Old Mutual’s human capital powered by new-age technology

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Celiwe Ross, Director of Human Capital, Old Mutual.

Celiwe Ross, director of human capital at Old Mutual, has never studied human resources or industrial psychology. But when you’ve got all the traditional HR processes and practices in place, you can either rest on your laurels or look to what will empower your workforce in the future.

A mining engineer by training, Ross began her career at BHP Billiton and then spent nearly a decade at Standard Bank, where she completed her Masters of Business Administration and spent four years in Accra, Ghana, in west Africa. This, she says, made her rethink what she wanted to do with her life. “I became passionate about the leadership space and helped leaders transform the way they think about themselves and their teams. “

Ross has joined Old Mutual with the prospect of re-enrolling the company in South Africa, as Chief of Staff to the CEO and Chairman. Two months before the announcement, the Human Capital Director position arrived, and the role ticked a number of boxes that worked for Ross. As for Old Mutual, the company was not looking for a traditional HR leader and Ross did the job.

“Old Mutual was named Best Employer the year I was appointed; but I felt there was a bit of dissonance with our employees. Winning Top Employer told us that we are working for a company with excellent HR policies and processes that are well implemented. What we didn’t have was the experience of the up-to-date employees. As a company, we were undergoing a fundamental transformation in technology, digital and data, and in our customer interfaces, but we had not yet translated this transformation into the people space, and that was my mandate. », She explains.

“The use of technology is a key part of implementing the Truly Mutual strategy at Old Mutual. The expectations of clients, advisors and employees have fundamentally changed and have been greatly influenced by technology. The maturity of the cloud, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data, and more, have all changed the art of the possible. “We were in the process of completely transforming our consultant proposition to benefit our clients, but empowering employees was significantly behind schedule. I started researching what was going on in the HR tech space, and I visited Silicon Valley with Ian Williamson, who was our COO and is now our CEO, as well as our CIO, Johnson Idesoh. We visited a number of start-ups and clients of two separate vendors, ”he reveals. she.

Workday stood out for several reasons. The first thing that spoke to Old Mutual was the fact that it was a cloud native business and started out as a Human Capital Management (HCM) solution.

“They have always been designed to integrate with other systems. We loved this because we had 67 HR systems that we were using across Africa – from leave management and payroll to back office systems. We wanted everything to live in one place in a way that made sense. And we had to integrate with other existing systems, ”says Ross.

The second attribute that stood out for Old Mutual was Workday’s focus on customer satisfaction.

“They say they’re customer obsessed and as a customer you feel it. We had Workday as an implementation partner and we had a very successful journey where we had to stay honest with each other. It wasn’t always easy, but we finally got there and the partnership continues, ”she says.

Finally, there is constant innovation, driven by Workday customers. This means Old Mutual can give their opinion on what it needs and why it needs it in a certain way, alongside other global customers. “They are constantly innovating, and the [Workday] community is quite powerful globally. There is a thriving and growing South African community because our requirements are unique, ”says Ross.

The deployment of Workday is part of Old Mutual’s digitalization imperative. Ross explains that the company plans to digitize the core and then think about different journeys: the customer, the advisor and the employee.

“Our technology strategy at Old Mutual is focused on rapidly digitizing the experiences of customers, advisors and employees, based on these cloud-based solutions.

“This gives us a level of business agility and a level of reach for customers, advisors and employees not possible with previous generations of technology. We can accomplish in a matter of days what previously took months. In a rapidly changing world, this is an advantage, ”she says.

At present, 30% of Old Mutual South Africa’s IT is in the cloud and the rest is migrating rapidly by next year.

“This is an important investment for us, but essential to the achievement of a number of our strategic objectives. We are deliberately looking for the best technology partners in the world because we believe this is mutually beneficial. That’s why we’ve established strategic partnerships with companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and Workday, all of which are leaders in their specific areas. It’s an exciting time for us, ”she says.

Winning the war for talent

Ross believes the definition of talent has changed and that COVID-19 means geographic boundaries no longer matter. Younger generations also see traditional HR practices as somewhat paternalistic and demand different options from companies.

“I think you continue to do things the way you always did at your own risk; you have to listen to what your most talented people are telling you. They want optionality; they want to be able to make decisions quickly; and they want to be able to determine what their success and fate looks like.

Workday has contributed a lot to this, says Ross, mainly because of its constant innovation.

“It forced us to rethink our practices and processes. We have 30,000 employees in 14 countries, so we need to think about making sure the solution works for them. It also forced us to start thinking about new innovations to come and whether we are ready. You just can’t get complacent.

Old Mutual’s investment in Workday was significant, Ross admits, and the exco and the board hold her accountable for the value business. In the early stages of commissioning, this meant measuring usage: how many people were logging in and what transactions they were making on the system.

Currently, they are looking to capture value in terms of simplification by reducing IT applications related to people who live outside of Workday. The final leg of the journey will focus on insightful data and analysis on people. This will help Old Mutual to make decisions.

“It’s part of our data maturity journey from a basic dashboard to information that guides decision making for line managers. We measure things like psychological safety, levels of engagement and level of inclusiveness. We would like to demonstrate how these dimensions drive performance. Ultimately, we would like to encourage line managers to adopt strategies aimed at improving performance, engagement and well-being within the team. This is the journey we are on. “


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