How digital DNA, authentic engagement, and having a heart is going to craft a newly connected, collaborative global workplace.
“I always liken working at Deloitte to bungee jumping.”
When you’re fulfilled at work, it’s pretty obvious. That shines through Volini’s career during her near two decade-long legacy with Deloitte.
“You get the natural ‘high’ of being entrepreneurial, but always have that cord tying you back to the big rock of Deloitte. That balance is what keeps me going because it serves both the risk-taking and risk-averse parts of my personality.”
Upon meeting Volini, you’ll immediately notice that, despite her rocket launch into Deloitte’s role as Deloitte Consulting’s new U.S. Human Capital Leader, she’s as genuine and as frank as can be. She even prefers using Instagram for this very reason.
She took some time to speak on the future of the workplace related to digitalization and what that means exactly for organizations worldwide.
Entering an Era of Genuine Engagement
When first signing on to the position, Volini took into account how leadership is changing in today’s digitized world, especially when it comes to staying connected with your staff.
“When I first took this role I thought a lot about the communications platforms that I wanted to use with our staff—we have over 5,000 people across many locations as part of the practice. There’s a lot of different people to stay connected with and I talked to my chief of staff and she suggested, ‘What about Instagram?’”
Volini had actually never been on Instagram before, but she gave it a shot.
“It has been an amazing platform to engage with the practice,” Volini explained.
“What I think is really important about it is that it allows me to show my authentic self, which I think is the most important thing that has changed in how you have to be a leader in today’s digitized world.”
The way Volini sees it, between social media and access to so much information, leaders are actually presented with a newfound opportunity.
“If you aren’t true to your authentic self as a leader, and if your people sense that you’re not being true to that I think it is incredibly hard to lead. Frankly, it’s hard to fake it.”
“I think it’s been very freeing and very empowering.” she noted. “It’s helped me take my leadership to a new level because I can connect with people on a completely different level.”
What she’s noticing with this new group of talent is that they really want leaders that are authentic and real. They want those connections with their managers.
Deloitte has a framework called The Simply Irresistible Experience and they have spent a lot of time thinking about the attributes that an organization needs to have in place to not only put an employee experience, but a truly simply irresistible experience, in place.
“One of those attributes is around the connection to management,” Volini said. “This feeling that your leaders care about you, that you feel that they are representing you, that they are authentic, that you have that connection—I have found that to be the most important thing.”
Even posting a photo of a newly purchased purse from her recent European travels, Volini said, as silly as it is, is a real way to talk about work-life balance and the benefits of work travel. She’s excited for this fun way to lead in the digital age.
Diversity of Thought
If you look at where growth is happening in global markets, it’s not in the U.S. Together India, China, Russia, and Brazil’s combined economies have the potential to eclipse the collective economies of the current richest countries of the world by 2050.
The world is global. To enter these markets, you have to be global. Volini added, “I think even more important than that is going back to the diversity of thought.
“You need to be able to tap into the power of the global network to be able to ideate and come up with new ideas and that’s absolutely essential in today’s marketplace. The reality is we’re operating on a much more global basis.”
Volini runs the U.S. practice, however, she acknowledged that she doesn’t work with many clients outside the public or federal sector that aren’t truly global in nature.
“[The clients] want to have one global, common employee experience,” she explained. “And they know that in order to optimize the outputs of their workforce, they need to be able to work collectively on a global basis. That takes a lot of infrastructure and a lot of collaboration to make that happen.”
The Global Toolkit
Volini points to key technologies like Facebook’s Workplace, a tool that is all about promoting collaboration.
Deloitte’s own serves to enhance self-service capabilities by creating a digital workplace.
This employee experience platform creates one common experience, which is essential for promoting collaboration and connectivity with managers and employees around the world—something that has not existed before.
“Those technologies are just making it easy for people to collaborate, even for us,” Volini suggested. Deloitte is using Workplace and even Facebook Live to brainstorm for their upcoming 2018 Human Capital Trends report.
This is a revolutionary means to collect early input from principals and managing directors across every country Deloitte operates in—mainly to find out what trends they’re noticing throughout the global market—all in real-time.
“They see each other’s feedback as we’re having the conversation. That is so incredibly powerful and I think it will serve as a way to ensure we’re bringing the best ideas to the table that really represent our global view.”
“It’s really setting the course on how to activate the digital organization, beyond just the implementation of new technology,” said Volini.
Networks of Teams
When it comes to global human capital trends in HR, Volini is quick to point out that the biggest change that she’s witnessed is the pivot away from traditional organizational hierarchy. As introduced in Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends Report, the movement towards “the network of teams” is creating a fierce new world of opportunity.
“The fact that all the digital technologies are out there, people are working in different ways—in more networks, more connected ways than ever before,” Volini pointed out. “They’re working in teams across hierarchical boundaries, geographical boundaries, and functional boundaries that have never existed before.
“That’s great for the move to digital, and, frankly, essential.”
This helps to cultivate new ideas, build new relationships both inside and outside the organization, and, Volini explained, it allows you to innovate. Alternatively, it can change the way that HR needs to approach everything they do.
The Essential Human Future
The dialogue on the future of automation, robotics, and job loss may seem scary right now. When speaking at University of Arizona, Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert, Engelbert’s 16-year-old son said he was scared about his future.
“Mom, I’m scared. Will I have a job going forward?”
To which Engelbert replied, “You have a heart and you have empathy and those two things can never be replaced by automation. As a result, you’ll always be okay.”
Volini loved this answer, as it covered the premise on the future of work: yes, certain tasks are absolutely going to be automated. But the much bigger implication is the emergence of a whole new set of essential human skills.
“In the 1980s, when ATMs first came in, everyone said that retail bankers are going to totally go away. The tellers are going to be gone,” she noted.
“When you walk into the bank, probably the first thing you’re faced with is someone who greets you at the door, engages with you, and tries to help you solve whatever issue you’re trying to resolve. Now it’s not about depositing money, because now you can do that at an ATM, but maybe about getting a mortgage or a loan of some type.”
In terms of working skills, when considering the transition to the future of work, this points to the need for new essential human skills centered around customer service.
“We believe that skills like customer service and written language skills are going to become increasingly more important. The ability to analyze and gain insights from information is going to become a new working skill.”
In the ongoing shift to “the networks of teams”, collaboration across networks is going to become an incredibly important skill, too.
Tech tools aside, human resources will have a vital role in assisting organizations across all sectors adapting to new technology and helping employees adapt to new models of work.
As these very human, essential working skills become more critical, HR will be integral in working out how to determine where these skills are needed, who is going to have those skills, and how to bring in new talent or re-skill and train the talent you already have. How do you retain, compensate, reward, or manage employee’s performance?
“The traditional workforce planning that HR is doing is going to be up at another level and I think that’s where they’ll really help organizations navigate this change and these new models of work.” Volini weighed in, “I think this is a tremendous opportunity.”
Seven years ago, Volini wrote the Integration Imperative with Michael Gretczko, but the concept of a true “HR transformation” is still scarily relevant.
“I actually think most HR organizations still have a lot to do on the transformation, but one of the things we’ve been talking about in the market is that we’ve seen HR organizations continue to transform. And transform to meet this goal of being ‘strategic’—that’s kind of been the holy grail.
“That goal has never really been defined, so it’s never been attainable,” Volini continued. “How HR needs to transform themselves is to be sustainable, meaning they need to transform themselves into an organization that can constantly adapt to the change and the disruption that’s happening in the market.
“The transformation is ongoing, but it’s part of what you do on a day-to-day basis. You’re constantly thinking about how to reinvent, constantly looking externally at new ideas, and constantly looking to work with new partners to bring you new capabilities.”
“That’s the HR organization of the future, which is different from most HR organizations today. We have a long way to go, but it’s an exciting inflection point for HR right now.”
And it’s not just HR, the digital leader is going to be very different.
“The digital leader has to act, think, and react totally different in the digital world. They must willing to fail and fail fast. They have to be adaptable and flexible, they need to be highly collaborative because they’re likely working with networks of teams.”
How do You Find Those Leaders?
Historically, as Deloitte’s Human Capital report mentioned, succession has been about paying your dues. You’re ready for the leadership position because you’ve put in your time—which tends to bend towards an older generation for those leadership roles.
“Some of the most successful companies, especially in the tech sector, are very young.”
What’s going to tell us where the future leaders are coming from?
“Changing that framework around who can be your future leaders, where they’re coming from, and looking more at the attributes around how they think, act, and react to certain situations,” Volini explained.
Once you find those individuals, however, organizations need to help them understand what their future potential is quickly so they can stay committed to the organization and create that simply irresistible experience. How do you get them ready for the role?
“How do you give them the experiences, the education, the exposure they need to develop into the leaders of the future? All of that work sits with the HR function, helping to drive that process on a consistent basis.”
Volini called leadership a perennial issue. “But leadership needs to be something that’s part of the organization’s culture. Constantly.”
In the digital world, this is a massive shift in every aspect, but challenging the status quo—even when things are going right—along with open communication and collaboration is key to embracing digitization. Finding natural disrupters doesn’t hurt either.
“Finding individuals that are willing to challenge the status quo, giving them a platform and a voice—and not silencing them—and creating an environment where those individuals are safe and feel comfortable sharing their perspective, and being transparent is absolutely key to high performing organizations in the digitized world.”
Digital is truly a constant evolution. “It really doesn’t have a start or an end. Surviving in this world of digital and creating a digital culture, you never stop that journey, you’re always on it,” Volini shared.
“So organizations who are thriving with this are ones who are willing to make that constant investment, challenge where they’re at, call the ball if things aren’t going where they are, change the approach and the strategy going forward, and we’re seeing it right now.
The disruption is not going to stop, it’s only going to get exponentially faster. “We’re seeing organizations make bolder moves in order to thrive in this digital world, and we need to expect to see more of it.”
Get to Know Deloitte’s newly named U.S. Human Capital Leader
Erica Volini was previously the leader of Deloitte Consulting LLP’s HR Transformation. Her focus and expertise as a visionary is the exact reason they want her to lead the Deloitte Consulting Human Capital practice into the future, because of her deep understanding of where the future of work is going.
We played 21 questions with this remarkable leader to better understand her personal journey.
What helped launch you into the global realm of HR?
“I feel like every experience in some way prepares you for consulting because this career is all about listening, analysis, and problem-solving. Early on, I figured out those were things I excelled at and I continue to rely on those skills every day no matter what role I’m playing, what client I have, or what project I’m trying to complete.”
Who was your most important or memorable mentor?
“Our current Chairman of the Board, Mike Fucci. He keeps it real and always has your back. Over my career, it’s become more and more apparent to me just how rare that is.”
What key mistakes have you learned from?
“Being a great consultant is all about understanding that each client is different and you need to take the time upfront to truly understand their objectives and expectations before pressing forward. I had a few projects early on where I assumed my client wanted to drive for results above all else and ended up misjudging their priorities. It’s the nuances that make the difference when serving clients.”
What keeps you fulfilled working at Deloitte?
“I always liken working at Deloitte to bungee jumping. You get the natural ‘high’ of being entrepreneurial, but always have that cord tying you back to the big rock of Deloitte. That balance is what keeps me going because it serves both the risk-taking and risk-averse parts of my personality.”
What has been the greatest part of your tenure at Deloitte since ‘98?
“Getting one of my mentees to Principal. The best part of our job, by far, is creating new leaders—we are a true apprenticeship model and there is absolutely no greater feeling than knowing you’ve contributed to developing the next generation of leaders to take the Firm forward.”
What’s something that hasn’t changed in your nearly two decades at Deloitte?
“Our values. Deloitte is and has always been a very principles-based organization and I can look back over the past 20 years and still see our core values in action. It’s what gives me the comfort and drive to know that I’ve made the right decision to stay for my entire career.”
What digital tools are currently making your life easier right now?
“Instagram for sure! I am amazed at how powerful it has been in helping me connect with my practice, in particular giving our more junior practitioners a way to interact with me that they might not have had before. Plus, it gives me something to do with all of those pictures I take.”
What is one thing our readers would never guess about you?
“I have a flip phone and absolutely love it. It helps me disconnect from email and the Internet but still stay ‘connected’ when I need to. There’s something about the simplicity of the flip phone that just inherently relaxes me.”
What is your top pet peeve?
“Passive aggressive behavior. It’s such a time-waster. Just tell me like it is and let’s work together to get there.”
What’s your superpower?
“Multi-tasking. I’m most at ease when having multiple conversations and email/instant message discussions going on at once. And, yes, I am paying attention.”
What would you tell young female entrepreneurs starting their careers in the digital era?
“Don’t be afraid to be who you are. The only way to really be at your best is to truly be you. It’s not easy, but it is so worth it in the end.”
What is one thing you wish our readers could know about Deloitte?
“We are a family with an incredibly strong legacy and we’re only growing from here.”
Official Deloitte quote “Organizations need to develop fundamental leadership capabilities among critical individuals and teams—capabilities that include the ability to collaborate across boundaries, conceptualize new solutions, motivate diverse teams, and develop the next generation of diverse and global leaders.”
Images and video here: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/human-capital/topics/improve-employee-experience-management-connectme.html