In this interview we have Simi Dubb, Global Head of Talent Management, Fidelity International talking to us about the future of the workplace, the role predictability plays in it, and how organizations can leverage the power of gender diversity.
Q: Having worked in the banking industry for a long time in global and regional roles; you’ve really seen businesses evolve. What is unique about the business landscape of today, and what are the implications?
A: There are quite a few things to be mindful of. The VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) market is forcing us to think very quickly, and very differently. Client expectations are another big dynamic, as we are now being benchmarked against the best-in-class of customer services. We are also managing a multi-generational workforce nowadays, with a range of mindsets, learning options and expectations. The other thing is technology which is making us focus on scale, efficiency, speed and a new set of skills for our organization.
One of the big implications of these developments is leadership depth and breadth. We are now moving from the concept of leaders who are just domain experts; to leaders who look across a range of scenarios and options through the value chain, in order to make more informed decisions. Another key area, in my opinion is speed.
We are working in ambiguous, fast paced environments, where there might be only six correct options out of a possible 1000 options, but they might not be the same six, one month down the line. So people have to be really quick, and also agile enough to make these decisions.
Q: You mentioned this leadership paradigm, where leaders need to have higher dynamism and agility, in comparison to the sole emphasis on functional expertise earlier. How is that changing the way you identify and groom leaders, especially in your role of talent management?
A: We have taken the view that we still need people to be technical experts in their respective domains; that is a given. In addition to that, what really differentiates them is having experience across the end-to-end value chain, that is, sales, distribution, operations and technology. But also, the other shift in leadership is that there is a core set of skills that go along with that, such as change management, transformation or communication.
While we do not need all our leaders to have all these things at one given time, we do need them to be flexible, and to learn. So there is clearly an opportunity for leaders to develop new skills, and for us to broaden our leadership development, so that we can draw on them when needed, and give people more careers, for the longer term.
Q: What is HR, as a team doing differently to enable the organization to be more agile?
A: HR has come a long way in the past ten years, as we now see HR partners acting as key stakeholders along with the business partners when the organization is making business decisions. What we now need to do is to shift from being responsive to being more predictive. The key questions that we look to answer in today’s times are:-
• How do I become more predictive plus strategic?
• How do I identify from a people lens, the three things that we need to focus on; that will have the greatest impact?
Q: What are you doing to build those predictability capabilities for HR, in Fidelity?
A: We are on a journey of change, since the spine of our leadership has changed over the past three years. We continue to have a deep appreciation of what our clients need, which is enabled by higher predictability. In order to attain that, we are focusing on up-skilling our line managers and leaders, so that they can lead through the change.
We are also looking at a number of tangible solutions around technology. An example of that is the initiative that we are launching with Spire Technologies in India. We are implementing Spire in our recruitment acquisition phase. Not only does it allow us to identify the areas that we need for pre-screening (so as to come up with a shortlist), thereby freeing up time for our recruiters to focus on their core competencies while interviewing candidates; it also allows us to take all that information and pump it back into the system, to predict who is likely to be the right candidate for our organization.We shall commence this as a pilot in India because of the sheer appetite and volume here, and then we plan to roll it out globally.
Moreover, what streamlines the transformation process is the fact that our HR team is committed to continuous learning. We have an HR transformation model, which continually focuses on the critical skills, competencies and capabilities that our future HR function needs, and we also have access to the L&D, coaches and mentors to discuss the details of what the technologies can provide us with.
Q: Research suggests that there is a correlation between gender diversity and the business success of organizations. To what extent has this been proven and realized in actuality, as a business case?
A: I believe that it is a reality to a large extent, and the business case has been realized by the leaders. We make better investment and business decisions, if we have a range of people at the table, which includes women. We are a business at risk, if we don’t think about this from a gender lens. However, I think the leaders might still need some support in how to use this information. It can be simple things like the right tools, or a script on how to have the right career conversations.
The real differentiator shall be the ability to have tailored, contextual discussions with individuals about their career progression. We know fundamentally, that the conversations with women feel very different, than with men. So it really hinges on line managers and leaders being able to have the right one-to-one conversations with their teams, and being able to tailor those conversations depending on the aspirations of the individual.
Q: What is the best advice that you’ve received as a woman leader? Who are your role models and why?
A: One of the best advices that I have received in my career so far, is: “Don’t be afraid to be yourself”. Women do not need to alter their behavioror the way they work to have successful careers in business. This way, they shall be authentic, which is a differentiator in itself across leadership; and eventually people will warm up to you. I would also like to underline the importance of reaching out and seeking help, if the situation demands it. It is often perceived as a sign of weakness, to show your vulnerabilities as a woman leader; but I have come to realize that it is perfectly alright to get all the support you want and need, to progress.
Though I have many role models, I really admire Karren Brady, who is a senior industry professional and current vice-chairman of the West Ham United Football Club. I am impressed with how she does not let the rigour and pressure of being a businesswoman come in the way of expressing her femininity freely. She remains true to who she is, which resonates with me a lot.