Being part of a global organisation headquartered in Asia, I found myself in an advantageous position to plan and respond to the COVID pandemic early on. Our global crisis steering committee met for the first time in mid-January, a full eight weeks before Europe would announce its first government-mandated lockdown. It meant that at TDCX Europe, we had a robust plan, time to accelerate digital experience, our people had clarity, the transition was smooth, our results excellent, and the business continued (and still does) on an optimistic growth trajectory.
The CX and BPO industry across the globe also demonstrated how agile and responsive it could be. In my role as judge in the upcoming European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards, I have seen humbling examples of success stories relating to the humanity of pulling together and continuing “business as usual” for our clients, customers, and co-workers. This has fueled my optimistic outlook that most of our organisations will emerge from this pandemic relatively unscathed. It is, however, also clear that there is an opportunity for some of us to accelerate pre-pandemic thinking and emerge stronger, better, and even more resilient than before. I’d like to share some thoughts on what the pandemic has taught me about the leadership qualities I believe are needed to lead us into a stronger tomorrow.
Having Clarity & Purpose
We are still navigating uncertain times, and this lack of clarity over the future means we need to adapt our strategy to retain a winning one. What can and should remain consistent is our raison d’être – our purpose – which should be communicated regularly and to everyone. At TDCX, our global purpose is to help our clients and people achieve higher success through innovative and high-performance solutions. My team gets out of bed each morning knowing they are doing something to contribute to raising the standards in our industry, for our customers, and our co-workers. We talk regularly about the value that we are creating and how this contributes to that purpose; it is the thread that binds us all. Even if the strategy adapts to the environment, our purpose is consistent and clear.
Times might still be tough, but we all know what we are trying to do. Our commitment to purpose goes beyond even our own customers and co-workers. We created our #PriorityHiring platform as an industry support initiative to help re-place the thousands of CX and Sales talent in our sector made redundant as a result of the pandemic into other organisations within our ecosystem. It might seem counterintuitive to want to support our competitors in their hiring programs, but at TDCX, we also believe we can’t win on an empty playing field!
Embracing Digital Transformation
Without a doubt, none of us would have adapted to the new normal as easily (or at all) without the power of digital transformation that we have already lived through over the last few years: VC functionality, real-time reporting, cloud-telephony, remote coaching tools, and digital hiring capability. These digital tools are awesome, and some of them we’ve developed in-house in our TDCX Digital Lab. However, the tools are just enablers. We need to unleash the potential of both the technical AND human capabilities, and if both are unleashed, we are unstoppable! I love Boston Consulting Group’s term “Bionic Companies”— a much less drastic term than the notion of “Singularity” and a full acceptance that organisations need to know how to embrace digital transformation and combine the digital and human worlds to “run better, grow faster, emerge stronger.”
Indeed, rather than replace the humans in our industry, I have only seen examples of where our tech has created efficiencies and has, in fact, created more complex and interesting digital experiences for our people as a result. Amid the pandemic, we leveraged our digital hiring solution called Flash Hire, remotely recruiting and onboarding new staff to support our clients’ needs and business continuity. At TDCX, we have integrated our human know-how with our in-house digital hiring tools to efficiently and proactively seek out and retain the best talents in the marketplace. The tool takes care of the automatable elements like marking language tests or providing status updates to candidates. But our Talent & Hiring teams still own all the decisions on cultural inclusion or CX fit using their own years of human experience – it has actually enabled the whole process to become much more personalized – at scale, and this is surely the point of the bionic age.
Promoting a Culture of Experimentation
Inherently linked to the point above is the fundamental need for leaders to create a safe space where co-workers can truly innovate without fear of judgment or concern over failure. I worked for many years in an organisation where it was considered the norm to “beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission” – this does not lead to innovative thinking for tomorrow. Courage and a safe space should replace the concept of permission (or lack thereof), and forgiveness should not even come into question. Agile principles have thankfully made the concept of “fail fast” fashionable, and co-workers should feel no shame in pivoting or course-correcting if data does not support their original intention.
At TDCX Europe, some of our best products and initiatives have come from frontline staff who are usually the most connected to the customer voice. Our “Start-up for Start-ups” product was created by a team member and has been through various iterations to adapt to the needs of the people it serves.
Leading Transformation Through ‘Humanity’
Leading for tomorrow means bringing your humanity to work every day. Leaders need to be honest, authentic, and accessible — I am inspired by our CEO and my global leadership colleagues who live and breathe our purpose and values and made them evident from the first day I met them – these authentic humans were the reason I joined TDCX in the first place. Indeed, people will make decisions to join (or not) companies based on these factors, and in the ongoing war for talent, this is critical. I also admire the humanity of Ryan Roslansky, the CEO of LinkedIn, who demonstrates his accessibility daily not just to LinkedIn employees but also to the users of the LI platform by commenting and openly interacting with them. This is brilliant, powerful, and human (not to mention awesome and authentic brand advocacy).
Agility, adaptability, and resilience are all qualities that almost all organisations and people have had to tap into over recent months as the outputs of COVID took hold. However, those enterprises like TDCX that also demonstrate and embrace the “bionic” notions I have listed above will both warrant business continuity and “run better, grow faster, and emerge stronger” from this pandemic and beyond. Leading transformation is about reimagining tomorrow, accelerating digital adoption, and taking risks we might not always get right the first time. It will take more than good preparation!