Why firms should build awareness of workplace dynamics

23 September 2021
5 minute
Debaraj blog header v3

For Debaraj Dutta, Head of DEI & Culture at Temenos, diversity in a generic sense isn’t a box to be ticked for HR policies. A purpose-led approach creates cognitive diversity that is a core part of what drives a company’s success through innovation, creativity and complex ideation for simple solutions. We speak to him about enabling workplace dynamics and the tools that people leaders can use to make these environments happier, healthier and more inclusive. 

Debaraj, tell us about Temenos and your role

Temenos is a growing FinTech company with over 1.2 billion customers globally and with employees all over the world from about 90 diverse nationalities. I joined the company seven years ago as I wanted to work in the ever evolving technology sector and to utilise my passion for people development to enable them to fulfil their potential and succeed in their careers. My role at Temenos evolved from, embedding Learning and Development (L&D) and employee engagement practices to implementing DEI and culture strategies.

Your role is about diversity and inclusion, how can we go about improving this in business?

Lack of diversity isn’t a simple problem and it isn’t easy to solve. As a baseline, it requires education, empathy and empowerment, as we review relevant people processes across a company with an aim to make it inclusive and equitable. For example, while making the hiring process fair is a good first step, it’s important to remember that not everyone has had the same opportunities to get to that stage in the first place. Therefore, it is significant to focus on equitable practices to make sure that people are on a level playing field for all employment processes.

When we speak about encouraging women to break the glass ceiling in the context of gender parity alone, the focus is mostly on a minority group of women with privileges. If all the other factors are not considered, such as socioeconomic background, disability, neurodiversity, sexuality, ethnicity and race, this becomes a huge problem. I place a lot of importance on understanding equity and intersectionality, as well as equality and inclusion. More awareness is needed about different aspects of underrepresentation to mobilise strategic efforts in the right direction. 

Companies should also consider introducing grassroots projects, and learning and development programmes to empower cognitive diversity from underrepresented groups. At Temenos, we aim to create learning opportunities for people from all backgrounds across the world, to help them explore their career potential. Currently we support few schools in India, where our colleagues dedicate their time to educate and inspire a generation of young talent from underrepresented community to consider STEM education and careers. Meanwhile we also continually review our recruitment policies and working structures to help us to understand how we can make these more inclusive. 

You've worked in HR for 18 years, what have been the biggest changes you've seen so far?

HR has evolved from a traditional process and policy driven function, to a people-centric and experience based practice to support the business, even though it is a long way to go. This is reflected through the increased focus and investment on organisational culture, DEI and EX in recent years. 

In terms of challenges, skills gap have been - and still are - a key issue in talent acquisition. The world of technology is continually innovating, and the sheer pace of change makes it difficult for people to develop the right skills for emerging roles. This skills gap is also linked to people’s motivation for learning, a concept which is outlined by American author Nir Eyal in ‘Hooked’ - a book that explains the importance of user emotions in routine habit formation.

For example, while many people find it easy to use phone app technologies with no training, there can be resistance to learning about new technologies/solutions at work. Focusing on internal motivation and learner experience will enable people to upskill themselves effectively to make the most out of their career. 

Are there any key technologies that stand out as a game-changer in the workplace? 

Automation has been an important tool for changing the way we work. Humans are smart, unique creatures with the capacity to achieve great things. By simplifying certain processes through automation, people have the time and space they need to maximise their potential to influence decision making. 

In talent acquisition, there has been a growing awareness of unconscious bias in the past decade. For years people have been talking about ‘cultural fit’ within organisations, which leads people to hiring the same kind of person time and time again. But I don't like using the phrase ‘fit’. I see hiring as an opportunity to identify what people can add/contribute to the company culture that counts, not how they perfectly fit into a box. The use of psychometric testing is helping to support this, by providing tangible guidance for decision making. 

How did you start your journey with psychometric assessments? 

From 2004, my interest in psychology and neuroscience began to grow. I learnt about transaction analysis, NLP and had been exposed to some forms of psychometric testing, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I incorporated the concept into our recruitment and management development processes. I built a business case for the use of psychometric assessments in our sales academy graduate program, which was extremely successful. 

As well as playing a vital role in recruitment, we’ve since learned that assessments can be a valuable part of leadership and management development programmes. These tools support participants with key knowledge about self-awareness and emotional intelligence that help them to adapt better with people, teams and situations at work. We find the assessments particularly useful to gain a deeper understanding about peoples’ soft skills relevant to their role, rather than qualifications and work experience alone. 

We’re in a time of immense change for the industry, what do you see as the big areas to watch over the next decade?

L&D is going to become increasingly vital for employees, no matter what stage of the career journey they’re on. Even people who are nearing retirement will be expected to think outside of the box, unlearning skills or practices we’ve been relying on for decades to learn something new. 

As the world becomes more reliant on online accessibility and hybrid working model, the traditional organisational hierarchy will evolve into a working network. I think it will make some people uncomfortable at first, but in time this will encourage a more community-based approach to the workplace that is happier, healthier, diverse and inclusive.

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