Taking the Initiative

Broadridge Financial’s Head of HR Rajita Singh discusses successfully spinning off from ADP and India’s place in the world as a value-add player.

By Christa Elliott

Hailing from Hyderabad, India, Rajita Singh is a force to reckon with in regards to strategic HR. She has proven—time and again—that India can be a strong source of skilled talent and innovation with her acronym-packed HR programmes designed to boost engagement, enhance inter-organisational communication, and encourage professional development.In her 10 years at Broadridge India, Singh—who was the winner of CHRO of the Year Award at the 2016 HRO Today EMEA Forum—has incorporated Indian culture and essential core values into her HR strategy to help bring Broadridge’s programmes, and bottom line, to new heights.

HRO Today Global: Can you tell us a little bit about Broadridge’s spin-off from ADP, what your role was in that, what challenges you faced, and your strategy for maintaining engagement through that process?

Rajita Singh: In 2007, when Broadridge officially IPOed, we had about 400 associates in India. The challenge we had was ensuring that people who had the expertise moved with Broadridge, had a sense of purpose, belief that this move was good for them and the company. Essentially most of the tenured associates, who helped laid the foundation over the last decade were the one’s who built the ADP muscle in India. It was a testing time at different Levels, emotional, societal, family, professional, all of it. Imagine giving up your own identity and starting from scratch? People’s ability to be able to identify themselves with an established brand vs a brand which no one has heard of.

From a career standpoint, in India or for that matter across the world, the larger the empire you have, the more successful you are. With this move, that empire was shrinking for many, because we were becoming a ‘niche boutique company’—Broadridge, which would focus exclusively on BFSI [banking, financial services, and insurance].

The willingness of people wanting to transition / make the move was a challenge—they’d made friends at ADP and had to leave those friends and think “what’s my family going to say and are they going to be comfortable?” BFSI as a domain is a very volatile industry and it’s cyclical like any other business— it goes up, it comes down. Today there might be something happening because of record revenues, and tomorrow, there’s something else because the market’s not doing well and goes bust! You just lost all of it. So associates need to have the ability and the maturity to be able to deal with things of that nature.

So how did we maintain high engagement levels? Leadership makes all the difference. V. Laxmikanth— VLK as we call him—has been the soul and heart of the organisation. He, along with four of his friends started the MNC (multinational company) culture in India and was probably one of the firsts to establish a hedge fund company—D.E. Shaw in the late 1990’s in Hyderabad. He has been in the organisation since inception, and his move was a key influence and a role model. He was heading the entire BPO segment of employer services for ADP, and him joining Broadridge was a big testimony for all associates, as he decided to move along to Broadridge as it was doing the “right thing.”

So it’s a steep uphill climb, but it has been fun. In terms of stats and how it has progressed, you can see today that we’ve retained more than 70 percent of our associates since IPO. Our average tenure is a good five years with Broadridge, so we’ve been doing fairly well in the highly competitive Indian market. Our tagline “Thank God it’s Monday” is a synonym to Broadridge in India which talks of our culture where there is no Monday morning blues and associates enjoy work and are engaged towards being market leaders in BFSI.

HROTG: At the HRO Today EMEA Forum panel, you spoke about how you wanted India to be a source of strategic talent instead of just transactional work. Can you describe some of the HR initiatives that you implemented out of India to achieve that and what results you had?

RS: I’ll explain it this way: partner with the business. The world now talks of all HR being business HR and how it’s not just working in isolation—it’s a nobrainer. We weren’t the first movers on that, but I think that we cracked it. The secret formula is that if you want to be effective in HR and show that you can make a difference, you need to partner with the business deeply and efficiently.

For starters, something that we implemented as a process is that for anything we do within HR, we build consensus with the business, aka leaders and associates. If there is buy-in, only then do we go ahead and do anything. So, it’s not about building a business case, it’s about being able to connect and say “this is what we truly believe in, and this is what we want to do.”

Broadridge India has been pretty interesting. We have transitioned beautifully from being a cost advantage location—GIC [Global In-house Centres] in India, to being a value player, to now being an innovation and strategic hub for all of Broadridge.

For people to be able to understand and have clarity with the vision, we worked for months together with the leaders to roll out an India delivery framework which aligns and shares the purpose at an associate level. This initiative is called IFIT: “India Future is Today,” and at an individual level, it is how I, as an associate, fit into Broadridge. IFIT essentially has four levers:

• One is “ABLE,” which is “Attract, Build, Lead, and Engage.” That essentially refers to everything that talent can do.

• The second is about operational maturity, and in Hindi and Sanskrit, it’s called “Om” [pronounced “aum”]. “Om” is a sacred word, and it essentially adds more energy to what you do.

• The third lever is “OSM” [pronounced “awesome”], which is “Office of Synergies Management,” and in that, we had programmes and initiatives about how you can connect and synthesise across businesses and not just your business unit, given the niche. So everything that you do, for example, in the fixed income space or the international security space, needs to be all together.

• And then we have a programme called “PACE,” which is “Programme for Accelerated Client Engagement.”

HROTG: What advice would you give to other HR leaders who want to grow their workforce and prioritise innovation and strategic HR?

RS: I have some very simple principles (taught to me by my mother), and they’re in Hindi, so I will translate what each means. This message is to HR professionals: I call it DSD.

“D” stands for “Dharma.” That means “continue to do your duty,” what you’re actually supposed to do because you can’t miss your basics if you end up doing strategic stuff. You need to do both together. So that’s duty.

“S” stands for “Sahas.” That means “courage.” If you have the conviction in something be it a new idea, or routine that you think is going to change and positively influence your workplace, you should definitely go for it. Irrespective of whether you have consensus or not, have the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Taking people along is a part of the journey and the biggest win too, because doing anything alone is very difficult. Let me give an example. There’s a video on YouTube of this guy on a beach. Everybody’s just sitting, relaxing, sunbathing. There’s this guy who gets up—there’s no music playing—and just starts dancing. And in a couple of minutes, you see somebody else joins him. So now you have two people dancing, and everybody is making fun of them, but in a matter of 15 minutes, you have the whole beach dancing. It is all about the fact that whatever you do is contagious, and the ability and conviction that I can do it is going to make a difference.

The last part of DSD is “D” which stand for “Dhairya,” and it means “patience.” Changes are particularly up to nature. One type is revolutionary, which is typically short-term, but if you want to see long-term changes like what we’ve done, those are more evolutionary in nature, so it takes time. And people need to learn how to be a little patient in order to see the change.

HROTG: You also mentioned whilst on the panel that Broadridge’s information security regulations prevent its employees from using mobile devices and apps at work and that this can deter potential hires. What have you done to overcome this challenge and continue to attract talent?

RS: It’s important to look at things in perspective, as a GIC based on certain commitments and regulations, it’s important to comply with at the same time ensure the talent and people angle is taken care Of. The challenge was “how do you attract the workforce into an office when you are not going to provide the luxury of having a smartphone at work?” What we’ve done is we’ve made sure that people understand and appreciate why we are doing what we are doing, are engaged in what they do with a 360 degree well-rounded opportunity which is truly unique—IFIT is one avenue we have to engage associates actively with our business and we also engage with the extended families our associates’ families by hosting painting workshops, pottery workshops—activities like that, and also we connect with the community like in our cause of educating the female child.

There are several things done at different levels. We do provide mobile phones (not smart ones, the very basic) strictly for calls in case of emergencies.

Plus, we have kiosks within the facility where people can go to access the internet, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, Facebook—all of that is only available at the kiosks, but not at the workplace.

HROTG: Can you talk a little bit about Broadridge’s Subject Matter Experts programme and focus on learning? What role did technology play in implementing those solutions?

RS: The Subject Matter Expert programme is something very close to our hearts. We are building [experts] on two streams.

One stream is where we identify specific areas of expertise that the business requires in India over the longer term, identify associates who will be Specifically trained to become an expert in those areas, send them to the States (or any other onsite location) for a considerable period (typically a year) for a rigorous training programme. By the time this is done, we’ve grown the in-house expertise in a big way and these associates then add significant value even in functions such as strategy or product management that are considered hard to perform in a GIC away from the end customer.

The other is a career development framework with developed subject matter experts or experts within the organisation— it’s called COMPASS: Conceptualising Objectives, Measuring Performance to Add Skills for Success. We rolled out COMPASS, which was essentially four ladders: product, business, technology, and leadership. We provided a career path to associates, and they could see clearly what are the competencies that they need to work on. It was more of a pull versus a push methodology, meaning that if an employee wanted to take something, it’s their career and their responsibility to do something, not their manager. We instilled that in every associate: If you’re passionate about your career, this is the way to go.

In this programme we also have the concept of a “Guru.” We have “gurus” who essentially guide, answer questions, and do anything of that nature for associates to help them build their expertise. Every single inch of work done on this—from the application development to the notes, to the governance council, to the ladder council, to the gurus—is all in-house. Not a single consultant has actually helped us with this, so we’re pretty proud of that.

Our tagline “Thank God it’s Monday” for Broadridge in India talks of our culture where there is no Monday morning blues and associates enjoy work and are engaged towards being market leaders in BFSI.

What we’ve done is we’ve made sure that people understand and appreciate why we are doing what we are doing, are engaged in what they do with a 360 degree well-rounded opportunity which is truly unique.

Posted April 20, 2017 in Engaged Workforce

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