Bin Wolfe is the Global Deputy – Talent at EY. Working closely with the Global Vice Chair – Talent and the Global Talent committee, she leads the development and implementation of global Talent strategy for more than 280,000 EY people globally.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, she spoke about how the world of work is changing in response to technology, how EY is getting ready for gig workers and continuous upskilling and the unique challenges that Asian companies face.
You've had a long career in HR - starting in the US, China and now leading Asia-Pacific. What are some of the biggest shifts that you've witnessed in the 'people and work' space?
With the rise of technology, the way people work, what we do and how we do it, has changed. When I think about when I first joined the talent function, for the most part, work was done by the end of the day. Today, work and life are much more blended. It has created “workplace flexibility”. And how we support employees to manage ‘work-life harmony’ has had an impact on the culture of the organization.
Another shift has to do with our agility and speed to deliver. The expectations of our workforce are really different. As talent professionals, we need to be ahead of the curve. There’s a lot of interest in how quickly skills are changing. It requires us to be a lot more agile.
Today, HR is in the boardroom as a strategic partner to the business. And that’s a big shift. The talent function has become more central and more relevant to the business. As a function, we have really used technology to drive data-driven decisions. We are using technology to screen and we are charting new territory every day. The future is going to be so radically different.
We want to ensure that the time the employee is in the organization - whether that's their whole career or just two to three years, they have a fantastic experience
When you look at the external world which is changing so fast, how are you getting ready internally - in terms of process, ownership, and gig workers?
When you join as a graduate, it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to rise through the ranks to become a partner in the firm. And we acknowledge it because we feel the need to be authentic. And we know that people come and go for shorter periods of time. What we really want to focus on is the time they are here. We want to make sure that they’re going to have a fantastic experience. That’s our declaration. As a firm that operates in over 70 countries around the world, our focus is on how we can deliver that experience as consistently as we possibly can.
Gig workers is a focus area for us. We developed a platform called GigNow which captures the contingent workforce. GigNow is EY’s innovative solution that enables a quick engagement with contractors for all service lines. It is a global solution that helps EY transform the contractors' hiring experience and it helps build a quality contractor talent base. It is disrupting market norms and driving outcomes of improved quality of contractors, risk management, cycle time, analytics and cost savings. GigNow is built for purpose by leveraging advanced technologies, processes, team, and analytics, and allows our GigNow recruiters to source, match, hire and engage high-quality contractors.
You spoke about skills change and how learning is going to become a continuous process. How do companies think holistically about learning and how do they design organizational structures to compliment the change?
Skills are the new currency for talent. One of the things we have done is to make EY badges, which encourages our people to shape their careers and prepare themselves for the future — whatever it may bring –by becoming better equipped and differentiated in the market. Since the program’s launch in 2017, more than 13,000 EY Badges have been earned, and over 55,000 more are in progress.
EY Badges opens a world of possibilities by enabling our people to earn digital badges at bronze, silver, gold and platinum level for attaining future-focused skills such as data visualization, data science, and artificial intelligence – skills that will help them in today's working world. We also recently introduced several new badges for skills related to technology and innovation, and for skills that are sector-specific. Badges can be displayed on internal EY profiles as well as on external professional profiles and social media sites. Our people can also take their badges with them if they leave EY.
Earning a badge involves participating in required learning, fulfilling required experiences and making a contribution to the broader community – such as teaching or coaching colleagues, presenting to clients or publishing an article that educates others about the acquired skill.
We are also focused on developing the right kind of mindset that you have the curiosity. Because we are going to be in the environment that you have – that whatever we do today, the skills that we have today, a lot of it is going to be obsolete.
From a tactical perspective, we are very quickly digitizing a lot of our learning. And we are leveraging mobile technology and having a blended kind of approach. When we look at learning it’s about knowledge and its application. We create opportunities or forums for people to come together, to apply that learning.
Given that there's a greater market opportunity when compared to established markets in the west. What are some talent focus areas that business and HR leaders need to pay attention to?
Context matters. Most multi-national organizations may have a certain western orientation. But now there are a number of growing companies that are headquartered in Asia. But if were to cut through all of that, probably one of the key things is how do you accelerate the development of leadership. From a leadership perspective, it’s about how do you accelerate the process in a way that it supports the fast growth in the Asian business market. So you’re going to have leaders who come into the business and attract talent in a whole different kind of way. You’re going to give people a career path that’s going to be much more accelerated. And I think organizations struggle with that. So that’s a challenge that we need to navigate.
In Asia, a lot of our leaders who are making business and people decisions, they are more embedded in the traditional way of working. And when you have a group of millennials, they demand a voice at the workplace and they want things to move fast. And some of our more traditional Asian leaders are not great at that. There is a need to be transparent with information.
When I first went to Asia, I realized that the culture is paternalistic. So the question then is, how do we keep the best that it has to offer? Because it is very caring, nurturing and that’s important. But how do we empower the employee at the same time? Asian work cultures are different, people are little more reserved and respectful in terms of hierarchy, even with millennials it comes across differently. So how do we bring in diverse voices and perspectives?