Power to the People – Adam Miller, CEO at Cornerstone OnDemand

Andy Nathan Issue 03 - Jan/Feb 2013, Operations Leave a Comment

Around the world and back with Cornerstone OnDemand’s leading man Adam Miller.

By Andy Nathan

Meet the most interesting man in the world. No, not the Dos Equis guy; Adam Miller, the founder, president and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand. Under Miller’s leadership, the company’s cloud-based talent management solutions provide more than 1,100 companies with the ability to recruit, develop and manage their workforces.

Putting Things in Perspective

Before Miller started up Cornerstone in 1999, he built a thriving restaurant and bar, traveled around the world for two years, wrote a couple of books, had a stint on Wall Street, and received five degrees, including an MBA, CPA and JD. This storied background provided him with the training he needed to build Cornerstone into a global leader in talent management.

Miller learned how to multitask in his first semester of law school. Simultaneously, he pursued and received his MBA and CPA certification and acted as a minority investor in a restaurant, where he was an active manager running the bar.

When Miller then trotted the globe for two years, he learned something very important about people: “There is a consistency in humanity. While there are differences in local traditions and perceptions, you see the same differences in various regions around the world.”

Travelling globally, Miller said, helps an individual understand the challenge of overcoming the obstacles that happen in life, noting how “people who have very little are so happy.”

For example, while exploring the Annapurna Circuit during a 21-day trek, Miller faced a number of near-death experiences. As he explained it, these adventures “put things in perspective.”

This perspective has led him to create, too, the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation. The foundation helps nonprofits empower their people to do more within their respective organizations. Non-profit organizations including Teach for America and Goodwill use Cornerstone’s cloud-based talent management software, providing training services vital to communities worldwide.

Empowering Employees

Miller has put these experiences to good use with Cornerstone. The company specializes in recruiting potential employees, providing the necessary training and development, and managing employee performance. Collectively, these solutions help businesses retain their best assets: their people. The right talent management solutions, per a 2012 Bersin & Associates study, can reduce turnover by as much as 40 percent.

Miller has applied these concepts with his own team. Cornerstone’s internal talent management software portal, named Dog food after a companywide naming contest, helps its employees track and improve their performance at work.

Furthermore, Miller believes a significant part of his role is serving as a player and coach for the business. He wants to get his hands dirty in the operations of the company. At the same time, he works with the Product Development team and stays involved in the hiring and coaching of the Cornerstone team.

Full Steam Ahead

As with most businesses, Cornerstone has experienced its share of setbacks and failures. In 2005, the company lost a large contract. Miller, however, views this as a lesson. Instead of building the company around one large business, it set out to create a more broadly based system, which has been the key to its success.

The legacy of that setback is a company that now boasts more than 1,100 clients with 10.3 million users in 186 countries, offering its software in 38 languages.

Miller’s experiences taught him that to be a great leader, one must trust and respect his or her people. In the long run, gaining employees’ respect is not a one-time action. It takes effort maintaining and earning staffers’ respect.

That is why Miller sees the future of talent management to be less about automated processes, and more about empowering employees. With Cornerstone OnDemand’s third quarter revenue at a record $30.8 million, and up 54% over last year, he certainly is on to something.

Andy Nathan is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Illinois.


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