Marissa Mayer Leads First Investor Call As Yahoo CEO With Emphasis On Hiring & Culture, Call For More Mobile Focus

In what is arguably her largest major public speaking appearance since taking over the CEO role at Yahoo this past summer, Marissa Mayer kicked off the third quarter conference call with investors and analysts this afternoon by digging into a decidedly non-technical topic: People.

In particular, Mayer utilized the first few minutes of the call to explain with enthusiasm why she’s focused so much of her energy during her first 100 days as CEO on initiatives such as hiring new executives and bolstering Yahoo’s internal company culture. The human element is central to bringing Yahoo back to its one-time spot as a top consumer Internet company, she said.

“My goals are simple: To execute faster, hire top talent, and make Yahoo the absolute best place to work,” she said.

Though flashy Mayer-led initiatives such as buying new iPhones for all employees and company-wide free lunch have gotten a lot of press, she was quick to point out that attracting and retaining top talent is not all about spending money. “True cultural change can’t be bought, so the vast majority of what we’ve done hasn’t cost anything.”

Mayer said that along with perks like phones and food, she has focused on improving employees’ “efficiency, well-being, and accountability” through things like new feedback tools, reduced corporate bureacracy, and more specific performance measurement and goal metrics.

Building the executive suite ‘Dream Team’

She also touted her many new executive suite hires such as CMO Kathy Savitt, CFO Ken Goldman, COO Henrique de Castro, and EVP of HR and talent Jacqueline Reses.

“We’ve built a stellar world-class leadership team,” she said, adding later, “In Yahoo Fantasy Sports, I would draft this exact group as my dream team.” But later in the call she acknowledged that in many ways, the hard work is just beginning right now. “With the leadership and guidance of our new management team, now it’s time to execute.”

Bringing focus to Yahoo’s ‘splintered’ mobile presence

Beyond the human element, Mayer also said she believes a big factor in Yahoo’s turnaround will be restoring a sense of focus to the company’s products. Mobile, especially, is a department that needs cohesion. She said that the fact that Yahoo operates a whopping 76 apps across Android and iOS is evidence of a “splintered” mobile brand presence that needs to be brought together.

“Our top priority is a focused, coherent mobile strategy,” she said. She added later in the call that this is a big issue since “at some point [in the near future] we’ll have to be a predominantly mobile company,” meaning that at least half of Yahoo’s staff will need strong mobile skills. This will be developed through hiring new people and training existing staff, she said.

No ‘giant pivot’ necessary

With all the big changes, however, Mayer was quick to clarify that she sees the keys to Yahoo’s success as being already within the company’s DNA.

“My view is that the core of Yahoo is incredibly valuable and a great platform to build on. I don’t think this is a situation where there is a giant pivot and we go into a completely different business,” she said, noting that Yahoo already strong operations in what she sees as its four key areas: Search, mail, homepage, and mobile. “The future of Yahoo is extraordinarily bright… we’re committed to going back to our roots as a consumer Internet company focused on user experience.”