How this HR leader rolled out a new HCM tool amid a pandemic and a merger

Optimizely's chief people officer discusses building corporate culture when workers are remote.  
By: | September 8, 2021

Laura Thiele started as chief people officer of digital commerce and experience platform provider Optimizely at an interesting time last October. Not only was it seven months into a global pandemic, but it was also the same month that parent company Episerver acquired Optimizely and took on its name. If that weren’t enough, the HR department soon started implementing a new HCM solution to manage the company’s 1,200 global employees.

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In this Q&A, we asked Thiele about what keeps her up at night, her HR tech wishlist and how to build corporate culture when workers are remote.  

HRE: Are you using any new HR technology? 

Laura Thiele: It’s an exciting time in HR technology. Here at Optimizely, we are in the middle of a digital transformation for our HR organization. I joined in October 2020, right on the tail end of our implementation decision for a new HCM solution, which we made in early Q1, and we are in the middle of implementing our solution now. We chose SAP’s SuccessFactors for our solution, and we intend to revolutionize the landscape of HR through a more robust HR solution.

See also: This HR leader wants to see more comprehensive wellness tools 

HRE: How will it help your firm?

Laura Thiele of Optimizely

Thiele: We have accelerated hiring and we need to ensure we have a system that speaks with our hiring and our employee HR systems. Right now we have different systems. One of our pressing needs is to bring the systems together to have a coordinated flow from hiring to the employee lifecycle.

HRE: You have had a number of company mergers recently. Can technology help build corporate culture in a pandemic?

Thiele: From a cultural perspective, we are creating a new Optimizely and we’ve had a significant amount of change in the company in the last year. We had a brand name change. Ensuring we have a platform for people to be connected as one company [is important]. It’s a huge advantage to be able to see the employees’ data in their employee profile, understand who’s who from an employee perspective, who does what, but then also shift to employee self-service tools.

As we look at the leadership platform of the solution, we have a lot of room to grow in the sense of having leaders manage data and the lifecycle of the employees. We’re really excited about being able to have visibility and transparency into data that will then enable leaders to be able to manage their talent. This is a big opportunity, but when you come from different acquisitions and there are different pieces coming together, this is a big effort.

HRE: How many employees have you hired recently? 

Thiele: Year-to-date, I’d say we’ve probably hired 600 to 700 people and not all of those are replacements [for departing employees]. There’s a mix there between replacements and incremental growth. I’d estimate that we’re probably going to be close to 800 to 900 employees [hired] by the end of the year. We shoot for 450 per quarter.

HRE: How do you gauge the impact of the recent Episerver and Optimizely merger on the employees? 

Thiele: One of the areas that we invested in was SAP Qualtrics to use as a platform for an employee feedback mechanism. We implemented Qualtrics around the end of Q1, six to eight weeks after we signed the deal with SAP. Now, six months later, we’re taking our second survey. When we measure the employee environment, we look at our culture and we’re going to be able to do that using technology. [We will] use our data to see where we have some areas of success and where we have evolved in terms of our talent satisfaction.

HRE: Do you have a technology wishlist? Which migraine do you have about your job that you wish somebody would solve?

Thiele: If I had a magic wand, [I would want some] understanding of the talent that’s out there in the market in terms of the supply and demand. You have LinkedIn as a database with a pool of people and then you have a lot of opportunities for people, right? Then you see that people still look for opportunities. There are thousands of jobs that are open, but yet there are thousands of people [who could fill those jobs].

From my perspective, if there’s a way to further match the supply and demand and be more targeted—how do we accelerate that further? How do we think about technology if we’re really moving towards a future of work that is based on skills? I feel like there’s got to be something out there in terms of bringing that closer together.


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Phil Albinus is HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children. He can be reached at palbinus@lrp.com and followed on Twitter @philalbinus.