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Building Culture and Embracing Change | #NewRulesOfWorkPodcast

Building Culture and Embracing Change | #NewRulesOfWorkPodcast

Jacqui Canney: One in three ads that are placed
come from WPP. That drives me to want to have the most diverse,
inclusive work environments because those are the people who are creating the ads that
help us not only think about how we feel about ourselves or the environment, but how my kids
are feeling about themselves. Kathryn Minshew: Hello and welcome to The
New Rules of Work, a podcast from The Muse, where we explore the changing landscape of
work and the dynamics between employers and talent. Today I’m really excited to be speaking with
Jacqui Canney, who is the Global Chief People Officer at WPP, one of the biggest agency
companies in the world. Whether or not you’re familiar with WPP, it
is the parent company of many long-established agencies including Ogilvy and YNR, who partner
with major brands like PepsiCo, KFC, and even the US Navy, and they’ve produced some of
the best known advertising and branding campaigns in recent years. Jacqui has a fascinating career path and so
I’m really excited to dig in with her today. Prior to joining WPP, she was the chief people
officer at Walmart, which employs well over 2 million people, and she previously spent
25 years at Accenture, the global professional services company, where she supported the
rapid growth of the business from 21,000 people to more than 300,000, a 15x employee head
count increase. Kathryn Minshew: Jacqui, you have a really
interesting challenge in your new role at WPP and I’m so excited to dig into it with
you. So thank you so much for joining me today. Jacqui Canney: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here. Kathryn Minshew: I think we’re going to have
a lot of fun. So right now as we’re recording, you’re about
four months into your new role as a WPP’s global chief people officer, and everyone,
regardless of where they are in their career, can relate to starting a new role. So I wonder, just to kind of ground us to
start, if you could share, how did you approach your first few months in the role and are
there tips or advice you might give to other people who are starting a new role soon? Jacqui Canney: Sure. Thank you for the question, and again, having
us here today. I am four months in and it’s been an amazing
four months. I’ve had an opportunity to spend time, in
particular, with our business and our people. And I get a lot of energy out of that and
have learned quite a bit already. In my first month, we had a board meeting,
we had our shareholder meeting, we had some really big events that allowed me to get a
top line view of what’s happening in the company from their seats. And then I’ve had the opportunity to meet
with industry experts. So, spending time with people who can give
me their point of view on the agency world, on advertising and media, the future of where
that’s headed, and also get a particular point on what they think of WPP. So spending time outside the company, inside
the company, learning about our work, and lastly, I’d say spending time with some of
our biggest clients. So, understanding what challenges they’re
facing, understanding how WPP can help them, and certainly how we can grow together. Kathryn Minshew: Yeah, it’s a great mix of
both learning from the inside and going outside to get some of that firsthand perspective. So before WPP, I mentioned in the intro you
are the chief people officer at Walmart. And you told me a story when we were getting
set up here, that I would just love to ask you to repeat for everyone because it was
such a great example of how sometimes in leadership roles you have to make decisions that don’t
always seem obvious at the time, and yeah, just sticking to them can yield really incredible
longterm results. Jacqui Canney: Sure. When I started at Walmart, our share price
was in the high $70s for context, and I had met with Doug McMillan and his leadership
team to talk about what their ambition was for people. And when you speak to them, even today, you
understand that it is a people led transformation for Walmart and that is what drew me to the
company to want to be a part of it. One of the things that happened soon into
my time, it was about two months, we had our annual investor meeting, where we go and we
talk to the investors about what the strategy of the company is. The CFO presents the financial outlook and
our leaders talk about what their business plans are. So it’s a really important day. Jacqui Canney: And when we went to that meeting,
we talked about the $2.7 billion investment that the company had agreed was an important
part of the strategy. So that was in our people, specifically around
training, education and wages. And what happened was our share price went
into the $50s that day. Kathryn Minshew: Wow. So you all announced this massive investment
in training, education and wages for Walmart employees and the street responded by cutting
the share price, by lowering the price of the stock. That’s incredible. Jacqui Canney: Yes. So as a leadership team, we all thought, well,
we didn’t see that necessarily as the outcome of that announcement, but it certainly is
something as a leadership team, we took responsibility for and knew that that meant we had nowhere
to go but forward. And it was not to go backward and let that
event, I’ll say, impact our decision making, our strategy, and how we wanted to continue
our transformation with people. And we put our heads down, we worked together. It was a very galvanizing moment as a company,
for eCommerce, for stores. We all knew there was one share price that
we were working to increase, but we wanted to do that with our values and our heart and
have it done with our people. Jacqui Canney: So we continued to invest. Not just in the original $2.7 billion, we
continued to invest in further training, education and wages. We continued to invest in technology to empower
our people, particularly in the front line, to be able to serve customers better. And as I reflect, you know, the share price
today, we just looked at it before we got on, is at $119. So I think it’s a really good lesson that
a leadership team sticking together, sticking to your strategy, knowing what’s right to
do, will yield results. It’s just maybe not going to be in 48 hours. Kathryn Minshew: Yeah. And I’ve seen that myself, where it can be
hard to stick to what you believe is right for your company and your people when there
might be external incentives otherwise. But I think that’s a really neat story and
definitely something that’s not what most people would want to jump into in month two
of a new job, but also what an incredible experience that I’m sure bonded the team and
the people together. Jacqui Canney: Yes, for sure. For sure. Kathryn Minshew: So then switching gears,
I thought it was interesting when I was reading WPPs announcement about your appointment,
your CEO, Mark Reed, had mentioned that one of your core responsibilities would be building
a new culture that “empowers people to do their best work.” What does this type of culture look like to
you and how might it differ from cultures at other companies or previous places where
you’ve worked? Jacqui Canney: WPP, if you Google the history
of the company, was built to put together a number of different agencies that would
serve their clients and their customers. Mark Reed is the new CEO, as you mentioned,
he’s been CEO about a year now, saw the opportunity of a more integrated approach to the company,
not having so many silos within in, and some would say even built to compete with itself. So some of the brands that you mentioned could
have in the past shown up at a client together competing for work. And now Mark and the leadership team believe
that it’s not about the competing for work, it’s about bringing the best of one WPP to
our clients. And having a one people strategy to integrate
the company is what Mark has asked me to help him lead. Jacqui Canney: And that starts with the culture. So we know we have this vision that he set
apart. We have a strategy that we just took our top
250 people through. But what it means from a people strategy is
that you need to have your ambition, which is around having an open opportunistic place
where people can do their most extraordinary work for clients. As a people lead, how we bring that to life
is through our processes and policies and making sure that that isn’t just words on
a page. So our strategy is built on how we’re modernizing
the function, keeping it iPhone easy to work in the company. You should be able to have your address updated
as well as what my great capabilities are, what my potential is, and have that match
up this amazing client work that we have, because we have so many great clients. Jacqui Canney: And then we need to have an
ambition to be an employer of choice. There’s a lot of choices now for people about
where they want to go work. This is an industry that’s under great transformation. I would like us to be the destination for
our people to work at this creative and transformation company. And then our people need to have the conditions
to thrive. They need to know that their potential can
be met, that the learning and development opportunities are great, that they have exposure
to leaders that they can learn from while inside the company, and then having opportunities
to either rise up because they want to be promoted or just move laterally because they
enjoy the work that they’re doing and they want to just get more exposure. Kathryn Minshew: So I think next, one of the
things that I wanted to ask you about is embracing change. So you’ve talked a lot about the importance
of embracing change. Your career absolutely demonstrates that quality
and that willingness. For people who are listening who may have
change in their future, what does embracing change mean to you and how do you encourage
your teams to embrace change? Jacqui Canney: I find change an adrenaline
positive, so I need to start with that. Kathryn Minshew: Me too, right. Jacqui Canney: So there’s the optimist. But it’s knowing not everybody feels that
way. And sometimes change can be scary to people
and they don’t want to see through it, not because they don’t want to get there, I think
it’s hard to sometimes feel the energy from it. It can be a detractor. So I absolutely seek out people who feel the
energy from it because I think it’s a good part of having on the team. But I think for those who struggle with change,
you have to give them what’s not changing to be able to be comfortable and anchoring
to something, whether it’s the culture, the values, things like that that are bedrocks
inside an organization, and then showing the way through that, but not wavering off the
bedrock. You need to have a foundation that you can
stand on and feel good, concrete, because you’re going to get pushed a little bit on
it every now and then. And I think that’s important. Jacqui Canney: For my team, I feel like right
now they’re the bedrock for me. I have my team, I have my family. That means a lot to me too because you need
to have the outside world that you can stand on to keep you strong. But the team we have, Mark’s team that he’s
built, are absolutely providing that right now. One of the things I’ve learned along the way
though, is you have to be your authentic self through this time of change. And we’re talking a little bit about what
it was like to join a company like Walmart, and in my first six months there, it’s a really
big responsibility. It’s got, as I said, so many employees. I had a great team, the leadership team, we
had the stock price. So there were definitely moments where I was
feeling the pressure to have this much responsibility and maybe not be myself. Jacqui Canney: So I had to be reminded this
is the bedrock to stand on. We had a great founder who created the values. We had this great CEO who knew which way he
wanted to go, and I had a great team that wanted to go and execute the strategy. It just is a difficult time when you have
that many eyeballs on you from around the world, around the company, outside the company. Kathryn Minshew: When you’re stepping up and
taking on a big job, it comes with that exposure. But I love the idea of grounding yourself
in what’s not changing. Jacqui Canney: Yeah. The other thing I’d add as you’re talking,
is around purpose. You know, having the culture tied to the purpose
of why you’re doing it helps you stay the course. I think one of the things… You know, we do those personality tests, I’m
sure you guys all do them here too, right? Kathryn Minshew: I’ve done so many. Jacqui Canney: That one of the things I measure
high on is altruism, just as a part of my personality. So I am very driven by what the purpose of
a company is, and Walmart with its save money so people can live better, was very real to
my core of why I really wanted to deliver on the work. At WPP, it might surprise you, but one in
three ads that are placed come from WPP. Kathryn Minshew: Wow. Jacqui Canney: So you imagine the impressions
that we create for people all over the world and how much responsibility there is for that,
too. And that drives me to want to have the most
diverse, inclusive work environments, because those are the people who are creating the
ads that help us not only think about how we feel about ourselves or the environment,
but how my kids are feeling about themselves. Kathryn Minshew: Yeah. You can’t be what you can’t see. Jacqui Canney: Exactly. Kathryn Minshew: And advertising is what a
lot of us see a lot of the time. Jacqui Canney: Yes. So it’s another great reason to be connected
to WPP. Kathryn Minshew: So I think I’ve got one more
question for you before we wrap. So Jacqui, when you think about making WPP
a destination for the absolute top talent across advertising and creative industries,
what are some of the things that you’re doing to attract and retain these folks? Because some of these things may be the same
as attracting top talent anywhere, and others might be specific for advertising and creative,
which are known for often being a particular type of talent. Jacqui Canney: So I would say we’re looking
at the pipeline in multiple levels. At its most junior, people coming out of universities
or taking first jobs, WPP is a pretty amazing destination. You have the opportunity to impact, as I said,
really big numbers of people with the work you do. But it’s important that we’re looking at where
we’re going to recruit the people that we need. So it’s not always going to be the most traditional
schools, which we do need people from where you might expect here in New York, some great
universities here, but it’s also looking into the pipeline in places where we might find
the more diverse candidates that we’d like to have, community colleges, even high school
students, to get exposure to what this type of industry can do. Because I think people don’t fully understand
all the roles that we have, so it’s trying to draw from a new place to get talent in
to the company. Jacqui Canney: And then it’s thinking about
mid-level career. How do we now be a more open WPP, creating
mobility for our people? So in the old way of doing WPP work, you might
work in one brand and feel like you can’t move to another brand. But you really do want to get exposure from
perhaps a creative agency to the media buying or media creation. And in the new WPP, we’re creating a mobility
plan so that people can go have those experiences and perhaps they’ll go back to create a brand
because they’re really in love with that, but they’ll be better for it because they
understand the full breadth of our company. Jacqui Canney: And then at our most senior
levels, Mark and I were just talking about creating learning and development opportunities
for our most senior people to learn how to be even their best selves. So it’s about having experiences with other
leaders. We just had Angela Ahrendts, who used to be
at Apple and Burberry, come speak to our leadership team. And I think creating those experiences for
our most senior leaders to have shared across, is another way that we’re building what I
believe will be the destination for all the great people who want to come work at WPP. Kathryn Minshew: Amazing. No, I love it and I think it makes so much
sense to think about the different ways that you can both bring great people in and also
encourage them to continue building their skills and getting new experiences. So I love that. Well, with that, I think we’re out of time. But Jacqui, thank you so much for coming in
and coming to The Muse offices and chatting with us today. It’s been such a pleasure having you and I
really appreciate it. And if someone has listened to this and they
are really interested in learning more about your and your team’s work at WPP, should they
go to the website? What’s the best place they can go to learn
more? Jacqui Canney: For sure. Thank you for having me. This has been really fun. I feel like I could stay here all day. The best way to hear more about what we’re
doing is, they can go to the website. I also am on Twitter. We talk a lot about what’s going on in the
company, what’s going on with the team, @jpcanney is my handle there, and I would love to hear
from your listeners too about their ideas for WPP. Kathryn Minshew: Amazing. @jpcanney. Fantastic. Well, thank you again. And for all of you listening, check back next
week for the next episode of The New Rules of Work. Thank you. Jacqui Canney: Thank you. Kathryn Minshew: The Muse is the best place
to research companies and careers. More than 75 million people each year trust
The Muse to help them win at work, from finding a job, to building the skills to help them
grow and advance. Organizations use our platform to attract
and hire talent by providing an authentic look at company culture, workplace, and values
through the stories of their employees. Speaker 3: You’ve been listening to The New
Rules of Work. To learn more about this episode and to research
companies and jobs, visit To ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe
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for host, Kathryn Minshew, feel free to reach out to [email protected] Thank you for listening. Until next time.

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