VM's skilful sailors keep steady steer despite choppy global waters
Dr Dayton Robinson, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, VM Group.

BY any measure, COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the way many people across the world view and execute their work. With changing perspectives and interests has come what is known as 'The Great Resignation' or the 'Big Quit', an ongoing global trend in which employees have been resigning from their jobs en masse since early 2021.

In the midst of this upheaval, VM Group, the iconic Jamaican financial institution, which this month celebrates its 144th anniversary, managed to achieve some meaningful wins, including record-high engagement levels among its team members in 2020 as the pandemic raged. In 2021, VM Group received the coveted designation as a 'Great Place to Work' from the Great Place to Work Institute, the global authority on workplace culture. Over time, the organisation has also seen a swell in the number of applications being received for advertised vacancies.

So what exactly is VM's secret sauce that has helped the business navigate these unusual times? To find out, we turned to Dr Dayton Robinson, VM Group's chief human resources officer.

Dr Robinson's HR expertise has been well honed through academic work and professional experience in disparate industries, including bauxite, production, food & beverage, and banking. He earned his Doctorate in Business Administration (HR focus) from Walden University. He also holds a Master of Science in Human Resource Management from Florida International University and a Bachelor of Science degree, Economics and Accounting from The University of the West Indies, Mona. He is a prosciĀ® certified change manager, a senior certified professional (SHRM-SCP) SHRM, lead culture facilitator (Partners in Leadership), a certified senior professional in human resource management (SPHR) HRCI, and completed the certified public accountant exams (CPA) in 2008.

Q: What's the secret to retaining team members at VM?

A: Well, the truth is that there is no actual secret, per se. We have a robust corporate culture of inclusivity, accountability, and trust that we passionately nurture because we genuinely care for the people who make up the VM team.

We believe that this organisation's purpose is noble and so it stands to reason that the people who are executing on this purpose should be empowered and fully supported. This genuine care underscores our engagement activities and policies, our learning and development strategies, and every other aspect of work life at the VM Group.

One of our strategic goals is to be an 'Employer of Choice' and we are as focused on this as we are on meeting our economic targets because we are committed to ensuring that VM remains a great place to work.

Q: Why did VM Group develop an employee value proposition?

A: Most team members, regardless of the industry that they are in, are looking for alignment of purpose, inclusion, and a sense of belonging. However, not all team members are able to find that alignment simply because not all organisations are deliberate about defining and communicating its true purpose, what makes them unique, and why team members can be proud to be a part of that organisation.

At VM, throughout the team members' life cycle, we define and effectively communicate our Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to reinforce our commitment to deliver on our promises. We develop systemic action plans annually to drive our EVP and we measure and communicate to all our team members the success of these plans at least twice per year.

Our EVP is not an academic exercise, its authentic, and remains one of our critical human resource strategies used to build employee engagement and a sense of belonging. Our team members at VM live our EVP daily and that's why it's hard to resist.

Q: How have you been able develop a winning employer brand that potential employees respect?

A: VM has a robust employee engagement process built around six key drivers: culture, employee value proposition, opportunity, reward and recognition, work life, and leadership.

At VM we promote an inclusive workplace built on a culture of accountability, which requires ongoing feedback from our team members and transformational and transactional leadership. We use the feedback culture to continuously advance the six key drivers for sustainable engagement and the achievement of our business' key results. This level of transparency ensures that our team members are continuously engaged in the affairs of the business and their own personal development which serves to build a strong employer brand.

Q: You're seen as a bit of a maverick in the world of HR. What drove you to implement policies that allowed employees to work remotely long before the pandemic even started?

A: I am a firm believer that you don't need to see a team member to know that the team member is productive. In fact, I believe that presenteeism is worse than absenteeism. There is no guarantee that a team member who is at work is productive. It's better to hire team members who are culture fit, set smart objectives, provide good leadership through ongoing feedback, and trust that your team member will do the right thing through empowerment.

Providing a team member with the opportunity to work wherever they are most productive, remote or from the office, is in general a better approach to achieving greater engagement, greater productivity, and greater revenues than trying to shadow a team member.

Q: What sort of industry-shaking ideas do you have planned for VM soon?

A: Rest assured there are several progressive HR initiatives on the horizon at VM. You will just have to wait to see.

Q: What do you believe is VM's greatest asset? How do you continue to attract the best and brightest talent?

A: I believe that VM's greatest asset is its team members. 'VMers' are culturally aligned and customer obsessed. They come to work prepared to navigate this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment and to provide our customers with the best experience. At VM we believe that systems and processes can be easily replicated, but our team members can't and, therefore, our talented team members are our competitive advantage.

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