‘People do their best work when they feel they belong’

Software company ServiceNow talks to workingmums.co.uk about its award-winning culture and its emphasis on creating a sense of belonging.

Image of people at work in the background with technology overlay indicating techposter syndrome


Software company ServiceNow was recently voted the UK’s best place to work in Glassdoor’s UK 50 Best Places to Work. The award comes at a time when the company is growing fast – it increased by 22% over the last year and has been growing at around that rate for some time. “We’re a hypergrowth company,” says UK&I HR Director Katie Whitehouse.

This is due to the significant role they play in digital transformation through their cloud computing platform which helps employers manage their digital workflows. Whitehouse says that the award is testament to the company culture which is defined by a focus on belonging. She says this goes further than diversity and inclusion. She explains: “Diversity is being asked to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance; and belonging is feeling you can be your authentic self. In my view, people can do their best work when they feel they belong.”

The on-boarding process is where that sense of belonging starts. New starters get access to an onboarding app before they join; they can order the IT equipment and training they need and connect to a buddy. The focus is on making the process seamless.

The Covid impact

Even before the pandemic ServiceNow, whose HQ is based in the US, had a flexible culture, but this was amplified as a result of Covid, with a focus on rest and wellness.

Over last summer, for instance, the company ran Recharge Fridays where everyone could stop work at lunchtime. Some chose to do focused work in the afternoon while others opted for a longer weekend. This has been set against a family first mentality, modelled by senior leaders, and story sharing from employees at all levels about their personal circumstances during the pandemic. “You are never made to feel guilty about making a choice between family and work,” says Whitehouse, who is a mum of two and regularly needs to juggle working from home with sick children or for school inset days.

During the pandemic the business also recognised the need to build social connection for people working remotely through activities and events such as cookery classes, origami making and a speed networking event.

The majority of staff currently work in a hybrid way and Whitehouse says what that means to each individual will be different. “We’re adopting a go slow to go fast approach to the return to the office,” she says. A lot of what they do is based on employee feedback. They run an annual staff survey and during Covid had around six additional ones. On the back of those they decided to delay any return to the office. The current date for people to come back is the end of April, although they can choose to come back before. Teams are encouraged to work together to find what pattern will work best for them in the longer term.

ServiceNow is working with line managers to enable them to manage a distributed workforce and is looking at how they can access technology to improve the experience of all hands meetings for people dialling in remotely so everyone feels included.

Culture champions

When it comes to company culture, ServiceNow’s culture champions play a large part in instilling a sense of belonging, working at the grassroots level to embed that, for instance, through organised activities such as the speed networking event and participation in community-based programmes like the Prince’s Trust Future Steps programme. The culture champions initiative was reset last year and there are now two senior managers on board to ensure a top to bottom approach.

The culture champions also promote wellbeing initiatives. Last year the company held a wellness month in May to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme was getting out into nature and the culture champions helped to devise a panel on mental health where employees shared their stories and external speakers were brought in.

Communication also plays a key part in developing the company culture through, for instance, regular sharing of ideas and discussions about hot topics across the company and senior leaders are encouraged to tell their stories. There is an internal Facebook group where people can post photos of what they are doing on Recharge Fridays, their families, their charity involvement and other activities.

Gender and talent attraction

Gender balance is another big focus, given they are in a male-dominated industry. Nearly a third of the senior leadership team are women. The company has endeavoured to ensure there is no bias in its job descriptions and that interview panels are diverse. It also has a women in Now network group – alongside other equality-based network groups – and it uses social media to get direct messages from female employees out to others to encourage more diverse applications. In addition, it is working with the Prince’s Trust and the Refugee Council to get cohorts of refugees into work and has helped to ensure all nine of its most recent cohort are now in employment through its partner ecosystem.

When it comes to family-related benefits, ServiceNow offers 12 weeks’ parental leave on full pay to non-birthing parents and has had a really good uptake with those who have taken leave being encouraged to speak about it on their return. The company also provides up to 10K dollars to families looking to adopt.

All of the above has helped ServiceNow to win a number of awards, including being ranked first in the Great Place to Work Institute’s UK’s Best Workplaces in Tech 2021 and ninth in its UK’s Best Workplaces ranking for 2021. This is in addition to its number one spot in the Glassdoor ranking. And it matters too when it comes to bringing great talent to its door and encouraging people to stay. “We’re in a really good place when you think about the Great Resignation,” says Whitehouse. “We are growing at a rate of knots and there are so many opportunities. It’s an exciting time for us.”


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