HR Tech Interview with Julia Anas, Qualtrics Chief People Officer

“Employees that are able to advance both their personal and professional journeys, feel listened to and equipped with the tools and support they need to take care of themselves and their families tend to be some of the strongest, most productive employees. That shouldn’t surprise any of us!”

Hi, Julia, welcome to our HRTech Interview Series. Please tell us a little bit about your journey in the HR industry. How did you start at Qualtrics?

I have always been passionate about helping people, and became interested in the HR profession because of the opportunity it brought in making a difference for people in their careers and their lives. After all, people are an organization’s most important asset.

Before Qualtrics, I led HR and employee experience at several enterprise tech companies, including Adobe, Intuit, Yahoo! and Symantec.

In January 2021, I joined Qualtrics as Chief People Officer and got first-hand experience of what it was like to onboard during the pandemic. I never met the leadership team in person or stepped foot in a Qualtrics office before joining. But I felt connected to the mission of the company ‘to make business more human,’ which translates so directly to employee experiences.

Workforce performance management trends have changed in the last 2-3 years. What are organizations expecting from their employees?

Organizations can’t afford to lose top talent or have a disengaged workforce. As economic uncertainty looms, teams will need to be nimble and adjust to more limited resources. However, long hours and a relentless stream of assignments is not the way to keep employees motivated and productive. Our research shows that 63% of employees are willing to go above and beyond for their company if they believe they have a good work-life balance. Nearly 20% of employees who have the right balance are more likely to stay at their company for at least three years.

Employers are still expecting employees to perform regardless of how they are working (in-office, hybrid, remote). They do understand that in an ever-changing environment, leading with empathy is important and in order to do that, employers have to understand employee needs and how they’ve changed.

In all instances, empowering employees with the space to focus on what matters most and finding ways to eliminate and postpone other work whenever possible helps to achieve success.

How is the HR / people management team playing a key role in communicating organization’s goals and objectives across remote and on-site locations?

As HR leaders, our role is focused on developing and driving an organizations’ human capital strategy. This means we are responsible for creating exceptional human experiences across various moments of the employee journey, fostering an environment which supports employees in doing their best work. I am a firm believer that employee experience differentiates good from great companies, and it’s my responsibility to connect and promote that within Qualtrics.

Over the last few years, many of us have changed the way we work. As leaders, we’ve also changed how we lead. We are connecting with employees in different ways, having been reminded during the pandemic that at the end of the day, we are all human. We all have different needs and understanding where each of us is requires empathy. Leading with empathy is not just for those who work in HR, but for all leaders. Fostering a community and sense of belonging is crucial for helping employees feel connected and supported, regardless of the size of the organization.

Your recent report mentioned that 2.5 billion employees aren’t trying their hardest. Does it mean these employees aren’t performing optimally at the workplace?

Essentially what we found is that employees around the world–with some level of variation by country–felt like they weren’t giving every aspect of their job their all. As we unpacked these findings more, it was clear that employees would be willing to put more effort into their work if they felt their employers treated them better and listened to them more.

More than half of those we surveyed emphasized the need for companies to listen to employee feedback. In India and China, the number of employees who felt this way was around 90%. Meanwhile in countries like the U.S, Japan and New Zealand, that number was closer to 40%.

To me, that presents a unique opportunity for us as employers to improve processes that impact our people–from recruitment and onboarding to development and re-attraction strategies–by instituting a better way to listen and act on employee feedback.

What are the major factors leading to this phenomenon at a modern workplace? How can an HRTech platform like Qualtrics improve the condition of employee-employer relationship management?

No industry or region is exactly the same. However, listening is a fundamental part of human interaction and I see this as a way to create stronger relationships between employers and their employees.

Through Qualtrics’ EmployeeXM platform, we want to make the process of listening to employees’ needs, analyzing feedback and identifying specific actions to improve experiences in a faster, more efficient way. Qualtrics’ technology provides a fast and easy way for HR teams to identify where action is needed, based on operational and experience data. It is informed by both best practices in data science, along with expertise from world-class organizational psychologists and experts that are focused on specific industries such as education, healthcare, technology, financial services and many more.

New job preferences and workplace behaviors/ attitudes have emerged since the onset of the pandemic. Could you highlight some of these and how initiatives toward reducing gender/ race/ pay gaps and DEI play a game-changing role for high-growth startups and large enterprises?

The world of work has been through an intense evolution in recent years, with employees’ expectations of work continuing to change. From making well-being a top priority to seeking out more flexibility in how they work, it’s key for leaders to keep a pulse on how their teams are thinking and feeling more frequently throughout the year.

Creating an inclusive culture where employees feel they belong is essential and how we harness the true innovation potential of increasing diversity. At Qualtrics, we talk about building “diverse, high-performing teams” because we believe that leveraging people’s unique backgrounds, strengths and ideas leads to increased company and individual performance. As a result of our diverse workforce, the range of unique insights and perspectives shared by employees build better products, serve our customers more fully and make the experiences we deliver even better for all humans.

We are on a journey to foster a workplace for all and share openly with teammates about how things are going toward our diversity, equity and inclusion goals, where we have made progress and what we can do more of as a leadership team and broader workforce to enact further change. Companies have a critical role to play in empowering and enabling their employees to bring their best selves to work each day.

Please elaborate on your EX center and how it could drive HR impact for customers? How brands use your platform to tackle the problem of decreasing employee trust in their current organization?  

Our solutions are rooted in empowering employers to propel their employee experiences from good to great. Through various listening platforms that engage at different moments, such as around specific topics or following onboarding, both at Qualtrics and for our clients, the goal is to understand employee perceptions and feedback all along their individual journeys. By helping organizations understand how their teams are doing and feeling, Qualtrics helps leaders take action to boost employee engagement, well-being, inclusion, intent to stay and more.

Employees that are able to advance both their personal and professional journeys, feel listened to and equipped with the tools and support they need to take care of themselves and their families tend to be some of the strongest, most productive employees. That shouldn’t surprise any of us!

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

Julia Anas serves as chief people officer at Qualtrics. She is responsible for leading the company’s people strategy, powering legendary employee experiences for Qualtrics’ global workforce. Julia has played a critical role building a talented and diverse organization and driving employee development, compensation planning as well as organizational design, talent and succession planning in alignment with the organization’s business objectives.

Previously, Anas was VP of employee experience at Adobe, where she played a critical role driving employee development, compensation planning as well as organizational design, talent and succession planning. She was also a core member of Adobe’s global COVID-19 crisis management team. Prior to joining Adobe, Anas was a director at Symantec, and she also previously led people teams at Intuit, Solyndra, Align Technology and Yahoo!. She earned a bachelor’s of business administration degree in organizational behavior business policy, marketing and psychology from Southern Methodist University. She lives in Utah with her husband and two sons.

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software provider that helps organizations quickly identify and resolve points of friction across all digital and human touchpoints in their business – so they can retain their best customers and employees, protect their revenue, and drive profitability. More than 18,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’s advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle, and operates out of 28 offices globally.

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The HRTech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with the CHROs and Peoples leaders. The HRTech Series Interviews follows a very engaging format with HR leaders. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in HRTech – we wanted to get insight into two areas one – their ideas on tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.