Prudential Financial, Inc. is an American Fortune Global 500 and Fortune 500 company, whose subsidiaries provide insurance, investment management, and other financial products and services to both retail and institutional customers throughout the United States and in more than 40 other countries. The organization counts around 50,000 employees, located across the United States, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
A member of DWG since 2014, the Prudential Financial team includes Priya Thummalapalli, Vice President of HR Digital Strategy, who leads the digital strategy and innovation function. Priya was recognized in the 2020 Digital Workplace Awards as Digital Workplace Leader of the Year and we spoke to her about how DWG membership has helped her to achieve some major goals.
What are the main benefits of DWG membership for Prudential Financial?
We’ve been members of DWG since 2014, which is the same year we established a digital function within the HR team. There wasn’t one prior to that and DWG was instrumental in supporting us in actually building that function.
One of the things I always think is that the relationship we have with DWG is like Jim Collins writes in his book Good to Great: “Nothing great ever happens in one fell swoop”. One of the intentions I had was to build a very sustained momentum and it’s almost like a deliberate process of pushing something really heavy up a hill – like a heavy flywheel. And so, as Jim Collins says, it’s called the flywheel effect. But when you do it again and again, through that process, you build something sustainable – and sustained momentum really helps you to keep going. So it’s been six years and our relationship with DWG is strong.
DWG was very important in helping us to look at strategy, build the foundations and essentially put the pieces together. Especially when you’re starting a new best practice or foundational practice for the company, you want to make sure that you’ve got the right parts and that they work well with each other. I think we’ve been successful in that.
Does DWG membership help you personally?
DWG membership definitely helps my personal growth as well. Given that I’m heading an organization, leading the strategy, it’s important for me in many ways to stay relevant with what’s going on outside in the marketplace. One of the things we do is a lot of user research and bringing the ‘outside in’ view is where I leverage DWG a lot.
For my own personal growth in understanding innovation and new technologies that can enable the HR strategy and employee experience strategy, it’s important for me to see what peers are doing. At the same time, I stay in touch on a monthly basis with Nancy (Goebel, DWG Managing Director, Member Services) and she really gives me advice on how to leverage the different insights that DWG has gained across all the members.
What specific challenges has DWG helped Prudential Financial to overcome?
Market research is so critical – and not just at a very strategic level; sometimes you need the 20,000-feet view! At the same time, some things are so technical in nature, you need analytics or you just want to look at how people are going beyond portals and leveraging machine learning – what are the different points of view? So, it’s almost like it’s stretching the muscle between strategy and execution. With DWG, any kind of insight to any level is always available 24/7. I’m able to leverage that any time I need help in executing something. I can always find someone from DWG, but usually the research alone helps me. So that’s one challenge that DWG really helps me with.
The other challenge is how do you stay really focused on what’s going on in the industry? Through the networking, DWG enables us to talk to our peers. You want to be sure of the blue-sky strategy or the vision you have in mind, and you’re also able to get some really practical advice that is critical to your own success – success for you and for your company and for your team. That’s where I leverage DWG and I really value the partnerships it helps me to build.
Which DWG services do you find most useful?
Firstly, the research papers; these have been extremely beneficial in forming my own strategy.
Secondly, we’ve leveraged DWG to do some consulting work. This has helped us to build a foundation from soup to nuts, not just to build a strategy, but how do you implement it, how do you execute on it and how do you sustain it through a well-developed roadmap? So that foundational help has been very, very helpful.
Lastly, the member meetings. I think it’s phenomenal the amount of information and insights you get at these – and it’s a really relaxed, informal setting. You’re able to share where you’re at and which areas you need more help in. You can be your vulnerable self, you can seek help if needed, you can share failures, so I really enjoy the networking these bring.
How has the digital workplace at Prudential Financial been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
During this crisis that we’re going through, I would say Prudential has done a phenomenal job. It’s a very inclusive environment; it’s very focused on building the employee potential. So everything is being considered – from getting back to work to how do you work at home? There are a lot of resources available. There’s a focus on how to return to work and we’re part of a broader team looking at how we enable a return to work that is as smooth as possible.
We’re also taking into account the diverse population we have – the different personas out there who are part of the Prudential team. It’s interesting, it’s a live exercise. No-one’s solved it and there’s no magic bullet. It’s good to have a support network also on the same journey, so that we can actually start to share some of what we’ve learned.
Has DWG provided useful support during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes, absolutely! One of the great advantages of DWG is that it is really deskless; the DWG team have worked remotely for the longest time. So, taking those insights into consideration and applying them to how we are building our own strategy for the return to work has been essential. I’ve been following Paul Miller through his blogs and the podcasts. The other advantage is talking to DWG members from other companies so that I can learn and understand where they are on their journeys. What can we learn from them? What are the things we should not be doing? So DWG has been very helpful in both these ways.
You mentioned your regular catchups with Nancy Goebel, DWG’s Managing Director, Member Services. Can you elaborate on how valuable that one-to-one support is for you?
I have monthly meetings with Nancy and I get so much out of these calls – she provokes a lot of different thinking. We discuss anything from what’s going on in the environment to how people are solving problems. Nancy is able to play the coach and mentor when needed, but she is also a subject matter expert as well. Her ability to listen to what are you really asking for is amazing. So I enjoy the 60 minutes with her and there are definitely a lot of actionable things she sends my way – and that’s extremely helpful.
Many DWG experts have been intranet and digital workplace managers in large organizations themselves – does that help you in knowing that the advice they give comes from real experience?
As a leader, you face different challenges in different ways, and DWG’s team have been in my shoes; they’ve gone through the same processes. It’s important to have leadership advice on different levels. Sometimes it’s building a new organization – we ourselves pivoted from a waterfall-based organization to agile; then we moved into design thinking, being very human-centred; then we became a little more tech-focused. How do you bring all these pieces together? Every year, the leadership gets challenged and that’s when I go back to DWG, to have the experts all around who have been in the space before, getting their advice on how we should be thinking about reorganizing the team or reorganizing the process; it’s really valuable.”
The digital workplace has become the essential workplace for thousands of organizations around the world as teams have had to implement remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Talk to us about how DWG can help you and your organization and learn why DWG membership is an essential service.