Article: Upasna Nischal of Fidelity International on why nurturing diversity is both an art and science


Upasna Nischal of Fidelity International on why nurturing diversity is both an art and science

To add value to products and get a powerful mantra for collective success in business Upasna Nischal, HR Head – India emphasises collaboration between younger and mature generations.
Upasna Nischal of Fidelity International on why nurturing diversity is both an art and science

A generationally diverse workforce has become a reality in the workplace. There is a striking gap between baby boomers and Gen Z or Zoomers. Besides, a vast number of the workforce belong to millennials and Gen X. The co-existence of diverse generations poses challenges for managers to take care of their workforce.

In view of the presence of multiple generations, People Matters spoke to Upasna Nischal, HR Head – India of Fidelity International on the benefits and challenges of having a diverse workforce.

In the interaction, Nischal who comes with close to 20 years of experience in supporting diverse cross-cultural and multi-generational talent, shared insights on the importance of careful nurturing of culture to appreciate and celebrate differences of a multi-generational workforce to stay competitive in the modern workplace.

What are the challenges of managing a multi-generational workforce and how did Fidelity International overcome them?

At Fidelity, we are privileged to have multiple generations -- Gen. X, Gen Y and Gen Z -- coexist. Their diverse perspectives add tremendous value to our product designs, solutions and services, both for our external clients and internal talent.

While younger generations are faster in adopting newer digital technologies for efficient delivery and innovation, the mature generations bring rich breadth and depth of business context and life experiences. Together this collaboration offers a powerful mantra for collective success.

Diversity in workplaces offers tremendous benefits but at the same time, requires careful nurturing of culture to appreciate and celebrate differences.  The same is true in the case of managing multi-generational teams as well.

There is a strong ongoing focus in our company on embracing multiple stands of diversity, including generational diversity. Here are some ways in which we make coexisting easier and fun:

We offer a variety of forums and platforms to acknowledge differences and learn more about the nuances of coexisting. There are regular discussions and trainings on topics such as communication style preferences (such as interpretation of tone, written-verbal styles and slang), negative stereotypes, such as ‘younger people think they are entitled’, ‘older people are rigid’, the latest tech tools and trends AI, ML etc.

We promote reverse mentoring to senior leaders by connecting them with younger employees. These sessions prove useful as senior members learn about the latest trends and also pick the pulse from the ground; and at the same time, the younger members get an opportunity to connect with senior leaders to understand more about the business and learn about leadership skills like influencing, networking, navigating ambiguity, conflict and stakeholder management etc.

While we ensure that our people processes and policies are age-neutral with respect to hiring, learning opportunities and growth, we design our well-being and healthcare policies to cater to a variety of personas existing in the organisation. Our dynamic working policy and other work arrangements such as part-time and flexible work, offer great flexibility to select the best work schedule so our people can attend to their unique life-stage-related needs while balancing work priorities.

Having a diverse workforce can be a huge competitive advantage, however nurturing it is both an art and a science, and rests on the foundation of strong organisational culture and inclusive environment.

How do you foster a culture of diversity and inclusion within your company, particularly in a field that has traditionally been male-dominated? What kind of impact has diversity had on your workplace culture?

At Fidelity, diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is about building a culture where all of us feel welcomed, valued, and supported. Our workplace gives room to talented individuals to thrive and achieve their potential based on their skills, passion, and learning agility, irrespective of their backgrounds, genders and sexual preferences.

We have defined five focus areas for our global D&I activities and appointed an ‘executive sponsor’ to define goals and lead progress for each strand. We also believe in mobilising the organisational ecosystem, both top-down and bottom-up in the form of communities, to partner and support the realisation of the D&I vision.

We have made significant progress in recent years across all five strands, but we will continue to drive improvement in diversity and inclusion. Achieving greater gender balance and parity across our businesses and regions has helped us build a workplace that reflects the full diversity of the communities we work in and ultimately helps in producing more effective solutions for our clients, employees and communities.

We are eliminating conscious and unconscious biases through targeted, data-led interventions around recruitment, development, promotions, compensation reviews and retention of female talent, so as to achieve greater gender balance.

As an example, at the time of hiring, we focus on writing gender-neutral job descriptions, having diverse candidates in the selection process, including neurodiverse candidates, having diverse representation in the interview panel and compensation discussion, and also allowing for room to cater to special needs during the interview process. These practices have given us good results in our D&I space. The same philosophy is applied to internal talent reviews, succession planning discussions and gender pay gap reviews as well.

In addition, we have developed and implemented many best practices in the D&I space and designed inclusive parental and flexible working policies to create a more conducive organisation for our people.

Mentoring is a key mechanism through which we nurture talent. Through the internal talent marketplace, our people can seek a mentor to meet their needs and develop opportunities, and this is true for both sides of the partnership.

How do you measure employee satisfaction and engagement, and what steps do you take to address any concerns that arise?

We use multiple methods to measure employee satisfaction and engagement. This includes the latest in tech as well.

For example, we use a smart engagement chatbot that captures the pulse of employees at regular intervals by chatting with them with simple questions. This starts after 45 days of a person joining us. This helps HR business partners understand employee sentiment on the ground and engage with them in a timely manner. The chatbot’s analytics also help our business and HR leaders design and evolve people strategies by learning deeper insights about the organization.

The effect of all our people’s efforts over the years has been phenomenal. Our engagement scores as recorded through internal surveys and external scores as seen on Glassdoor are at an all-time high. Our retention rates and the percentage of tenured employees are quite high as well.

We continue to evolve based on the insights that we gather through our listening tools like engagement surveys, pulse surveys, chatbots, sentiments from external social media, focused group discussions and so on.

Monetary or non-monetary which is the best measure to attract and retain top talent and why?

Need hierarchy theories tell us that if some of our most basic needs are unmet, we may be unable to progress and achieve our full potential. Hence the importance of monetary benefits.

 However, as humans, we strive for much more. Learning, growth, fulfillment and so on.  

 At our company, we believe that while healthy monetary benefits are hygiene factors, the real magnet that attracts, retains and engages people emotionally, is the culture of the workplace, the meaningful work opportunities that we can provide to them, and the learning and growth they experience there. The impact of these factors far out-weigh the temporary high of monetary rewards.

What kind of work-life balance initiatives do you have in place to ensure that employees are not overworked or burnt out?

We have a holistic approach to well-being and support our employees to look after themselves and thrive - both at home and at work. This includes their mental, physical and emotional well-being, as well as their financial health and work-life balance. We have a well-articulated holistic well-being strategy that covers four pillars - Workplace, Mind, Body, and Life.

There are various avenues for our employees to turn to for support in vulnerable times, such as the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), Mental Health First Aiders, Wellbeing Champions, and Resources and Webinars on hot topics such as menopause, domestic abuse and sleeping disorders.

 Our people also avail leaves for various life events. Family care leave, six-month paid enhanced parental leave for new fathers and secondary caregivers which helps employees be with their new-borns without stressing about the impact of taking time off or worrying about career progression and financial well-being, are some examples.

 We also provide a comprehensive bouquet of healthcare and fitness support through our healthcare partners. Several in-house games across floors are a great way for our people to wind down or bond with each other while at work.

In addition, our flexible work policies have helped our staff manage work-life integration better. People and their managers mutually decide their work patterns and measure performance based on delivery and contribution instead of the number of hours spent.

Our vision is to be a truly flexible employer, encouraging and trusting our people to perform their roles in the way that works best for them, our business, our colleagues, and our clients. Our work framework is available for both full-time and part-time, permanent and fixed-term employees.

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Topics: Diversity, Employee Relations, Employee Engagement, #DEIB

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