High Performing Teams Need Diversity, CIO States
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Diversity plays a key role in building a high performing technology team, says Sabah Khan-Carter, CIO of Global Operations Centre at News Corp. Speaking to CIO and CTO peers at the .NEXT Summit, London, Khan-Carter revealed how her global media organization has grappled with new ways to develop teams, identify skills, and change its organizational culture.
News Corp is a global media and information services company. The business includes news and information services, book publishing, digital real estate, cable network programming in Australia, and pay-TV distribution in Australia. Its news brands are world famous and include The Times newspaper in the UK, Dow Jones, and the New York Post.
Khan-Carter, formerly a business technology leader with News UK and part of the News Corp family, is now CIO for News Technology Services (NTS), which provides core technologies to all parts of the News Corp business, including web development, application support infrastructure management, analytics, and cyber-security.
The center was opened in April 2016, and Khan-Carter says the operation was created to tap into technology and data science talent in Bangalore, India. Since opening, the operation has grown from 10 staff members to 350, and Khan-Carter says one of the challenges is to “retain culture."
The CIO told .NEXT attendees that culture is the key to creating a high performing team, and having the right culture means changing your leadership style.
“We now have to have more coaching and mentoring, and to have the right culture, you have to have an engaging environment,” she says. This benefits not only the employee, but also the organization because it enables innovation and allows teams to hit very demanding “performance targets."
"To have an engaging work environment, we need the right culture with more coaching and mentoring."
Khan-Carter adds that a further benefit of diversifying in media is that the teams innovating and delivering new technology are closer to the consumers. Media is a sector that has been transformed entirely by technology, with advertising, payment products, and delivery all being completely changed by internet services. Khan-Carter says that the millennial and generation Y communities value experience over possession. For a CIO, both as an employer and as a provider of information, this has a direct impact on ensuring you retain the most talented staff.
“Millennials are willing to take a 15% pay cut to be with a company that has the right values for the; most people who quit their jobs do so because they were not offered flexibility,” she adds. But it is not just about the young stars.
“Managing a high performing team means you will have some high performers and some poor performers, and that is good; that is how it is how it should be. You don’t want a team of all high performing stars; you need people who can carry out the tasks at hand,” Khan-Carter says.
To get that mix, News Technology Services had to ensure it had a new type of culture. “We spent a lot of time looking at the purpose of people in the team and ensuring everyone knows their purpose every day,” she says adding that building communications teams was important.
“The thing that I am really focused on is asking the team to be focused on outcomes and not a process. If people are patting themselves on the back for following the steps on a process, that is wrong.”
"We know of a developer who works from a cruise liner as his girlfriend works on that cruise liner and he codes all day, that is the workplace we are having to adapt to."
“Talent is the number one challenge for us, because the employees have the choice now,” Khan-Carter says of the major change in the dynamic of employee and employer relationships. “We know of a developer who works from a cruise liner as his girlfriend works on that cruise liner and he codes all day, that is the workplace we are having to adapt to.”
Diversity has been key to ensuring News Technology Service has the right culture and is able to be a high performing team.
“Identifying diversity is the key. Gender, age, and ethnicity all contribute to making a company more high permorming. NTS took positive action to have 15% diversity, and we set a target of 21%, and we are now working on 35%, and it is really difficult.” Digital is an area where diversity can be increased, but in engineering and infrastructure roles, Khan-Carter says building up diversity is a real challenge.
But culture isn’t just about having a mix of ages and genders in your teams, the CIO says. “Culture is not just the brand; it is about the boundaries that you create and set. It is the incentives and rewards you give employees.” She adds that organizations that only bonus the senior teams risk “creating a divisive culture."
“What was challenging was creating a shared service in India and providing augmented services to the brands, so by its nature we had teams that didn't feel associated with one another and the whole NTS, so we talked about the employer value proposition,” the CIO said of setting out the right tone.