The word "epic" is often used to describe something historically important, lasting and complex. However, when VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger uses the adjective, he is also describing his over 24,000 employees and the collective mission they're working for. Ironically, this is the word that his employees use to describe his leadership as well.
It's no surprise, then, that Gelsinger has received a 99-percent approval rating and has been named the #1 Top CEO in 2019 among U.S. large companies. As a first-time #1 winner, jumping 77 spots from last year, Gelsinger has admittedly overcome a trying year — swooning stock prices, aggressive talent poaching and changing company structure — thanks, in part, to investing in company culture and keeping innovation front of mind.
A key part of his strategy for employee engagement is Glassdoor. We caught up with Gelsinger on the eve of his Top CEOs win to discuss recruiting in the current job market, what insights he’s gleans from Glassdoor analytics and how he retains top talent.
Congratulations on the Top CEOs win. What does it mean to you to know that your employees have rated you so highly?
Pat Gelsinger: Of course I’m honored! Fostering an innovative company culture is paramount to us at VMware, especially now as we enter our next phase of growth. Ours is one of those rare work environments where our people understand they have an opportunity to transform the impossible into the essential. That translates directly to high employee satisfaction. The way our people believe in our mission and how they feel about the company – those are reflections of our culture. That’s incredibly inspiring to me personally, and it validates our spirit of innovation. Our culture is one of possibilities, where everyone is empowered, because together we are shaping the future of business in the digital world. If you think about it: we spend more of our discretionary time with our work families than we do our personal ones; it is important to me that our team enjoys that time we have together.
One of a CEO’s primary responsibilities is to hire amazing leaders. What attributes do you look for in today’s top talent?
Pat Gelsinger: Naturally, we want the best and the brightest, but beyond that I look for those who are insatiably curious and always eager to expand their horizons. We seek out people who are passionate and aligned with our company culture & values.
We put a big focus on attracting talented people who are willing to take on the hardest problems -- the ones with a spirit to innovate like crazy and popularize our technologies. You also want leaders who can inspire and motivate, especially during times of transformation and change. This is important because the technology industry is advancing and transforming at an unprecedented pace.
It's critical to have leaders who attract others, people who other great people want to work with. It’s also important to emphasize we expect leaders who share in our passion for building an inclusive culture, as that resonates with our values and it’s also smart business. We know our industry needs to do better, and systemic change starts at the top with our leadership driving accountability. I personally review progress against diversity and inclusion goals with my staff.
When it comes to Glassdoor, how do you use the platform for recruiting and to keep your finger on the pulse of both company culture and candidate experience?
Pat Gelsinger: Glassdoor is a platform that we use to invite current and prospective employees to share their unique perspectives about working and interviewing at VMware. We value the insights that people share with us in Glassdoor employee and interview reviews as they help us improve our workplace community, and they provide an authentic look into who we are at VMware for those considering joining us at some point in their career journey. Glassdoor’s advertising campaign offering is another service that we utilize as it allows us to attract and connect with people who may be looking for their next career growth opportunity. We’re currently running several Glassdoor advertising campaigns, including one to promote our latest SaaS job opportunities and another to better connect with talent that may not have considered working at VMware previously. Glassdoor is a platform that we continue to invest in because it provides valuable insights into the perspectives of people – VMware’s most valuable asset as a company – and that’s what helps us to continue to move forward as a business and workplace community. Personally, I also log onto Glassdoor to hear the unfiltered voice of feedback from the market.
Retention is hugely important these days. How do you lead your teams to retain top talent?
Pat Gelsinger: Great people want to work on hard problems with other great people in a culture they enjoy, of course, while being properly compensated for the value they bring. That simple formula is the basis for how we think about retention. The myriad implications of employee turnover for companies’ financial success and culture have long been documented, and the conversation around diversity in the technology industry has further reinforced the role of retention in shaping a vibrant dynamic. Accountability for retention starts at the top, and each VP is given goals for representation and inclusion, in addition to access to a dashboard that measures representation, hiring, promotion and retention. With this tool, leaders can more easily identify improvement areas, customize strategies, and track progress toward meeting their goals.
We also believe that creativity sparks innovation and inspires our employees to think differently and challenge the status quo. Whether it’s the kind of products we develop, our approach to sustainability, or the manner we give back to our communities, VMware finds unique ways to bring people together to fuel creative thinking. VMware aims to set itself apart from other tech companies by finding unique ways to engage and delight our employees. Harnessing the power of our employees and human difference, is how VMware distinguishes itself in the Valley and how it delivers transformative IT solutions.
When you look back over your past year as CEO, can you share a time when you didn’t perform like you thought you should have, and how did you recover?
Pat Gelsinger: In the last few years, VMware executed a number of strategic partnerships and acquisitions to accelerate our evolution: from virtualization vendor to strategic provider of the digital foundation that powers the apps, services and experiences that are transforming the world. We drove this evolution against a backdrop of changes to our parent company’s structure, which created some uncertainty around VMware’s ownership and future. This period was accentuated by a swoon in our stock price and aggressive pursuit of our talent by others. Candidly, it was a very challenging period. We successfully navigated that uncertainty by helping our employees stay focused and by continuing to execute on our unique vision – which they did superbly. We also reinforced to partners and customers that it was “business as usual,” which enabled us to remain focused on delivering on VMware’s differentiated innovation. Today, our software portfolio spans compute, cloud, networking & security, and digital workspace. We’re now well positioned to help our customers streamline their journey to become digital businesses, so they can deliver better experiences to their end customers and empower their employees to do their best work.
Lastly, what is your personal motto?
Pat Gelsinger: My long-standing personal goal is to work on a piece of technology that touches every human on the planet in every modality of life. I recognize that’s audacious. But as technology touches more and more aspects of our daily lives, as a technologist you can see this personal goal becoming true. It’s happening right before our eyes!