Sally Nelson is the Chief People Officer of Fidelity, and she is responsible for global Human Resources and Corporate Affairs. She focuses on talent and communications related subject matter of greatest importance to Fidelity International. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, she shared her thoughts people management in the digital age, technology in HR, and India’s contribution to Fidelity Global. Read the edited excerpts here.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
You have completed two decades with Fidelity. How has the journey been so far? What were the significant challenges and opportunities and key learnings?
The journey has been fantastic - it has been both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. To keep pace with the fast and demanding external environment, we continue to adapt and change our ways of working. We continue to invest in our talent and create a culture that positions us as an employer of choice in the market place that continues to attract and retain talent as we go along. It has been a rewarding journey in terms of having worked closely with a diverse team, stakeholders, mentors, and individuals who have contributed significantly to my learning and experience at Fidelity. I wouldn’t get this opportunity and exposure to work with such diverse individuals in such a short period.
The COVID-19 pandemic has of course been an extreme challenge as you would expect, not just for me, our business but for humankind. These are unprecedented and difficult times and we have had to focus on doing our utmost to support all our employees across more than 25 countries, focusing on health and safety, as well as general wellbeing and adapting to new ways of working. We’ve had to adapt to a new normal under intense pressure. It’s been a tremendous learning experience for me as an HR professional and our people have done a tremendous job adapting.
Some of my learnings from these experiences would be to do everything with integrity, to be bold and curious, but also compassionate. It is essential to align yourself with the company’s culture, be passionate about your job at hand and seek out for sponsors at various stages of your career, and lastly, never shy away from raising your hand for opportunities that arise!
What are your views on current assessment and prospects for the Investment Management Industry globally?
This is a fascinating industry to work in and one which is continually subject to change. For an HR professional, in a sector that relies almost totally on people, the challenges and opportunities are enormous, especially now in light of COVID-19. Talent development is critical, as is the importance of a strong employer brand. If you want to attract the most qualified and experienced candidates - and keep them - then you must do much more than provide a stimulating work environment and excellent career prospects. Today employees expect their employer to act in a socially responsible way, to embrace and value diversity in all its forms, and to recognize that individuals need flexibility in their working lives.
Keeping the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, employers must also recognize that individuals need flexibility in their working lives. Work from home during the pandemic has proved to be quite challenging for everyone, as a change in the work environment creates understandable anxiety, along with fears about health and an uncertain future. Now, more than ever, employees want to feel supported and motivated by an empathetic virtual workplace, effective and transparent leadership, as well as clear communication.
As Chief People Officer, what are the things you do to create a learning culture in the organization?
We have a strong reputation for growing and developing people, which makes us an employer of choice for emerging talent. We have a career vitality measurement on our company-wide dashboard, which measures lateral and promotional career progression and global mobility. This helps to hold us to account (after all, we know that what gets measured, gets done) and encourages and enables colleagues to develop and grow their careers.
It is important to align yourself with the company's culture, be passionate about your job
We have invested significantly in Learning and Development, as we believe this is an essential support mechanism to talent development and organizational effectiveness. We identify our leader pipeline early in their careers, and we develop them through a combination of on the job opportunities and formal training and experiences. We ensure all our leadership programs are inclusive as we believe innovation is fuelled by collaboration and diversity of thought.
Further, we are aware that the skills required in the future are evolving, and we continually update our programs to align with emerging trends in the market. In 2020, we are revamping our leadership development program at all levels in the organization as we recognize that everyone can play a leadership role.
Despite the pandemic, we have not pressed pause on learning and development and have updated our L&D strategies to help our employees expand their skills and knowledge from the safety of their homes. As we work remotely around the world, we’re investing in reskilling and upskilling our employees by giving them access to virtual learning programs and relevant online learning resources. This year our normal working patterns have been disrupted and while we have discovered new and creative ways to work, this disruption has created additional workload for many parts of our business. To help manage this, we’ve launched The Marketplace - a platform designed to enhance our employees’ skills, build their knowledge, and widen their network within the organization while supporting their colleagues to deliver business-critical tasks and assignments.
Fostering talent at a time of uncertainty and health scares can be daunting but we believe that these new learning and skill-building strategies can unlock our employees’ growth potential, boost confidence and contribute to the organization’s growth and success
How does Talent in India contribute to Fidelity International globally?
India has always been and will continue to be, integral to our talent landscape. It is a hub for functional, technical, and business expertise, comprising 3,000 employees across the Gurgaon and Noida offices. We have seen leadership and technical talent thrive and go on to lead businesses and functions in our firm, both within India and beyond. For example, our Country General Manager for India is also one of our Heads of technology, as well as sitting on our Global Diversity &Inclusion Council and being the strand lead for ‘Gender’ globally.
We will continue to invest in roles and work being driven from India, and this will include all levels of seniority and experience. In recent months, we have seen a significant uptake in technology roles, as well as functions that help build out our digital footprint.
Looking at the advent of AI/ML, what are your thoughts on technology in HR?
AI has a significant impact on how we operate our business and offers tremendous opportunities to elevate people engagement, create the culture of employee self-service and enable talent attraction and development, especially now during the coronavirus outbreak. AI data mining and contextual search platforms, are now regularly used, particularly in India, for volume hiring and has resulted in a more reliable and better-quality talent pipeline. The use of AI within HR has significantly increased the efficiency of our hiring decisions and our ability to hire more people directly.
Keeping in mind the safety of our candidates, all our employee interviews and on-boarding have moved to virtual channels. Despite the occasional connectivity glitches, we are continuing to operate in the current environment seamlessly and keeping our commitment to prospective employees.
If you want to attract the most qualified and experienced candidates - and keep them - then you must do much more than provide a stimulating work environment and good career prospects
Do you see the role of people management changing in the digital age, and how does this connect with your broader organizational objectives?
Digital is a driving force for change across almost all industries, including Fidelity, and yet conversely, change management is one of the main bottlenecks to digital transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted businesses worldwide is a timely wake-up call to all organizations to embrace digital transformation. While technology adoption continues to be necessary, changes in leadership and talent attributes are far more critical for organizations to be able to embark on the digital journey. This has implications on how we manage people and the subsequent role of HR.
There are disruptive trends that influence people, namely cyber, data, cloud, social and mobile, a multi-generational workforce, new ways of working and the employee being perceived as the first consumer of the employer’s brand. While leading people, it is important to keep in mind how one can help employees gain digital competencies to be able to drive transformation. Agility and scalability are fundamental for any organization attempting to translate strategic objectives into reality successfully and to keep up with the accelerating rate of digital disruption.