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"A blended workforce," "internal gigs" and taking advantage of digital reach and scale. Investec's Nicola Tager outlines how recruitment will forever be changed post-Covid-19, but some things, like organisational culture, must be preserved.

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Nicola Tager, Head of Careers, Investec
Nicola Tager, Investec, Global head of Careers

We will expand the possibilities around contracting people- enabling, short-term stints, and 'gig-work'. A blended workforce is the way of the future.

What makes Investec a sought after financial institution to work for?

Rated as second best employer to work for by professionals in Universum's 2019 survey

Three years ago, we sat down with Investec's Global Head of Careers Nicola Tager to discuss the organisation's recruitment strategy and culture. At the time, Investec had just been voted one of the top three companies in the country to work for.

Fast forward to 2020, and Investec's success in this regard hasn't tapered off. Universum's most recent survey saw them rated as the second-best company to work for in South Africa. But Investec, like many businesses, has had to adapt to rapidly changing workplace dynamics. 

We've interviewed Nicky again because we want to get a sense of how the pandemic has changed Investec's recruitment processes and whether a post-pandemic Investec will still be an employer of choice.

Read the full transcript of the podcast | CEVW: Caroline Edey van Wyk; NT: Nicola Tager
  • 01:01 How has Investec's culture been impacted by Covid-19 and the departure of the founders?

    CE: So, when we chatted in 2017, you put Investec's culture front and centre of why it's a desirable place to work, but since we chatted two major things have happened. One; the founders of the organization have left, and they were quintessential to the culture and two; Covid-19 hit us all so how have these two colossal occurrences impacted Investec's distinctive culture?


    NT: So, Caro interesting question and it is something that we've been thinking about for a while now, the beauty is it hasn't affected the culture. The culture has teed us up to be successful through both of these transitions.


    The fact that the two individuals left us that were so pivotal to the creation of this culture doesn't mean that the culture has diluted in any way. We are very lucky that the leadership that has come into play now and succeeded these individuals have been part of our organization for a very long time.


    I mean Fani was a client of ours, and he's worked alongside the senior leadership at Investec for a while now so Fani's as passionate about culture as passionate about people and we can see it, we can feel it, we can sense it in the way that he's leading the organization with all of the other leadership and the execs.


    Let's fast forward to Covid as you mentioned which has fundamentally changed all of our worlds and nothing that we could have foreseen or prepared. Something you could never predict in the future of an organization. So interesting times for us.


    What we've noticed though is the organization has been able to transition through this time exceptionally well, and we are saying that it is because the culture has teed us up around some of the values in the way that we lead people and the way that we work together.


    So, for example, let's talk about freedom to operate… we've always had an organization that's been built on trust. A high-performance organization. The fact that each individual takes responsibility for delivery. So the fluidity in which the culture has allowed us to operate pre-Covid has actually enabled us and supported us through this transitionary period.  

  • 03:37 How did the new leave, working hours, and dress policy help when Covid-19 hit?

    CE: Last year Investec introduced a new policy around leave and working hours and dress- in essence, it made employees the masters of their own lives.


    They could take as much leave as they wanted, decide their own working hours and dress for their day, with the large caveat that they maintained high performance and that there output wasn’t impacted.


    One would think that these changes teed the organisation up well to cope with the compulsory working from home scenario that we saw during this lockdown.


    NT: Absolutely, you know, it's interesting how this happened. It was around about September last year where we started to introduce these changes and the big change for us was around a mindset and a mental model that people held with regards to- how do you define and determine what value is and value contribution?


    And there were some traditional thoughts in the organization still, you know that value contribution and hard work meant long hours or meant it had to be in the office etc. and we started to challenge some of these core concepts that people have lived with not just within Investec but within any traditional organization.


    And we started to say, how could we redefine what value is. If we are truly an organization that is about output and performance- do we care if the person is sitting in the office, do we care if they're doing work between 8:30 and 5:00 o'clock for example, what we should be caring about is effectiveness and delivery and output itself?


    So if you think about dress for your day, if you think about introducing the flexible leave, they were designed as artifacts of our culture that already existed actually.


    These have become fundamentally important during a period like Covid, like trust massive, massive value in our organization and it has been needed across any organization working in such a flexible way due to Covid for example.


    Even things like care and concern for individuals…but the way that we've seen the organization care and support individuals through this time has just been phenomenal. The understanding of the roles that people have had to have taken up the stress that people have been under, you know, the psychological strain even some of the physiological changes that people have been going through.


  • 05:49 Care for staff one of the reasons for high retention levels

    CE: So care and concern has actually come to the fore during Covid rather than not being evident and I remember that was one of the things that you felt was the reason why Investec manages to retain its employees for so long.


    NT: If you asked me specifically as an individual, what are the two things that keep me at Investec it is this care and concern for me as an individual and the way that they care for me or support me would be very different to the way that they care and support you. It's a very individualistic approach built on very personal relationships.


    And the second is that freedom to operate- most people say autonomy- the trust and autonomy, it goes hand-in-hand obviously, but that autonomy and freedom to operate to understand what you need to deliver and to deliver it in the way that you think is the most effective and the most efficient is really what people feel exceptionally motivated.


    It's the reason why people will outperform. It's a very human place with human connection with real requirements and real asks, you know, but it gives this organization something exceptionally special.  


    CE: But Nicks when we talk about that, you know, it's a real place it's a human place- how does one make up for the fact that for the last six months the majority of us have been stuck at home, and all interactions have had to be online?


    NT: One side of the coin would say that we getting more personal because we in each other's homes the entire time and to say that I'm bringing my whole self to work is an absolute truth now.


    You know you sitting behind your computer in a meeting etc with whoever it may be, and a child needs you or someone at home needs you and they are in your space the entire time and so you cannot compartmentalize yourself during this time and you cannot separate your professional life with your personal life.


    At the same time, I understand that it cannot, supersede being in personal contact with one another, but I think people have created an ability to connect with each other one-on-one far more.


    So if I think even the amount of time that you spend in team meetings for example, when you are in person, now what people have noticed is that personal phone call or that personal WhatsApp that you send someone versus the group communication. That has a very high impact on people and that has a very personal touch when you cannot be face-to-face. 


  • 08:12 How the interviewing and hiring process has evolved

    CE: So Nicks I suppose that's one thing but when it comes to the actual interviewing and hiring process, so in an environment, which Investec has created where so much autonomy is given hiring the correct individual that steps up to the plate that can be trusted is paramount. So how has Investec's hiring and interview process evolved during Covid-19?


    NT: So, did we fumble in the beginning? Probably a little bit, you know, there was no pre-warning that it was going to come and we couldn't plan a brand new strategy, but I think we started to play around with different techniques exceptionally quickly and learn from them and again be agile and adjust when we felt that something wasn't working etc and then find new ways.


    What we were doing though upfront is protecting "process" which you know is core to the organization's culture and "process" really is being able to design a recruitment process that allows for lots of different opinions and lots of different voices to come into the individual that we are meeting to the skill that we are finding.


    So that by the time anyone is appointed in our organization, they not only have created a network of relationships prior to actually joining us but that there's a buy-in and support for the individual that we've brought in.


    What we haven't also lost Caro is the ability to look way beyond a CV or a profile. We haven't lost the ability or the knack to be able to see beyond just that profile.  We have spent substantial time even if it is via WebEx or Microsoft Teams etc to really still hold conversations with people. 


    And I must admit, I have found people willing to be slightly more vulnerable- again- this on the candidate side and very authentic in the conversations and I don't know if it's because they're sitting in the comfort of their own home. You know that they feel far happier to truly be themselves and to truly overshare details of who they are and what their career has been about and to really give you a very honest narrative of their story.


    And I think it is probably that, and the fact that we have taken people out of that formal structure of walking into any organization and sitting behind, you know, a corporate table in a corporate office and then asking them to bring their authentic self to the conversation.


    So, I think the environment around which people are finding themselves has allowed us to dig a little bit deeper into who's this human being in the conversation with us.


    CE: Post Covid-19 do you think there's going to be a major shift in the way Investec and all corporates approach recruitment to take advantage of a more global candidate pool?


    NT: Ya, I do think so. I think organizations are going to look more broadly versus just for example the city that they operate in or the country that they operate in.


    I think organizations will start to look at capacity differently, you know moving away just from this traditional view of permanent headcount taking up permanent jobs with the very specific role scope.


    And moving to look at an entire spectrum of employment. You know that can span anywhere from that permanent employee to potential suppliers and looking at what's the best solution for the organization based on capacity, your skill, or whatever it might be that's the actual need that you fulfilling. 


    And we have seen it now as well our organization has been far more open-minded we've had some amazing opportunities where you know the role traditionally had sat for example in Johannesburg, but now we found the most amazing person in Cape Town.


    And it's no longer a conversation of yes your successful you can have the role but we need you to move or we needing you to commute for a period of time. It is a far more fluid dialogue. 

  • 12:08 Shift from predominantly permanent employees to a "blended workforce"

    CE: Do you think that in the future we will steadily get rid of permanent roles, do you think that will be the trend?


    NT: No, I think you'll always have a core group of roles that are permanent opportunities in any organization- if you think of things like client relationships.


    It is exceptionally important that you have a solid base of individuals that understand your product, your services and people that have built those relationships over a long period of time.


    So I think you'll have certain roles that will forever remain permanent, but I think that they may be opportunities that create short-term stints for people. Gigs both internally and externally. I think we will just expand the possibilities and the optionality around the way that we contract people going forward.


    CE: And is this kind of what one refers to as a blended workforce?


    NT: Yes, it is the way that you look at a workforce will become a far more blended approach, and there would be pros and cons to each of the different optionalities both for the organisation and the employee themselves.


    CE: Nicks, you mentioned in one of your answers “the gig economy”. Could you expand on what that is and give us an example of how that could work in an organisation like Investec?


    NT: So the gig is obviously not based on the music gig, but the theory behind the design of what a gig is absolutely still that. So it is people taking on pieces of work and delivering it. And yeah, lots of people look at external gigs.


    I suppose it's replacing that old freelance narrative around the way that people would take up pieces of work. But an internal gig- it could be based on someone wanting to learn something new, you know so for example, you have a role in marketing at the moment, but you exceptionally interested to build the skill or to learn something around technology for example, and you could offer some of your capacity by gigging into an IT space, for example.  And taking up a tester role on a new project that they're delivering for your division.



  • 14:10 Expanding the pool of talented graduates

    CE: Attracting talented graduates is an important part of any corporation’s recruitment strategy. So how did you guys manage when you couldn't access campuses and recruit in person? 


    NT: Ya, listen it's always been exceptionally important to us so, you know. We have a philosophy around homegrown talent and our grad intakes and the pool of talented youngsters that we've always brought into the organisation has been so important to us.


    So 100% when this all hit it was primarily over the time that we would start to engage in career fairs etc. and we knew that it was going to be stunted, unfortunately, and so instead of just waiting and you know, twiddling our thumbs and waiting to see what happened we actually leaned in and we actually engaged a lot of our university partners to say whilst these grads are sitting at home how can we still engage them?


    How can we create platforms for conversation, you know there are opportunities for us to partner? And I must say both our university partners and the actual grads were so enthusiastic that it really gave us the opportunity to do some stuff.


    So for example, where we used to do guest lectures we continued to do so and what was very interesting for me and the change of the students is the amount of questions that came through, the amount of curiosity around the conversations that were being held.


    It really had increased on this new platform. And I think it was about access-100%.. Everyone was potentially at home they had time, b- you could speak to a far broader audience than just how many people could fit into a lecture hall.


    But I think thirdly the people that were on there were truly engaged and truly wanted the information at hand. And so we loved the dialogues we really did. So we've still been able to connect with the students. We've obviously used social media as well to stay connected.


    And we've actually continued to run our exposure programs virtually and digitally and the appreciation and the gratitude that have come from the students that have been privy to them has really been there.


    So they have obviously been designed right we've had the right people in the conversations which have been superb and somehow we've been able to bring to life the Investec culture through those dialogues and create some sort of individual connection with people.


    CE: Okay, so far from hurting your graduate attracting strategy, you think that you actually you might incorporate some of the stuff that you've been doing in the future?


    NT: Ya, we will incorporate some of it that larger scale's become exceptionally useful. And it's a broader group of people you know, we want to look beyond just the main universities and really have a far greater reach into other universities across the country. 


    And so it gives us that greater reach using digital platforms and where people are unable to travel for whatever which reason we can reach them.


  • 17:06 Will Investec continue to rank highly as a company to work for?

    CE: It sounds like you're pretty confident that Investec will continue to attract the talent necessary for its future and that the post-Covid-19 Investec is still going to be the place where students and professionals want to come work


    I'm bullish. I think the young talent that we've brought in and the professionals that we see being attracted to our organization is just brilliant.


    I think the networks of people that we've started to build relationships with for the future are solid. And I think it is back to the culture.


    And I keep coming back to that in every conversation that we have Caro. As long as the culture is protected and stays alive which it will and it's all of our responsibility. This place is still an amazing place to work.


    CE: Thank you so much for joining me Nicks and if you enjoyed this podcast, please take the time to rate us and subscribe to Investec Focus Radio wherever you download your podcasts. 


About the author

Caroline Edey-van Wyk

Caroline Edey-van Wyk

Brand Editor

Colloquially known as Investec’s “storyteller,” Caroline curates and produces all the content that underpins Investec's Out of the Ordinary brand promise. She works across the business but specialises in the areas of Sustainability, CSI, Sponsorships and HR. Caroline holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree in Political Science and Broadcasting - cum laude. Before she joined Investec she was a broadcast journalist at Sky News and eNCA.

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