Posted: 3 Min ReadExpert Perspectives

Amy Cappellanti-Wolf: A Study in Data-Driven HR

Symantec’s top HR exec explains how a data-driven approach both supports the business while fostering greater inclusion

After decades as a top HR executive, Amy Cappellanti-Wolf is a self-avowed people person, but the real secret to her success comes from an ability to speak the language of business and a deep respect for the power of data-driven decision making.

Cappellanti-Wolf, Symantec’s senior vice president and chief human resource officer (CHRO) for the last four and a half years, formulated many of her guiding principles—building strong relationships with key business stakeholders, fearlessly asking questions, leveraging data insights to drive HR-led conversations, and acting with resilience and grit—during her early tenure in HR at a Frito-Lay manufacturing plant in Atlanta, GA.

“It shaped my whole thinking that the role of HR is not only about caring for people, but developing a strong business acumen so you can represent the people’s best interests and show how they are important to success,” she says. “That’s why it’s so important to be data-driven.”

Under Cappellanti-Wolf’s stewardship, Symantec’s HR organization is embracing a data-driven approach to support the business, fostering greater diversity in hiring and thought leadership and transforming the company’s global organizational operating model and culture after a period of large-scale acquisitions and divestitures. After Symantec sold off its Veritas data storage business and made strategic acquisitions of Lifelock and Blue Coat to zero in on security, Cappellanti-Wolf was critical to the leadership effort to reorganize the company and define and nurture a cohesive culture.

The Cappellanti-Wolf-led Symantec HR organization employed a variety of modern-day tools and best practices to get a sense of the culture, including a companywide census, spending time in the trenches with both employees and management, and doing listening tour visits to key sites. “We had a lot of acquisitions and divestitures and as a result, we have different microcosms of cultures,” she says. “We need to unify on what kind of culture we need to support and enable our business strategy.”

Hiring for Diversity

One of the hallmarks for Symantec’s evolving culture and charter is diversity and inclusion, both from a hiring standpoint and to encourage broad range of thought. In partnership with the CEO and leadership team, Cappellanti-Wolf’s mandate is not only to make Symantec a great place to work, but to make sure talent management and development programs are key to delivering a workforce that delivers for customers and for the business. “We need to get to a place where we have great representation and people feel like they belong,” she says. “What better way to do that than ensuring that the people we bring are embraced for their different perspectives and experiences.”

Hiring with diversity in mind is a challenge, Cappellanti-Wolf admits, especially in the insular world of Silicon Valley and in the face of a real talent crunch, particularly for top-tier security expertise. Cyber security skills are in high demand, and the people who are good at this competency have been in the trenches for some time and are not always reflective of diversity, including fair representation from women and minorities. Symantec is working hard to change that dynamic by expanding the net to draw talent from college campuses where there is greater diversity, and through new open hiring platforms that cater to specific groups like women, for example. “We are looking at different ways to take bias out of our hiring practices and make sure we are looking at all candidates vs. just hiring in our image,” she says.

One of the hallmarks for Symantec’s evolving culture and charter is diversity and inclusion, both from a hiring standpoint and to encourage broad range of thought.

Of course, given Cappellanti-Wolf’s philosophy, data plays a role in Symantec’s diversity and inclusion performance. The company is constantly measuring various outcomes in different ways, including the number of underrepresented minorities and gender in its pipeline, where the different choke points are, and its success rate converting these recruits into actual hires. To evaluate whether employees feel welcome and that their voices are being heard, Cappellanti-Wolf’s organization conducts a pulse survey sampling between 1500 to 2000 employees about every six weeks as part of a belonging index assessment—another data point that helps steer HR practices and evolve corporate culture.

Cappellanti-Wolf was recently recognized for her innovative HR efforts with an invitation to join the Forbes HR Council. As one of a coterie of hand-selected members, Cappellanti-Wolf will become part of a network of peers who share ideas and experiences as well as participate in thought leadership.

As a long-time HR leader and strong proponent of diversity initiatives, Cappellanti-Wolf says she’s looking forward to collaborating with the group and learning from her peers. She also sees the role as an opportunity to give back to the HR community. “This is an amazing thought leadership platform and I am honored to be a part of it,” she says. “I’ve learned so much as a result of networking, studying trends, experimenting with new ideas as well as being part of this important community. It’s part of being a life-long learner, and if you’re not, you won’t survive.”

For more information and future posts from Amy, visit the Forbes Human Resources Council. 


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About the Author

Beth Stackpole


Beth is a veteran journalist covering the intersection of business & technology for more than 20 years. She's written for most of the leading IT industry publications and web sites as well as produced custom content for a range of leading technology providers.

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