Article: Akamai’s Deb Maddigan on what is the key to driving talent attraction

Talent Management

Akamai’s Deb Maddigan on what is the key to driving talent attraction

Deb Maddigan, Senior Director Human Resources APJ and India at Akamai Technologies, shares her expertise on developing effective people strategies across diverse cultures and regions.
Akamai’s Deb Maddigan on what is the key to driving talent attraction

Deb Maddigan, Senior Direct Human Resources APJ and India, at Akamai Technologies has been working in specialised International HR for over 20 years now, which includes extensive experience across APJ. At Akamai, she says that they aim to develop and deliver people strategies that create equal partnerships to support strong employee engagement across the region, while also ensuring they help deliver growth for the business in line with global strategic priorities.

“Tailoring strategies to specific regions is critical to ensure we cover cultural norms, work practices, inclusion, diversity, and equity. This enables the company to build successful teams, which leads to successful business delivery.”

Deb informs that core values of transparency, trust, and communication underpin how we develop those strategies and the initiatives rolled out. “To achieve this, we proactively seek input from all employees to ensure the connection is there to both us as a company and our overall strategies within the company. Employees need to be connected both to the company and to the role they hold in the team.”

Here are other pointers she mentions:

Your experience ranges from start-ups to SMBs to large corporate organisations. How have you seen HR strategies and approaches differ over time and organisation size?

The market has changed significantly over the years, both in terms of HR practice and new technology that has been developed and introduced to deliver HR strategies. This ensures we remain relevant to the market, as relevance and currency drive talent attraction to the organisation. While organisation sizes vary, the principles remain the same in terms of ensuring HR strategies are tied to business strategies. Start-ups initially focus on innovation, followed by building a strong foundational culture, agile practices, and attracting talent passionate about the products. In SMBs, the main emphasis is scaling the company, cementing the culture, and building strategies to support the ongoing growth of the business. Meanwhile, they need to develop larger recruitment strategies and retain current team members. Leadership also becomes critical to align teams with business needs.

At Akamai, I use my experience in organisations of all sizes to continue supporting the company’s long-term strategies, and as we move into new markets. In this region, our focus remains on developing our inclusive culture and elevating support for underrepresented groups, particularly women in tech. This is also while we remain agile enough to move as the business pivots and develops core product markets.

What unique challenges and opportunities have you encountered in each of these organisational settings, and how have you addressed them?

In start-ups, the challenge often lies with very finite resources initially, and in some cases, very little framework around a people strategy. Addressing this ASAP is critical to the ongoing growth of the organisation. From the start, we need to engage with all stakeholders to understand their goals, which may also not be aligned at this point. If you get all stakeholders on the same page, you have a better opportunity to align the key components needed for an effective HR strategy. In SMBs, the common challenge I have experienced is how to grow the organisations, sometimes significantly, with only limited resources and knowledge of the products being sold. Elevating HR practices in SMBs also requires enhancing HR processes in place to be more efficient in the changing organisation, along with introducing HR technology to support this. Successfully delivering strong HR strategies in a large organisation requires a collaborative team and the ability to look at things from a global perspective. This means engaging with multiple stakeholders across the globe, even within HR, to ensure you are the voice of your region and are playing an active role in ensuring the success of the company and our teams.

At Akamai, we have the opportunity to leverage more of those resources and offer a wide network to drive more significant, impactful HR initiatives on a global scale. For example, as diversity is critical to Akamai, we recently worked with offices around the world to launch a new program aimed at supporting young women called Akamai FLAME (Female learning and mentoring experience). We have implemented multiple platforms and programs to focus on our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic priorities and will continue to encourage strong participation across the multiple programs run internally or ones we subscribe to externally.

You are a trained health and wellness coach. How do you integrate these skills into your HR practices?

Health and wellness are critical to everyone. As the term means something different to everyone, as a coach, I help people explore what that looks like to them and help them define action plans to achieve those goals. Prioritising wellness is embedded in leadership training at Akamai, and we encourage managers to support their team's overall well-being and train them to recognise the overt and covert signs that support is needed. Both internal and external programs are offered via our Wellness teams, while managers will help address their team member’s individual needs. We have found that focusing on health and wellness has increased our engagement scores over the past couple of years as we navigated our way into and out of the pandemic. It was a significant learning experience for our organisation and as a result, we have implemented new policies, such as Flexbase, to allow employees to work most effectively.

One of our most recent programs implemented was the Mental Health First Aid program, which aims for employees to help each other. We have a dedicated wellness site internally, which allows employees to get access to material, training, and other tools. Employees can choose between group-based or individual programs.

The working environment has become a key part of our global HR strategy. We aim to give employees an environment that supports a workable life, especially for women. These days, many people are not only raising children but also have caregiving responsibilities for elderly parents or relatives, so we want to make tools/programs available to help, whatever the personal need of each employee is. A flexible work schedule is one of the most sought-after arrangements in the marketplace overall and this is why Akamai continues to support work-from-home initiatives through FlexBase where our employees choose where they work, not schedules that are mandated by the company.

What approach do you take when developing people strategies for international teams or diverse workforces?

Building a strong, international, and diverse workforce requires a multifaceted approach, which includes understanding the cultural norms within individual countries as well as the holistic view of the whole company. From recruitment to onboarding, training, promotions, and beyond - we ensure that all our practices across the employee lifecycle align with our ethos of inclusion, and create a collaborative environment where all our people can bring the best of themselves to the workplace.

We designed our recruitment practices to attract and retain our diverse workforce. For example, we have proactively eliminated biased languages across internal and external communication channels. Our interview panels, composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds, actively hire from underrepresented groups - such as women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and the disabled. We also made job descriptions succinct and focused on experience, rather than qualifications, to welcome more applicants. In promotions, we always ensure that women are always fairly considered for senior and leadership positions.

Learning is also a critical aspect of our ethos, and we welcome talent beyond traditional backgrounds. We pioneered the Akamai Technical Academy to empower underrepresented populations - like fresh graduates and mid-career professionals - with the necessary tech skills to succeed in our industry. All Akamai employees are offered this, which encourages everyone to upskill and join an increasingly diverse network. One such example s our AugMentor program in India. This program encourages participants without a technical background to explore new career paths in our company through training and one-on-one mentorship. We know our India market will continue to grow so this program provides us with a pipeline of people skilled to take on new opportunities within the company rather than having to focus on external recruitment.

Diversity is critical to our business at all levels to ensure a strong foundation of cultural competence among teams and leaders. Our blended learning programs include soft-skills development, technical learning, cultural awareness, team leadership, and language learning. For example, our GROW program educates individuals about inclusion, mitigating bias, speaking up - and how to activate the habits of growth mindset. This program has enormously impacted the company over the past few years as we have rolled out all modules.

How do you balance organisational success with the different business priorities?

Business priorities are constantly changing. We achieve this fine balance of success by working closely with our leaders to understand today’s business challenges and translate them into actionable HR outcomes. We then invest in our biggest and most vital asset - our people. We train our workforce to be adaptable in the face of shifting circumstances, be it through upskilling programs or by providing mentorship opportunities.

We strongly believe that diversity is a strategic advantage in our industry, and inclusion is a pivotal driver of our success. This is why so many of our programs at Akamai encourage the learning of softer skills - for example, how to build better cross-cultural competence across teams. An inclusive culture fosters collaboration and resilience. Together, diverse viewpoints and different skill sets form effective, adaptable teams that are ready to thrive in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.

Can you share examples of initiatives or programs you've implemented to support employee health and wellness on a global scale?

I previously mentioned that Akamai has implemented Mental Health First Aid programs. This was a global initiative but managed at a regional level by engaging regional facilitators to ensure local culture and practice were represented. We have run a wide variety of other programs around exercise, such as hiking, yoga, team sports, plus cooking classes, on how to address burnout. These are all globally based but implemented on local requirements. Along with this, we have community-based activities to assist local groups/charities chosen by participants. Overall, we run at least one program a month that is globally based. We also have our internal global Employee Resource Groups where people with interests in specific subjects can proactively join the groups who regularly meet on a local/regional/global basis.

Akamai also offers Wellness Days worldwide each year providing all employees a unified time to step away from work and rest, recover, and recharge. Our Employee Assistance Program and short-term counseling programs also provide free, confidential support, 24 hours a day.

Through these programs and initiatives, we not only envision but actively build a future where every employee of Akamai across the world feels happy, healthy, valued, heard, and inspired to achieve their fullest potential.

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Topics: Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, Employee Engagement, Strategic HR

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