HRTech Interview with Joanna Daly, Chief Human Resources Officer at Elastic

“For me, retaining good talent means focusing on your people managers. Do they provide feedback? Remove roadblocks? Help their team members grow and develop? The ROI on having great managers is huge.”

Hi Joanna. Welcome to our Interview Series. Please tell us a little bit about your role and responsibilities in your current company. 

Hello, Sudipto!

As Chief Human Resources Officer at Elastic, I collaborate with our teams to make sure that our business has amazingly talented people developing our products and serving our customers, and that Elasticians have a great experience working with us. That includes everything from recruiting to compensation to learning, DEI and workplaces and much more.

How has the role of a CHRO evolved in the AI era? 

The role of the CHRO is really about using data-driven insights to ensure our talent strategies deliver on our business priorities, while also creating the culture and conditions for people to perform their best.

I don’t think the core of the CHRO role changes in the AI era but I think the skills a CHRO needs now include understanding how we can responsibly leverage the capability of AI to deliver more effectively, efficiently and with a better employee experience.  I’m really excited to get started on this journey alongside my teams to see where we can go with AI.

What are the profound changes you witnessed in the HR landscape since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think, we’ll continue realizing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come. It started what is becoming a dramatic shift in how we define work and the workplace. It’s still changing how people think about work in their lives and priorities. From an HR perspective, these changes are enabling us to demonstrate a new agility and even a new creativity in how we approach supporting our employees and the larger business needs.

Please tell us about your HR Tech stack and how you plan to expand the scope of AI and automation for your HR department?

As with many growing companies, Elastic has fantastic tools in place to support our work and teams, including familiar platforms such Workday, ServiceNow, and Greenhouse.

We’re now turning our focus on integration and workflow automation. How can we create integrated, personalized experiences for employees to help them get their questions answered and resources accessed? AI will certainly be vital in this journey.

Could you tell us about the toughest decision that you had to make in your HR career?

I led the COVID-19 response at my prior company.

The decisions that we had to make in the early part of 2020 were challenging. Some of our essential employees could not work from home. We had to prioritize the health and safety of our employees while ensuring we continued to deliver for clients who depended on our solutions to keep their businesses going. In some cases their businesses were in turn critical to keeping economies afloat and delivering healthcare or other critical infrastructure during the pandemic. This was at a time when the data about how COVID spread was evolving every day. Luckily I worked with exemplary colleagues who brought expertise and empathy to making these decisions.

How can organizations benefit from having an employee-first approach to growth and collaboration? 

I like to think of it as employee-centric.

Keeping your people in the center doesn’t mean losing sight of your customers or business objectives, but means constantly asking how you can achieve those objectives in a way that works for your people too. It means asking if there’s a way to get the same result while giving your people more support or flexibility. Sometimes very small adjustments in how something gets done make a huge difference for your employees – and those are the things people remember.

What are the major challenges of tapping good talent and retaining them within an organization?

At Elastic, we have a very compelling value proposition when approaching good talent. We have great technology that is going to be essential to customers in their AI/ML journeys, great people, and a great culture. My advice to other CHROs is to be clear about what your employee value proposition is – and what it isn’t- and stay true to that.  For me, retaining good talent means focusing on your people managers.

Do they provide feedback?

Remove roadblocks?

Help their team members grow and develop?

The ROI on having great managers is huge.

Why are so many startups failing despite paying significantly above average compensation to their employees? 

If a company’s premise starts with compensation and assumes product and business success will follow, they probably have it backwards.

Fundamentally you need to have a product or service that customers want and need (and will pay for)! Then pay appropriately to attract the talent you need. It’s important to recognize that compensation is an important part of the total employee value proposition, but it’s not the only part, or the most important part in my experience.

What kind of leadership development program would you recommend to the HR leaders?

Even more than ever, HR Leaders are looked to for leading through change and uncertainty.  This means how to bring clarity to the issue and outcomes, and how to lead people effectively through situations that can initially seem destabilizing. I would recommend leadership development that focuses on building these skills as well as personal resilience.

Your take on the future of AI-powered apps for employee experience management and performance review across industries:

AI definitely has the power to enhance employee experience by serving up more relevant information, assisting transactions, and making recommendations. When it comes to performance reviews, I think the highest quality feedback is going to come from a person, to a person, in service of helping that person develop and grow. We can’t lose sight of the fact that this is about people at the end of the day.

Lighter notes:

Coffee, or Tea?


Your favorite Elastic people management initiative that you want everyone to know about?

First memorable experience in your career as an HR leader? While there have been many memorable experiences, my first leadership experience was in 2006 when I moved to Bangalore to lead Compensation and Benefits for IBM India during a period of intense growth. My team was a group of talented recent graduates who were eager to learn and take on any challenge. The experience taught me what you can accomplish as a team when you collectively decide that despite the obstacles you are going to find a way to get it done. I am proud that many of my team from back then have gone on to successful careers in the HR profession.

Most useful app that you currently use:

Probably OpenTable, so I can look for last minute reservations here in Austin.

Thank you, Joanna! That was fun and hope to see you back on HRTech Series soon.

Joanna has more than 20 years of HR experience, including leadership roles in IBM’s consulting, industry platforms and blockchain businesses and the company’s compensation and talent organizations. Before joining the Elastic team, she was the Vice President of Total Rewards at IBM, where she held global responsibility for the design and delivery of all compensation and benefits programs in addition to Corporate Health and Safety for their 300,000 employees.

Elastic (NYSE: ESTC) is a leading platform for search-powered solutions. Elastic understands it’s the answers, not just the data. The Elasticsearch platform enables anyone to find the answers they need in real-time using all their data, at scale. Elastic delivers complete, cloud-based, AI-powered solutions for enterprise security, observability and search built on the Elasticsearch platform, the development platform used by thousands of companies, including more than 50% of the Fortune 500.