L. David Kingsley on the Value of Treating Employees Like Customers

Chief People Officer L. David Kingsley takes a two-way street approach to talent acquisition, engagement, and retention at Vlocity

Vlocity, a leading provider of industry-specific cloud and mobile software, is based in San Francisco with another office in nearby San Mateo, where demand for tech workers continues to outstrip supply. The fierce competition for talent shows no sign of abating and requires a new set of rules to win and thrive.

And the market isn’t hypercompetitive just in Silicon Valley. Vlocity also has offices in twenty-five countries around the globe. They find they have to work just as hard at attracting and retaining people in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

David Kingsley Vlocity
L. David Kingsley, VlocityPhoto: Courtesy of Salesforce

Chief people officer L. David Kingsley describes the company’s approach to talent acquisition, engagement, and retention as a two-way street. “It has to be a symbiotic relationship,” he says. “Employers need to prove themselves to job candidates as much as the other way around.”

To illustrate this, he shares that the company has a set of seven values, which includes recognition of what employees value. The “People are the Core” value states that “success depends on building, empowering, and developing a highly talented, energetic, creative, and high-performing team.” That falls heavily on Kingsley and his team, who perform what is sometimes referred to as human resources (HR). But not at Vlocity.

The old rules of HR don’t work in the enterprise software industry and others, Kingsley explains. Vlocity, which counts Salesforce as its largest strategic partner, serves six industrial verticals: communications, media and entertainment, energy and utilities, health, insurance, and government. As companies undergo rapid digital transformation, Vlocity employees are expected to treat clients as they themselves are treated by Vlocity.

Which is why the Vlocity HR department is called “Employee Success.”

“At every stage of engagement, a candidate or employee will ask themselves if they identify with our company, our values, and our way of treating our customers,” Kingsley says. That includes as interviewees, new hires, seasoned employees, or management. “Each stakeholder experiences moments of truth based on their own unique engagements with the company and its brand. We actively seek input from those stakeholders to ensure we’re delivering on their expectations.”

Like the customer relationship management software the company is built on, Vlocity sees and treats each stakeholder as a unique customer.

By the numbers, Vlocity has done well with creating a workplace where people feel a connection. “Vlociters,” as Kingsley calls them, almost doubled in size from 550 people to nearly 1,000 in the course of 15 months.

“It has to be a symbiotic relationship. Employers need to prove themselves to job candidates as much as the other way around.”

But successful recruiting isn’t the full story. In the one-to-five Glassdoor rating system, the company scores a robust 4.4 while the company Founder and CEO, David Schmaier, nets an enviable 98 percent approval (the average is 69 percent).

Other factors that speak to the employee experience include internal referral rates and strong gender representation. Kingsley says that in the past year, more than 40 percent of hires were from existing employees’ referrals. “That tells me that people here are working in an engaging and psychologically safe environment if they’re willing to recruit friends,” he says.

Roughly a third of the product and engineering organization at the company are women—comparing favorably to most other tech companies. Google reports that 17 percent of its technology staff is female, at Airbnb it’s 13.2 percent, Yelp is 8.3 percent, and Dropbox has 6.3 percent, according to data collected on Github.

“We have strong women leaders who believe in empowerment and inclusivity,” Kingsley says. “We run a values-driven organization that is committed to customer and employee success.”

He eschews the old “up or out” model that was common a generation ago. Instead, the digital-native generation is more receptive to what he calls the three types of employee experience, each of which is possible at Vlocity.

The first are mountain climbers, who strive for promotions. The second are deep divers, people who become highly skilled specialists. And third are adventure seekers, employees who are comfortable with changing roles, providing value where needed and possible.

Kingsley himself evolved into the people talent business when working at another company at the start of his career. There he observed some in more traditional HR roles being unnecessarily disruptive and not contributing to the company’s overall success. He recognized that there is a continuum in what talent management can be, ranging from a necessary evil to a critical enabler to a trusted advisor.

“At the core of the company’s software, everyone in and around Vlocity is treated like a customer.”

When he was recruited several years ago to work at Salesforce, he discovered how creating positive experiences and environments for employees was quite analogous to client experiences. The key phrase is “we help you get what you need, for where you are going,” he says.

Lest anyone assume this results in a laissez-faire environment, Kingsley assures that is not the case.

“Our offices and our culture are professional and focused,” he says. “Our customers are tackling some of the most complex industry transformations in their history—we share that same ethos, while at the same time empowering our people to spend quality time outside of the office and away from work.”

Visit Vlocity headquarters, and this philosophy is represented by the photography adorning the walls and meeting rooms. Vlocity’s core value of “People First” is evidenced in the smiling faces of customers, partners and employees.

“Treating those employees like customers,” Kingsley says, “is part and parcel of ‘the not-so-secret sauce’ that has helped our company grow to where we are today.”

And if past performance is indicative of future results, Vlocity is a company to watch.

BPM is one of the largest California-based accounting and consulting firms, ranking in the top 50 in the country. From complete HR outsourcing, consulting, recruiting, HR System transition services to elevating cultures, our HR and People Services group can scale up or down with your organization. Learn more at bpmcpa.com/HR or call 925-296-1058.