What is a reverse assignment? How to make the best use of your talent after acquisitions

How does a global organisation make the most of its diverse talent, provide equal opportunities for individuals from different social classes and ethnicities, and foster a clear-defined and inclusive culture?

What is a reverse assignment
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This article is taken from the latest issue of Think Global People magazine.Click on the cover to access the digital edition.

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These are the challenges that global financial services provider Apex Group has faced as it has more than quadrupled its head count and increased its global presence over the past three years. Apex Group has grown from 3,000 people in 40 offices to 12,000 plus employees in 94 offices over that period. As the organisation has grown, it has focused on offering employees new opportunities and the chance to move between global offices."For us, it's not just looking at linear promotions,” says Vikita Patel, Chief Human Resources Officer. “It might also be opportunities that take employees outside of their comfort zone to learn new skills, or global mobility opportunities to experience a different culture and work in a different role.”Following the pandemic, people are thinking differently about what they want out of their careers and their aspirations. Vikita sees her HR role as an opportunity to think creatively about how to support new and existing staff to reach their full potential. In return, this makes good business sense as well as Apex Group has offices located in all the major financial hubs where competition for talent is often fierce.A key part of the strategy is the JUMP (Jurisdictional Unique Mobility Program) programme, a novel approach to ensure that Apex has the right talent in the right places. This enables employees to explore new countries and cultures through short-term assignments or long-term secondments in various locations across the Group. For new colleagues joining via acquisition, this initiative showcases some of the benefits for their career of now being part of a global group.“Historically, global mobility opportunities have been seen as something for very senior roles, or for roles held by individuals in client service locations,” she says. “In our JUMP programme we have relocated 150 staff from India, Mauritius and South Africa to client service locations such as Canada, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands,” she explains. “In a way, it is a reverse approach to global assignments and different from what typically might have been done in the past, but it has been received really well. We are looking to expand this to Australia and the UK.“The key benefit has been to bring our global offices together, especially as we are going through this expansion phase and evolving our operating model. At times it has been challenging, due to the logistical issues during the relocation process, such as acquiring housing licenses in the Channel Islands and visas for Luxembourg, but it has enabled staff in different locations to experience client service locations and expand their career pathways.”

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In order to support such a large number of mobile individuals, each assignee was teamed up with a local “buddy” who could guide them through the relocation process and help them assimilate into their new location. The HR and mobility teams also asked for feedback from the first cohort so that they could learn what might need to change for future relocation programmes.Vikita started as a graduate in HR for Deutsche Bank in 2010 where she worked for eight years before the business was spun off and acquired by Apex Group where she took on the role of running the global HR function.“Coming from Deutsche Bank wherever there was a very corporate setup to actually having the creative licence to go and build something of my own was really exciting,” she explains. “We started with 1,500 employers and now we have almost 12,000 which we have achieved through growth and acquisitions.“What I really like about our JUMP programme is that it was designed for individuals sitting in our operational centres, which is not typically where those programmes would tend to focus,” she says.

Ensuring female talent is supported

Another key initiative is the Women's Accelerator Programme which is designed to ensure that that women across the organisation have equal career and development opportunities to men. It was prompted by concerns that female talent was being lost along the career journey. The split between male and female employees was around 50-50 in early career roles but dwindled towards the top of the career pyramid.“We noticed that around the middle of the career banding there were issues with women leaving and we found it difficult to recruit women at those more senior levels from outside the company,” she says. “We set up the programme to address this and to nurture our female talent. We wanted to move the dial on hiring and promotion. We also looked at exit interview data to see if there were any particular reasons for women to leave mid-career.”

Enhancing talent acquisition and retention

Another initiative has been to educate managers during the hiring process to ensure a gender-neutral panel and to attract the right talent. The company has also looked at its compensation and benefits data to understand whether these are being targeted in the right way.Vikita’s team are also looking at the importance of recording diversity data effectively and using it to monitor and target initiatives. The company conducted its first EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) census to gather demographic details of employees and identify areas for improvement.“We are looking at the potential within individuals and not just what they might have on their CV,” she says. “It is about recruiting people with the right drive and mindset, because this is a very fast paced, dynamic organisation.”

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