Brandi Galvin Morandi, the Chief Legal and Human Resources Officer of global digital infrastructure company Equinix, has an unusual background for a HR leader. She started her career in law and spent over five years as a corporate attorney with international business law firm Gunderson Dettner before moving to Equinix in 2003, where she took on the roles of Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel, and Secretary.
Over the course of 19 years with Equinix, Morandi served as interim CHRO three times, and was finally appointed to the role permanently in 2019, having developed an excellent rapport and operating cadence with the executive team. People Matters met with her in Singapore to find out more about her role and how the Equinix HR function acts as a transformation centre for the business. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
Your legal background is unique among HR leaders! How does it influence the way you approach HR matters?
Firstly, on the legal side a great deal of focus is placed on understanding the company's risk profile and the risks that you're taking on. A deep understanding of the business is required: you must know what's really important and critical, what is that line in the sand that you will not cross from a risk perspective, and where you can be flexible. That translates really well into understanding what is going to be an effective people strategy.
Secondly, within the legal function there is a mindset where we must solve for the business and prioritise such that we are applying our critical, precious resources toward the most important things, filtering out the bulk of what is not as important and focusing our efforts to really try to move the needle on those critical few things. Wearing my legal hat helps me to keep looking through that lens of solving for the business strategy, ensuring that what we're delivering will be used and is relevant for what we're trying to do at the time.
It shapes a certain mindfulness around making good use of resources, both from a dollars perspective and a people perspective.
Tell us how you're leading HR to play a role in the transformation strategy.
At Equinix, HR is not at all a back office function. Across the board, and especially within the executive team, HR is very much seen as a as a business enabler and accelerator. We have been leading from the front on the transformation to enable the business's strategy: our team is actually the site of the Transformation Office. And a big part of that is because if you don't have the right people working on the right things and exhibiting the right behaviours, you can't meet your strategic objectives.
What we discussed earlier, about coming into HR from a different part of the business, also plays a role in our ability to drive transformation. I know what it feels like to be a customer of HR. So when we're strategising or even just thinking about how we want to communicate our plans, I can hear it through a different ear and find a way to present it that makes sense to the rest of the business. For instance, if we want to launch a particular talent strategy, we need to make sure that people understand how this is going to help us achieve the business results we want to achieve.
What do you see as the greatest human capital risks that organisations face today?
One risk that everybody is monitoring is, of course, the Great Resignation. There's a lot involved here: how deep in an organisation will it go, is it impacting tech or frontline, what is happening with the attrition rates, how is compensation holding up against changing market standards? We have to pay attention to a lot of different metrics and data to make sure that we aren't going to lose people.
Another thing that's top of mind coming out of the pandemic is employee wellness. I think overall, there is a lot of fatigue in the system. People have been through a lot personally and professionally, whether they are managing or leading or just showing up every day with a good attitude. And so we need to make sure that we're taking great care of our employees from a wellness perspective as well, as part of an overall retention strategy.
And then of course, as we bring people back into the office and follow a global strategy of moving to a hybrid work environment, we need to look into how we can keep people engaged and productive yet also offer this flexibility that they have come to enjoy.
Discussions of risk usually involve processes and governance as part of risk management – do you think this approach works for HR?
I think it can work in some areas where the risks are compliance based risks: local employment laws, for example. But it's important to remember that one size does not always fit all in HR, especially when it comes to people. This is not only from a legal and regulatory perspective, but also the cultural element and what is really going to resonate with the team.
In my experience, rigidity isn't always the best or the most effective approach. We need to find something that's locally acceptable while still broadly following global standards.
This can be complicated, because sometimes when we want to move forward with a global process, it can be out of step with the local market, or vice versa. And of course, local markets can be vastly different even within the same country.
What do you think the future of HR will look like, maybe in the next few years or even in the next decade?
I think there's going to be more prominence around the role of HR as change accelerators and enablers. The concept of what change looks like in an organisation is going to explode, and HR will have to be there to help the organisation accelerate the pace of decisions and change. There will be a cultural element to it for sure: maintaining what's great about your existing culture, but then introducing the new behaviours and skills that are going to be required to achieve your strategic direction. And HR will definitely have to spend a lot of time getting employees into the right mindset, because most people start from a place of not liking change.
HR itself will need to undergo a shift of mindset, from being a curator of processes to an enabler of business strategy.
There is always a certain pressure towards consumerisation of HR, and while this will continue, there also must be constant attention given to the question of how we are integrating into overall business process and strategy. HR is going to drive the behaviours that are required, by compensating people, giving them the tools that they need, incentivising them to achieve the business strategy. Transformation and HR will interlock around culture.
This is a series of abridged excerpts. Read the full interview in the latest issue of our digital magazine.