountability. It is imperative to know who is responsible for each task/function. There has to be a clarity in the performance goals as well as stretch goals. The consequences for high and low performers should also be defined. There has to be a system for rewarding risk-takers. Clear communication, alignment and reward are all equally important when it comes to creating a high-performance culture. 

How can the growth mindset and risk mindset help in creating a high-performance organization?

Growth mindset is about seeing problems through a different frame and looking at them as opportunities versus obstacles. Innovation is all about risk taking. Often companies strive for flawless execution, which can get in the way of innovation. Perfection is in fact the enemy of innovation. At Symantec, we are all about innovation and agility, failing fast and applying our learnings to the next iteration of the project or initiative. In fact, in HR, we practice agile development and we leverage technology and systems to help us innovate and create better employee experiences while improving our own productivity.

How can HR help in developing a high-performance culture in the organization?

It starts with how performance is measured and ensuring managers are equipped to align their team to the top priorities and provide constant feedback and guidance. It is also important to develop and implement reward systems that differentiate top and bottom performance. There has to be clarity in business goals, developing operating mechanisms for how the company is performing and driving accountability. For a high-performance culture, you need to have an inclusive environment, where diversity of thought, background and experience is valued.

What would be the main learning points from your session at #SHRM19?

Business transformation and the role of HR will be the main topic of my discussion. I will also be talking about practical tips and stories in how to lead through business transformation. One of the main points I will emphasize is the importance of being super clear about the problem you are solving. I will also share a framework for how to to focus on creating the right structures both for business transformation as well as for the employee and customer experience during a business transformation.

Don't forget to attend Amy’s Mega Session on “Developing A High-Performance Culture That Enables Your Company To Grow and Thrive” on Monday, June 24 from 1:30 p.m. -2:30 p.m. at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition!


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