We have been very fortunate at MMC to have Paulette Cotter joining us as our inaugural Chief People & Capability Officer and our latest addition to MMC’s Executive Leadership Team. The timing turned out to be vital as Auckland went into full lockdown only a few weeks after Paulette joined. The well-being of our people needed dedicated attention whilst we remained focused on providing the best service to our clients and deliver on critical projects, at a time when we also added new talent to our teams.
Tuning into the organisation during this period of uncertainty proved to boost morale, as highly noted in our recent employee wellbeing survey where 99% of respondents were happy with the support MMC provided throughout lockdown.
We were lucky to rely on Paulette’s previous experience in managing change and strengthening capabilities with an impressive career expanding across New Zealand and the UK as a strategic people and culture leader.
This is a unique opportunity to hear from Paulette, where she shares her secrets on how to kick-start a new people and capability role and the challenges faced by lockdown.
What an absolute pleasure it has been to join a company that puts people first. I am not just saying that because my boss will read this, those that know me well, know I only say what I truly feel.
I will never forget during my interview process, Vedran Babic (CEO) saying to me that he believed 50% of his role was to focus on the business and 50% was to focus on the people. That certainly piqued my interest; it is exactly what a potential Chief People and Capability Officer wants to hear.
Four months into my new role as Chief People and Capability Officer at MMC, I can tell you he was telling the truth in that interview.
Vedran joined MMC in 2020, and he quickly saw the need to invest in the people and capability space to help the successful execution of MMC’s transformational strategic plan.
The Chief People and Capability Officer role was created, where the human resources function was previously largely outsourced. Much of the day-to-day transactional human resources function is still outsourced providing the capacity for this new role to focus on engaging with our people, developing and attracting the right capability to deliver against our strategy, and building our culture and employee experience.
I was the fortunate one to be offered this incredible role. After 11 years of consulting in business and people strategy, transformational change and organisation design, having eyes for many businesses, I now only have eyes for one.
When I decided to move from consulting, I knew it would have to be a special business to make that shift. So, I developed my decision-making criteria:
I am happy to say MMC has ticked every one of those criteria.
My first three months
My experience so far has been a mix of incredible and challenging. The incredible is all about the talented people I get to work with day in and day out. The challenging has been that after only four weeks in the role Auckland headed into lockdown.
When we went into lockdown it was clear that my priority needed to be on the wellbeing of our people.
When I joined MMC, I kicked off a series of empathy interviews (phase one of the design thinking methodology) with our people to deeply understand what they care about and what their experience was like working at MMC.
This provided a great start to connect with our people and get a good feel for our culture. Having carried out fifty-eight in depth, one-to-one conversations with our people so far, my goal is to do these with all our people.
These chats have been incredibly useful giving me great insight to the experience working at MMC and where my priorities should be, and it also gave me an opportunity to touch base and check in how our people have been coping during lockdown.
I have been amazed at the professionalism and dedication of our people to continue to deliver to such high standards for our clients.
The most important thing I have learnt during this period is how different everyone’s situations are. I have taken the time when I meet with our people to ask what else they have going on during lockdown outside of work and who else they have in their household. Sometimes, I think it is hard to get past the teams/zoom call screen to be able to empathise with what people are dealing with. The only way to do that is to ask. We have parents working and home-schooling, people working from their bedroom to hide from the flatties, single parents with pre-schoolers, people worrying about elderly parents, people with loved ones in hospital, people who have lost loved ones and not been able to be with them, parents getting up at 5am to work before the kids wake up, and it just goes on. The resilience of our people has blown me away.
So, my advice is to remember to just ask, what is going on for you outside of work, what are you having to manage, whether we are in lockdown or not. Understanding the whole person and personal values is how we can connect better with each other.
On top of all my great chats with people, our managers across the business have been checking in regularly with their people. Additionally, we have carried out a number of well-being surveys to get a feel for how our people are coping and how we can better support them. We’ve also had lots of fun well-being and connection activities along the way. The best loved one was a virtual comedy festival with live comedians from around the world – laughter is the best medicine.
During lockdown we have had fifteen new people join our business. I can only imagine how tough that is for them and for our managers. I meet with every new starter a few weeks after they join us, and I have been so impressed by the feedback from them about the awesome level of support they have received from their managers and teams.
As we are nearing the end of lockdown, I am looking ahead at how we bring our People and Capability vision alive:
MMC’s People and Capability vision is to give the best people reasons to join us, and reasons to stay.
Our People and Capability strategy incorporates worldwide trends and thinking at the forefront of it. The top nine worldwide trends that we are being super cognisant of are:
In the short term, our priorities are to build on our fantastic and inclusive culture where we will design a unique employee value proposition and employee experience. We want to harness the various opportunities at MMC to grow people’s careers and expand their minds to fulfil their potential. A human centred strategy boosts excitement for our vision and strategy whilst also having fun by interconnecting with great colleagues. By getting this right, we can boost innovation to continuously improve our client experiences and deliver unique value to the New Zealand investment market.
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