by Scott Seese

eBay’s CIO Focuses on Employee and Customer Engagement

Apr 29, 2013 3 mins
Careers IT Leadership IT Skills

Winning the hearts and minds of employees is the first step towards developing the innovations that will meet customers' changing needs, says CIO Scott Seese.

Our company is at an inflection point, as our customers’ behavior istransformed by digital, social, location-based and mobile tech. We start by asking what our customers need, and then ask how to help our employees meet those needs.

That’s why engaging the hearts and minds of our people and developing the next generation of leaders have become top priorities in the CIO organization. It allows us to fulfill our team’s mission, which is to deliver innovative thought leadership and breakthrough results for our customers, shareholders and employees.

I’ve consistently found that the number-one asset at any company is people. If you can enable employees to connect to the company’s purpose in a deeply personal way, you will start to capture the heart of the employee. And if you give them time to be innovative about what they do, you will also start to engage the employee’s mind.

We’ve established one day a month for employees to think, look at the broader horizon and consider problems the company needs to solve. During our hackathons, our engineers are set loose for 30 hours to solve some of these problems. For example, they came up with an innovative lunchtime system, in which people can order from the eBay Cafe using their mobile device, pay through PayPal and receive a text message telling them when to pick up their food. They get the food at a designated counter, where an iPad displays their photo and payment confirmation.

I also meet with each of my managers, regardless of level, at least once a month. And I encourage my teams to connect with each other as human beings. Then when they collaborate on initiatives, the trust level is high and the barriers to productivity and innovation are low.

A passion of mine is developing the next generation of women leaders for this company. Statistically, companies with women on their boards of directors tend to perform better. That’s the power of leadership diversity.

We have held events for women in our organization, including one with speaker Sandra Joseph, the longest-running leading lady on Broadway’s longest-running show, The Phantom of the Opera. It was one of the most emotionally powerful days that the women said they had this year, and it’s changed me as a leader.

I’ve learned that many women need to be 90 percent certain about a career opportunity before pursuing it, and even then they’ll look for an extra 5 percent validation before they jump. Men will jump when they’re just 5 percent ready. My role is to encourage women by expanding their scope of responsibility a little before they think they’re ready.

When I started at eBay in 2010, I wrote a three-year business plan for developing the next generation of leaders, and now we’re planning our next three-year journey. In our annual employee engagement survey, we’ve improved by 14 points over the last two years, which is a great achievement considering that a three-point increase is statistically significant.

eBay’s shared purpose is to enable connected commerce. In turn, my team’s purpose is to enable eBay. No one is in a better position to innovate for our employees than us, and the most important asset we have to bring new ideas to life is our people.

Scott Seese is CIO of eBay Inc.

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