Article: ‘Trust is crucial for employee engagement’: Jacob George, TransUnion

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‘Trust is crucial for employee engagement’: Jacob George, TransUnion

As a new generation of employees enter the work environment, companies need to reimagine their talent strategies to achieve business goals.
‘Trust is crucial for employee engagement’: Jacob George, TransUnion

With a company whose core business revolves around trust, providing credit scores, reports, and other data-centric solutions, TransUnion's journey in India has focused on growth and navigating change.

In an exclusive interview with People Matters, Jacob George, Senior Director and Head of HR TransUnion GCC India, offers valuable lessons in integrating trust and building a value-based culture at work. He discusses the critical shifts that are transforming the HR function, enabling the organisations to cultivate the right workplace culture. 

Jacob has around two decades of HR expertise in technology, banking, finance and manufacturing. The interview has been edited for length and clarity:

In your experience, what are the key enablers and success factors for creating a sustainable culture of excellence?

The concept of a ‘culture of excellence’ has become increasingly popular, and employers are striving to be more people-friendly and employee-centric. However, this has not always been the case. In the past, especially when I began my career around two decades ago, employers tended to be more controlling. They would dictate policies and expect employees to strictly adhere to them, without much flexibility.

However, with the emergence of a new generation of workforce, the dynamics have shifted significantly. This new generation is assertive about their goals and priorities, and they know what they are looking to achieve in their careers.

This shift has led to a greater emphasis on meaningful work, where individuals seek a sense of purpose in the work they do. Understanding the ‘why’ behind roles and responsibilities and aligning it with associates’ personal aspirations are crucial when it comes to engaging effectively.

Another crucial aspect is the changing values and beliefs among younger individuals. The new generation is more empathetic, inclusive, and appreciative of diversity in the workplace. This shift necessitates creating an environment that encourages diverse teams, where different thought processes and perspectives are valued.

Furthermore, flexibility has emerged as another vital aspect of this new paradigm. Particularly in technology and data analytics companies, like TransUnion. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of hybrid work models.

In this fast-paced world, where industries and technologies rapidly evolve, continuously upskilling the workforce becomes imperative. Today’s employees seek learning and growth opportunities, and organisations must invest in large-scale upskilling initiatives to empower their workforce with the necessary skills.

How are you communicating a sense of purpose and meaning to your younger workforce? And, what are the touch points you are using to communicate with them or share this sense of excitement that they need to feel?

We have a multi-pronged approach to ensure effective communication and alignment of the mission and vision across the organisation. This includes top-down communication from the CEO in town halls, setting clear goals and linking them to larger objectives, emphasising the organisation's values and beliefs, and embedding these principles into the performance evaluation process.

The process involves reinforcement and cascading of information to ensure that all employees, including managers, understand and align their individual goals with the larger organisational objectives.

What role do diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging play in building a culture of trust and high performance?

‘Diversity and Inclusion’ have evolved from being considered a nice-to-have aspect to a critical element of organisational success. Multiple studies, including those by BCG and Gartner, have shown that organisations with strong diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels, especially in leadership, experience significant growth and financial strength. This makes diversity, equity and inclusion not only economically sensible but also instrumental in creating an equitable and inclusive work culture that is directly linked to an organisation’s overall success.

Recently, we added ‘B’ to our DEI strategy, DEI became DEIB – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. We did this because we want our associates to genuinely feel that they belong in this workplace and culture. It is an essential human need, and the feeling of encouragement, connection, security and bringing their authentic selves to work each day is equally important. 

We renamed our NRGs (Network Resource Groups) to IBGs (Inclusion and Belonging Groups). Our IBGs play a pivotal role in ensuring a positive environment for our diverse workforce. 

In India, where gender diversity is a primary focus, initiatives facilitated by our Women@TU group actively work on supporting women in the workforce. Conscious efforts are made to recruit more women through diverse interview panels and support networks. Maternity support programs, like the Career Reboot ‘3-6-3’ initiative, have guided and helped women during and after their maternity breaks, facilitating a smooth transition back to work.

Our global DEIB office oversees these efforts, cascading the vision and goals throughout the organisation and training leaders accordingly. By aligning its goals with diversity and inclusion, TransUnion has taken significant steps to cultivate an inclusive and diverse workforce that fosters innovation, collaboration and success.

What tools or strategies can leaders use to create a culture of excellence, technology and non-technology related?

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital workplace tools, enabling collaboration and connectivity between remote and office-based employees. Most organisations, including TransUnion, have successfully adopted these tools, fostering a hybrid work environment.

TransUnion places a strong emphasis on people-centric culture. Leaders are expected to prioritise associates' well-being and consider their needs while making decisions. Approachability is a key trait in leaders, fostering an environment where employees can be their authentic selves and freely share their thoughts and concerns. This approach promotes openness, transparency, and a culture of feedback, where decisions are communicated clearly, and employees' perspectives are valued.

Effective communication plays a pivotal role in aligning goals and objectives. Although not every employee expectation can be met, open communication about the reasons behind decisions builds an understanding and trust within the organisation. TransUnion regularly conducts listening sessions and internal engagement surveys, achieving healthy scores as a result of our focus on approachability, open communication, transparency and feedback.

Leaders at TransUnion believe in recognising and rewarding employee efforts and achievements. Rewards go beyond monetary compensation and involve acknowledging employees' hard work and dedication publicly during town halls or team meetings.

The HR department plays a crucial role in advising and coaching leaders to embody these values and behaviours. Structured programs ensure that leadership follows these principles consistently, contributing to the organisation's success and high employee engagement scores. By fostering a people-centric culture and embracing open communication and recognition, TransUnion has cultivated a successful and fulfilling work environment for its diverse workforce.

How do you sustain a culture of high trust and engagement during periods of organisational change or uncertainty? Can you provide an example of how you have navigated such situations in the past?

Adaptability to change is a crucial factor for success in the modern workplace, given the dynamic nature of businesses, competition and markets. During the pandemic, we implemented multiple people-centric policies and programs that supported the well-being of our associates and families.

TransUnion's culture of transparency, openness, and effective communication played a pivotal role during change management. Workshops and communication channels were effectively used to bring colleagues from our acquired entities together and integrate them into TransUnion Teams. 

TransUnion's success in managing change stems from its solution-oriented approach, addressing people's challenges and fostering a fair and transparent culture. Continuous communication and feedback mechanisms, supported by the leadership's openness, played a significant role in ensuring a united and aligned team. By effectively communicating the organisation's values and beliefs and encouraging everyone's active participation, TransUnion has successfully navigated through challenging times and maintained a strong and cohesive workforce.

How do you measure the effectiveness of culture-building initiatives in terms of trust and performance? What metrics or indicators do you use to track progress and make improvements?

At TransUnion, trust is at the core of our business and culture. As an information services company, our primary goal is to make trust possible for our clients and customers. This emphasis on trust is reflected in our people-centric approach, where open communication channels and structured coaching sessions allow us to listen and effectively engage with our employees.

Our values and beliefs center around trust, empowering employees to take ownership of their work and career. From the moment new hires join us, we prioritise induction processes that align them with our values, beliefs, mission and objectives. Through structured connect sessions, leadership interactions and listening sessions, we ensure that everyone understands and embraces our organisation's value systems.

We believe that trust plays a significant role in employee engagement. Our engagement surveys, conducted by a third-party firm, allow us to assess team-level engagement and benchmark our employee value proposition against market standards. These surveys provide valuable feedback on flexibility, openness, and overall satisfaction with TransUnion as a workplace.

To further encourage a culture of trust and openness, HR conducts various feedback sessions, including skip-level sessions, focus groups and leadership meetings. These mechanisms enable us to gather insights, identify areas for improvement, and continuously enhance our organisational culture.

Overall, trust is the driving force behind our engagement efforts, and it permeates throughout our organisation, reflecting in our satisfied employees, strong values, and a shared commitment to making TransUnion a great place to work.

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Topics: HR Technology, Diversity, #Culture, Leadership

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