Key Takeaways

  • Avanade’s purpose is to make a humane impact. This includes actions like supporting the UK's NHS during the pandemic, working with nonprofits, and promoting discourse around societal events.
  • Innovation is integral to Avanade’s work, particularly in meeting the evolving technology demands of its clients.
  • As a black female CEO in tech, Ms. Maynard is committed to diversity and inclusion. Avanade has implemented initiatives like appointing a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and introducing gender transition leave to make the company more inclusive and diverse.
  • Ms. Maynard emphasizes that loving and caring for employees is a leadership priority. She believes in fostering a sense of purpose, authenticity, and belonging among her teams, referencing Brené Brown’s idea that true belonging means being who you are.
  • A people-first approach results in good business, citing a Harvard Business Review study linking purpose with profit. A more engaged workforce is a more productive one, resulting in better business outcomes.

Executive Summary

Hello everyone, welcome back to The Leader Show with Lou Carter. Our guest today is Pamela Maynard, CEO of Avanade

Avanade is an international leader in technological solutions, dedicated to delivering a comprehensive suite of IT consulting and services grounded in Microsoft technology. With expertise spanning artificial intelligence, business analytics, cloud, and application services, the company is at the forefront of digital transformation.

With that said, let’s find out what makes it a Most Loved Workplace®. 

Cultivating A People-First Culture

Pam has aways believed in the unique, special nature of Avanade’s workplace enviroment, and the Most Loved Workplace® recognition helped validate its ‘people-first’ culture. She recounts the pride, gratitude, and excitement from Avanade’s employees upon hearing the news and mentions that many shared this on social media, along with personal anecdotes about what makes Avanade a great place to work. 

This, according to Ms. Maynard, has strengthened the understanding and importance of the company’s people-first approach.

The Triad of Success: Purpose, Innovation, and Inclusion

Pam pinpoints three critical factors that contributed to the company’s success: a united purpose, a culture of innovation, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

#1 Purpose 

Pam underscores that in her leadership role, she solidified the company’s purpose of making a humane impact. She illustrates this with examples like aiding the NHS during the pandemic, working with nonprofits such as UNICEF, and partnering with the World Health Organization. She also mentions their response to societal events, like encouraging discussions around systemic racism following George Floyd’s murder and enabling increased volunteering during the pandemic.

#2 Innovation 

In addition, Pam suggests that innovation has always been integral to Avanade, being essential in meeting the accelerating demand for technology evolution from its clients. Despite the shift to a virtual setting due to the pandemic, it has been able to maintain its focus on innovation and support clients’ innovative needs.

#3 Inclusion and Diversity 

Last but not least, Pam expresses a personal responsibility as a black female CEO in the tech industry to make it more inclusive and diverse. Avanade has made strides in this area by appointing a Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer, investing in leadership development programs, reassessing talent acquisition processes to mitigate bias, and introducing gender transition leave, among other initiatives.

These three factors, according to Pam, have been pivotal in making Avanade a Most Loved Workplace.

The Key to Avanade’s Success Amid Pandemic and Beyond

Moving on, Pam discusses the importance of people-centric leadership, which she defines as a top priority in her role as the CEO of Avande. According to her, putting love for employees as a leadership priority means fostering a sense of purpose, authenticity, and belonging among her teams. 

She strongly believes that when people feel loved and feel like they belong, there’s nothing the company can’t achieve. 

According to Pam, the COVID-19 pandemic made her realize the importance of employees’ emotional, mental, and physical well-being. During that time, she ensured that the teams were taken care of and located where they needed or wanted to be during the global lockdowns. 

This care included hosting webcasts, and town hall conversations, relieving pressure, and offering a differentiated employee value proposition that emphasizes limitless learning, distinctive experiences, and ambitious growth.

Pam concludes by reiterating that fostering a sense of belonging and putting people first also results in good business. She refers to a Harvard Business Review study that linked purpose with profit, suggesting a more engaged workforce is a more productive one, thereby bringing better results in business.

Lou and Pam go into much greater detail throughout this conversation.

Thank you for listening!


Lou Carter : So great to have Pam Maynard here today with us. Hi Pam. Great to see you. Pam Maynard, CEO of Avanade. Hi Pam!

Pam Maynard : Hi Louis!

LC : Well, we're going to talk about a Most Loved Workplace and you, congratulations on becoming a Most Loved Workplace this year.

PM : Thank you, and I'm delighted to be here.

LC : It's good to have you here. So let me ask you the first question. What has it meant for you to achieve a Most Loved Workplace?

People First: How Avanade's Culture Earned Its Place Among The Most Loved Workplaces (00:49)

PM : Well, you know, we've always felt that we were a special organization or we had something quite special and unique in our culture, Avanade. But it's that external recognition which has really helped to really validate it, that uniqueness and that specialness, if you like, and really strengthened for us, or helped to strengthen and underscore our ‘people first’ culture so much more. When we were informed that Avanade had made the the most loved workplace list, the reaction from most of our people was one of pride and gratitude and also massive excitement, because we really couldn't believe it just came as completely as a surprise. You know, we had thousands of people share the news as well on LinkedIn and other social channels, and it was so inspiring to see them share their own personal stories as well in terms of what it meant for them to be part of Avanade and what they believed made Avanade a great place to work, and how that's actually provides and leads to a sense of belonging, you know, in the organization. So our ranking in terms of the most loved workplace list is certainly an achievement. It's one that we've shared and it's one that's really helped to underscore that people-first culture and the why of that people-first culture for us.

LC : Well, thank you Pam, for that. And another thing I want to know is what makes your company a most loved workplace?

Uniting Purpose, Innovation, Diversity, And Inclusion At Avanade To Cultivate A Most Loved Workplace (02:30)

PM : Well, there's so many. There's so many, so many things I can talk about here, and especially as I'm hugely passionate about this topic as well. Here today we have 52,000 skilled employees across 80 cities and 26 countries. And our people have more experience than any other, you know, systems integrator around Microsoft technologies in the market. And I look back on our history as well. We're now sort of over 20 years old. And just in terms of answering your question, three things stays top of mind for me.

One, it's about uniting the organization behind a common purpose to it staying true and very focused on our culture of innovation. And then lastly, it really is all about a commitment to really raising the bar in the technology industry around inclusion and diversity. And so if I just go a little deeper on those three from a purpose perspective, one of the first things that I did when I came into role was really to solidify our company's purpose, which is to make a genuine human impact with the work that we do.

You know, our people told us really loudly that they want to know that what they are doing for our clients is making a difference in the world. And it isn't just about the technology and it isn't just about bottom line results. They wanted to know that we are having real human impact. And it's that purpose that inspires us to look beyond the technology and at the human impact. You know, for example, the work that we did at the onset of the pandemic, helping the NHS, the National Health Service here in the UK to use technology to rapidly produce ventilators, you know, as part of a consortium during the pandemic or working with nonprofits, which is a big part of what we do now. You know, working with, for example, an organization like UNICEF to increase the effectiveness of fundraising again, so critical over the last 20 months, or even the partnership we've established with the World Health Organization, helping them to develop a digital platform which provides greater access to healthcare data, again, becoming hugely important over the last 20 months or so.

And also, you know, in terms of bringing the purpose to life and going beyond the work that, you know, the work that we do just in terms of our clients, they're also embedding that into the culture. And so an example there was what happened in Avanade, when George Floyd was murdered, you know, we led a series of employee-led discussions around systemic racism and discrimination that attracted over 700 of our employees and also gave everybody in the company the day off to reflect and grieve, when on actually on the day of its funeral, when the pandemic hit as well, we uncapped the volunteering hours, so we allow our employees to volunteer. We lifted the cap on the number of hours so that our people could really support others around them. You know, doing simple through simple acts of kindness or, you know, work in the community.

Those were, you know, two things that also became really, really important. When I think about innovation; Innovation has run through the DNA of Avanade for as long as we've been around, so since 2000. And we are really, really committed to have innovation at the heart of everything we do and continue today, stay committed to evolving what that means as we evolve as an organization. I don't think, you know, I could get much of an argument that in today's world, the speed of change, you know, there's only one speed and that is incredibly fast in terms of when it comes to technology change. And our clients are just demanding more and more in terms of technology evolution or technology innovation in their businesses. Helping them to invest in areas which suddenly, you know, through the last couple of years has been a real light shine in terms of any technical debt or opportunity to harness more innovative technologies like data and AI to capture new customers, and or even around security and privacy strategy.

So having innovative ideas and offering innovation even as a service for clients has become really important, you know, as our clients look forward and plan for the future. And one of the things that we had to react to is actually being able to pivot our innovation activities, which we do. So we normally do in-person, innovation competitions and an in-person innovate fest. We had to pivot that very quickly to running those virtually. So, you know, preserving, if you like, that focus on innovation through the last 20 months has been really key. We've been able to do that by pivoting very quickly to virtual events. Still having clients at the center of those events as well has been very important. And therefore, you know, for our clients, really helping them as well on that innovation journey.

And then lastly, around inclusion and diversity, for as long as I can remember, yeah, both in terms of my career in technology, which is actually quite long now, and also my time at Avanade, the technology industry is really struggle to attract more women, into STEM careers, more diverse talent into careers in technology. And as one of few black female CEOs in the industry, I really do feel a personal responsibility to leave the industry in a much more inclusive and diverse way than I found it. Which is why, you know, we've made it a priority to build an inclusive and diverse team at Avanade, which starts with gender and race, but goes way beyond that.

And we are really proud of the progress we've made and also the investments that we've made as well. So we've appointed our first chief diversity and inclusion officer, dedicated to provide dedicated support to our numerous employee networks now, and brought on leadership and development programs to help our leaders become more inclusive leaders, and also looked up how we acquire talent, how we attract and acquire and bring talent into the organization. And looking at how we can remove bias in those processes as well. We've got metrics that measure and tell us that we're making progress and we've really bolstered, as I say, training resources. And then we're also rolling out gender transition leave. So expanding the efforts at the regional level with programming as well that focuses on neurodiversity hiring and then also ensuring social justice. So a lot going on with Avanade, I say it's those three things which have been pivotal to making us a Most Loved Workplace.

LC : That's outstanding, that you're doing so many wonderful things, especially I hear with diversity, with inclusion, with neurodiversity, incredible. So important for the world right now. It's essential. I'm so happy to hear this. You know, it literally brings chills to me thinking that you're doing all these things because this is the, you know, kind of a, the way the world is imprinted now. It's beautiful, not just diversity, it’s differences. We have to embrace these, you know, and embrace them. I'd love to hear more about what you're doing with neurodiversity too. We have a special issue coming out on neurodiversity. So that's very special. We'd love to hear that as well. And the last question is, why do you place love for your employees as a top priority in your leadership, Pam, your specific leadership?

Driving Results through People-Centric Leadership: Cases Of Care and Concern For Employees During The Pandemic (10:33)

PM : Yeah, it's interesting just before I go and answer your question, just picking up on the diversity point and linking that back to innovation because, you know, we can't deliver on the innovation agenda that we want to our clients or maintain that culture of, innovation within the organization without being incredibly diverse or bringing more diversity to the table. So the two go hand in hand, right? That would be my build on what you've just said. So in terms of, you know, love for our employees is a top priority for leadership. I mean, I would first answer the question, by saying that our people truly are, you know, what makes Avanade, Avanade? It really, really is all about the people. I'm certainly, you can sense that just from the conversation that we are having and when our people feel loved, when they have a sense of purpose, when they feel they can be authentic and they belong, there's nothing, I truly believe there is nothing that we can't accomplish as a business, as a company.

One of my favorite authors who wouldn't surprise you is Brene Brown, who talked about the fact that true belonging doesn't require you to change the person that you are. It requires you to be who you are. And as leaders, we have a responsibility. I feel we have a responsibility to ensure that our teams know, and feel that they can belong. and that what they do really matters. And I know I'm not alone when I say that the last 20 months or so has been transformative both personally and professionally for so many people. And for me included, it's also underscored the importance as well of the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing, you know, of the people that we lead. At the onset of the pandemic, my first instincts very much, and I was only six months into my role at that time as well, so I'd only been appointed as CEO six months previously. In my instinct was, you know, just to make sure that that, you know, we were taking care of the health and wellbeing of our organization, our team globally were, they were, if they were, where they needed or wanted to be, you know, to see out the lockdowns that were evolving or taking place around the world.

And, you know, so then it was, you know, very quickly then I could, and my leadership team could start to shift to helping our clients. We knew that our people had to be in the right place to enable us, you know, to continue to serve our clients, and make that transition to working remote, effective. And it was critical that, for our team as well, that we understood, you know, or they understood that we were going to take care of them. They had that confidence in us as a leadership team as we all went through. And they especially went through a period of uncertainty. And so we hosted global and regional webcasts, town hall conversations to outline the approach that we were going to be taking as a business, which included removing some of the chargeability pressures from our consulting teams, you know, and reassuring them that we are giving them the time to sort out and get some level of balance between, you know, working at home. And that blend that happened to all of us in our personal professional lives through the pandemic.

Last year as well, we really focused on offering a differentiated employee value proposition, which outlines the promises that we make to our employees, you know, around, for example, limitless learning, distinctive experience, ambitious growth, you know, and also the opportunities we provide through our workplaces, and the things that, you know, therefore make us unique and our employees can see make us different, you know, to enable them, you know, as people to want to spend their careers or more of their, a chapter of their careers at Avanade. Now, it's safe to say that we're not going to be going back to the way we were at the point I was appointed as CEO back in September, 2019. You know, needs are different. We need to respond differently to the different programs.

You know, the demands of employees are different, which is why we have to put them front and center. And, you know, I really do believe just, you know, to finish on this point, that fostering that sense of belonging and that culture that, where people come first, you know, also makes good business. At Harvard Business Review, and certainly you've heard and seen their research where they talk about purpose and profit tend to go together. And if a company has a strong purpose of galvanizing purpose for its employees, employees will feel a greater sense of belonging, sense of engagement, and will bring stronger impact into their roles and their jobs.

And that study, you know, also concluded that a more engaged employee workforce, you know, would be a more productive one, as we all know. And therefore, you know, those companies would outperform the market by 5 to 7% per year. So the two go together, and putting, you know, employees front and center, putting people first, you know, in turn, you know, brings really good results, you know, and outcomes from a human dimension for our people, but then also, you know, great business results as well.

LC : Pam Maynard, thank you so much for joining us. You've been wonderful and you're doing so many incredible things that are so important. Over 50,000 employees working across the globe doing trend setting work, you're really wonderful. Thank you for joining us today. It's been wonderful, Pam. Thank you.

PM : And thank you very much for having me. And thank you again for the recognition.