“At Fidelity, as a part of our ambition to support gender parity, we offer the same amount of paid leave to fathers and secondary care givers as mothers are entitled as per the maternity leave to spend time caring for their new born children without worrying about their careers,” said Upasna Nischal, Head of HR - India, Fidelity International.

Fidelity International is one of the world’s leading investment management services companies with $703 billion Assets Under Management. In a landmark move towards gender parity, the company last year implemented the paid parental leave policy under which fathers and secondary carers were allowed to avail 26-weeks of paid leave, which was earlier sanctioned to only mothers and primary carers as part of maternity leave.

“At Fidelity, as a part of our ambition to support gender parity, we offer the same amount of paid leave to fathers and secondary care givers as mothers are entitled as per the maternity leave to spend time caring for their new born children without worrying about their careers,” said Upasna Nischal, Head of HR - India, Fidelity International.

In an interaction with ETHRWorld, Nischal further said, “In the new world, HR is going to spearhead and manage strategic transformations, with most of the workforce operating in flexible and hybrid models, and therefore, there is a huge responsibility on our shoulders to support this metamorphosis for employees’ and business’ success.” Edited Excerpts:

What has been the biggest learning for you and your company, during this pandemic?

We reimagined and redeveloped the workplace last year. I think the biggest learning for me, both personally and professionally was that we are capable of tremendous resilience. We should never underestimate our power to rise to the occasion and adapt to the new challenges that life throws at us.

Secondly, I learnt the art of balancing work and personal life. I think it will be equally critical to continue to focus on balancing work, family and wellbeing this year as well.

Lastly, experiencing the power of technology, as an equaliser and enabler, was a huge learning. The fact that we were able to sail through the last year was largely due to technology innovation and digital transformation, without which it would have been extremely difficult to even imagine our personal lives, leave alone work.

What do you think will be the key HR trends in 2021, and how has the role of HR changed during the Covid -19 crisis?

We will continue to focus on employee wellbeing this year as well, and one of the top focus areas will be to create an effective employee-focused dynamic working model, which essentially means taking care of all the important aspects of an employee’s lifecycle in the distributed remote working model, for example: talent management frameworks, employee experience and engagement practices, regulatory nuances, infrastructural policies etc.

Last year, in order to support our employees to cope with the unprecedented circumstances, we provided relevant training programmes, webinars, guided meditation sessions to employees to deal with stress and anxiety. This year, we plan to continue with such programmes for employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.

As much as it is important to focus on physical and mental wellbeing, it is also important to support employees with their financial wellbeing, as they work from home. We are very sensitive to the fact that work from home had its own set of unique challenges, and employees needed support to create a conducive working environment at home. Keeping that in mind, we rolled out financial assistance programme wherein we offered up to Rs 60,000 to each employee to ramp up their home office infrastructure. We are also offering monthly allowance to employees up to the manager level for their day-to-day utility expenses. We hope that these policies will help alleviate financial burden and at the same time support employees’ wellbeing.

We are also educating managers on reviewing employee performance while working in a remote arrangement. As an organisation, we are ensuring that our managers and leaders are well supported so that they can take care of their personal and their team’s professional growth.

What measures have you taken to create an inclusive work environment, in terms of employee engagement?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we had rolled out an interesting programme, called ‘Endure and Embrace’. The idea was to endure the challenging situations that we were experiencing, and gracefully embrace the new normal, by proactively preparing for it.

As a part of this programme, we crowd-sourced interesting ideas from our employees related to strengthening relationships and emotional bonds, nurturing trust amongst team members and delivering seamlessly by adapting quickly to the new circumstances. We received many creative ideas, for example, introducing flexible working hours, conducting health challenges for physical and mental wellbeing, innovative team engagement activities, encouraging taking time off, and connecting with the team members on their special milestone etc.

On the employee communication front, our CEO has been extremely regular in communicating with the employees. Since the beginning of the last year to date, she is very active in reaching out to the people, ensuring that we are keeping the people up to date on what is happening, what’s the stand of the organisation, where are we going, what are the challenges, how is the yearly outlook looking like, and most importantly she has been emphasizing a lot on the employee wellbeing.

The HR team have been conducting regular pulse surveys since last year. The surveys have helped us understand the various challenges that the employees are faced with, and on the basis of these surveys we have been creating meaningful action plans.

The wellbeing of our employees is of paramount importance to us and being compassionate is one of our core behaviours. I am delighted to share that Fidelity International is now offering a five-day Family Care Leave to the employees to take care of their children, elderly, sick, or disabled family members - this is the latest step towards our commitment to being an inclusive, progressive and compassionate family-friendly company. Last year, we announced the Enhanced Parental Leave Policy enabling fathers and secondary carers to be entitled to take the same amount of paid leave as mothers or primary carers, which was hugely welcomed in the organisation.

What will be your hiring outlook for this year? How many people do you plan to hire in 2021 and for what profiles?

We continue to hire employees as per our workforce requirement. The job market is changing very fast and we are all learning and adapting to these changes. The hiring teams are learning how to manage end-to-end hiring processes remotely, and at the same time candidates are also learning new ways of presenting themselves in the virtual interview and selection process.

Based on our learnings from 2020, I believe that one of the most important things that is going to be the game-changer this year will be an organisation’s ability to manage the flexible hybrid work arrangements. As organisations offer flexible work arrangements, they will start getting access to talent residing in different parts of the world, who probably were not accessible earlier, and on the other hand, candidates will now have enormous access to job prospects across multiple locations.

In terms of the skills that will be in demand in the new world of work, I believe it’s not just the technical skills, like cyber security, digital, AI/ML, cloud etc, but also soft skills, like resilience, collaboration and networking, emotional intelligence and empathy etc, as they will be the key differentiators moving forward.

We would look for candidates who have the competencies to collaborate and communicate with the team members across different locations and manage their time without the manager’s tight oversight all the time. Some of the other important skills to consider will be, creativity, decision making and analytical thinking.

What’s your strategy to readjust and reorient the employees in the new normal of working?

I think building skills and capabilities for the future will be essential for most organisations. We have to unlearn several things and need to relearn new ways of working. There is a need to develop new skill sets, shift our mindsets, and create new toolkits for people to use to be effective in the new context.

Earlier in the year, we have published the strategic goals and priorities for the organisation and various functions, and based on those priorities, several development programmes covering the desired technical and soft skills have been launched for employees across levels.

We offer focused development programmes for different levels, for example, the programmes for our junior entry-level colleagues are designed to help them prepare for the corporate world; programmes at the middle management levels aim at grooming team management and coaching skills; and programmes at senior levels are focused on building enterprise level leadership competencies.

Our talent strategy is designed to continue to drive high performance, leadership and career growth. Last year, we launched an important career development framework, which is based on the belief that everyone is talented and we all can, and should, drive our own careers. This framework designed to meet individual development needs and the needs of the business. As a part of this framework, the employees have ongoing discussions with their managers to chart out their development trajectory and the roadmap to get there.

How do you address gender parity at the workplace? What is the current male to female staff ratio at the organisation?

Our global gender diversity is 43 per cent women to 57 per cent men. We moved from 42 per cent in 2019 to 43 per cent in 2020 at an organisation level. We also moved from 30 per cent women leaders at senior levels in 2019 to 31 per cent in 2020. I am very glad to share that we have beaten the target set for 2020 and are very close to meeting our target for 2023.

For us, D&I is a way of life. At Fidelity, diversity is not only about gender - we look at diversity and inclusion as an overarching theme covering various strands like gender, culture, LGBTQ+, social mobility among other aspects.

We have ensured that there are the right structures put in place to focus on achieving our D&I vision. Our employee experience and D&I function, led by a senior member, has been instrumental in working with the leadership team to defining and delivering the organisational D&I strategy. In addition, we have been trying to mobilise the organisational ecosystem, both top-down and bottom-up to partner and support the realisation of the vision.

We believe that it needs robust and structured approach starting from hiring to career development, to drive internal parity between diverse set of employees; for example, at the time of hiring we focus on writing gender neutral job descriptions, have diverse candidates in the selection process, have diversity representation in the interview panel and compensation discussion etc. These practices have given us good results in our D&I charter.

The same philosophy is applied to internal talent reviews and succession planning discussions. We also regularly audit our compensation data for gender pay parity which has helped us make significant progress over the last few years.

Please throw some light on the implementation of the paid parental leave policy from 10 days to 26 weeks for primary as well as secondary carriers at Fidelity International. How has been the feedback from the employees?

The Enhanced Parental Leave (EPL) policy has been a brave and bold move from Fidelity International, which is also being an industry trend setter. We launched the policy in September last year and so far, close to 50 people have already availed the benefit.

This policy is helping our employees be with their new born, without stressing about the impact of taking time off on their career progression and financial wellbeing.

Employee engagement and wellbeing has been at the core of our talent and business strategy. We will continue to get guided by this core belief as we embrace the new world of work.

The quote was originally published in ET HR World.com in March 2021.

The opinions expressed are author's own. Fidelity International is not responsible for the author's opinions.