Why cultivating soft skills within your organisation is even more important in our socially distanced world | NTT DATA

Mon, 12 October 2020

Why cultivating soft skills within your organisation is even more important in our socially distanced world

A few weeks ago, we were honoured to receive two accolades in the UK Employee Experience Awards – Gold for our use of Digital Technology to enhance the Employee Experience and Silver for our Innovative Employee Engagement.

An overwhelming number of you were so kind to congratulate us, and because of that I wanted to share a little bit about what makes NTT DATA a great company to work with. What makes our People & Culture Strategy award-worthy? And how did we adapt to the restrictions imposed during the ongoing Covid-crisis?

Before I delve into this, I first wanted to share this quote by Maya Angelou that sums up our overarching philosophy nicely.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We’ve taken a holistic view to create a people-centric model.Firstly, we took time to understand what really attracts people to a company and a job. Secondly, we looked at how we can make people feel special by delivering a positive experience throughout their touchpoints with NTT DATA.

Armed with this information, gathered from 121 interviews, focus groups, surveys and research, we developed an employee experience that people want to shout about – underpinned by ongoing support from and for the leadership team. ‘For’, because our leaders receive ongoing training to be people that ‘lead’, not ‘manage’, their teams into successful and enjoyable careers. 

  • Our employee roadmap touches on five key stages:
  • Falling in love (from a 'standard' recruitment process' to a differential experience)
  • Feeling welcomed (the onboarding process)
  • Enjoying the walk (Enjoy. Live. Celebrate.)
  • Growing (mentoring & training)
  • Seeing you soon! (leaving NTT DATA)

I won’t go into the detail of each stage, but I have pulled out the top 8 ingredients that stood out for me specifically across these stages.

1.  Our vacancy listings are tailored based on in-depth knowledge of the ideal candidates, with a bit of NTT DATA Magic thrown in. An example that grabbed my attention in particular was the below job ad for a Java Programmer, written in Java Script.

2.  Our on-boarding process is based on Michael D. Watkins’ Harvard University Research about Career Transitions. Watkins is Professor of Leadership and Organisational Change at the IMD (International Institute of Management Development) and the author of ‘The First 90 Days’, a book full of success strategies for new leaders on all levels.

It works from the insight that a new-starter is most vulnerable in the first few months in a new company. A lack of in-depth knowledge of the challenges, understanding of how to successfully overcome these, and not having an established network of relationships all contribute to this. Plus for added pressure, during this time, your new colleagues will be quick to make a judgement about you.Watkins advises on a 90-day on-boarding process, and we have mapped out the first 100-day journey within NTT DATA on his theory. It ensures quick understanding of the company and the tasks-at-hand, building a network, early feedback and review, training and inspiration. We deliver this through, to mention a few: an immersive VR experience, a professional Dreams conversation with a mentor, a 60-day interview, gamification, and celebrations.Whilst we are living with Covid, we have moved our on-boarding journey fully online. More than ever we focus on making people feel part of the NTT DATA family from the word ‘go’. Our technology team is developing the VR experience to be accessed from home, with 360o videos and interactive content.

3.  The NTT DATA culture thrives on diversity. We recognise that everyone is unique, regardless of gender, culture or generation. Equally, every single person is part of the NTT DATA family and our values.

Responsible Freedom = Flexibility to learn, grow and find a beneficial work-life balance.

Discerning Generosity = Teamwork and helping others.

Creative Energy = A positive attitude derived from enjoying our work

Consistency & Transparency = Building trust through being open and honest.

To make sure we didn’t lose sight of this in our new socially distanced world, we made sure that despite the physical distance, we all remain accessible to our peers, mentees and leaders.  For example, our monthly 'Breakfast with the CEO', is now a weekly virtual event in which we continue to share all relevant information with the whole company – for ongoing transparency and to ascertain people regularly that despite the pandemic, NTT DATA continues to grow. 

4. At NTT DATA we foster a culture of positive attitudes, to develop a sense of optimism and excitement about future experiences, which result in happiness. We embed the principles of the Positive Psychology theory by Martin Seligman into our company culture:Positive emotions Positive individual traitsPositive institutionsReferring back to my point about diversity - every organisation has a multitude of unique personalities. Applying Positive Psychology to this means that through social, personal and emotional intelligence, we encourage our people to be respectful of each other and use all our different strengths to build a better ‘community’.

5.  A major part of our people’s success is the focus we put on ‘Growth’. We fully support that psychology that a person with a growth mindset builds a resilient attitude.

A growth mindset is one where people believe that their basic skills and abilities can be developed through hard work and effort.  Within our 'Growing stage' we offer continuous learning opportunities, through a mentor programme, f2f training, online training – internal and external. We don’t just focus on professional skills but also heavily invest in the soft skills of our employees; including communication, well-being, empowerment and leadership.

6.  We have lived with Covid since March this year, 6+ months now, and we recognise that the situation we are in has exhausted many of us. It is hard to keep the energy levels up, to find the strength to remain positive throughout.Everis launched a new initiative, based on our value of Responsible Freedom, that encourages our people to find ways of increasing your energy. As this is an individual journey, we support everyone to find their source(s) of energy and make it part of their working week, whether the source is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.Raised energy levels are beneficial not only for the individual, but for everyone around us.

7.  On a more practical level, we have now launched our My Journey app. Technology truly enables positive experiences through increased engagement. The app connects with our people at different moments of their journey. Gamified activities offer the employees a playful way to absorb relevant information and messages. Completed games are awarded with points, which in turn can be exchanged for rewards.With our office being Covid-safe, we support people who want to go back to the office. But before going back, we ask everyone to register within the app so that we can keep at a safe capacity.   

8.  Finally, there will of course be people who want to continue their career outside of NTT DATA. To keep our turnover to a minimum we encourage an open conversation in which we aim to identify their ‘moment of pain’ in which they decided that NTT DATA was no longer right for them.

Once someone leaves, the door will remain open. We give them a ‘Return Ticket’, continue to invite them to our Friday beers and Alumni website. As a result, 90% of leavers say that they would like to work with NTT DATA again.

The initiatives and tools we provide during the employee journey has meant that happiness levels have increased by 19%.

I am really proud to be part of this organisation, as you may gleam from my near-23 years at the company. I hope this article has given you a few insights into what makes NTT DATA a great place to work and that our positive attitude and energy has inspired you. 

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