IGM Financial’s Cynthia Currie talks about the importance of leveraging technology to enable the workplace and employees of tomorrow.
Advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence and automation of more routine work tasks, are fundamentally shifting the way organizations operate, including how they recruit, hire and train talent. With these transformative changes at play, it’s important for companies to provide employees with the tools and resources they need to thrive in a constantly evolving, digital-first environment.
And this rethinking of the workplace begins with the tone at the top — that is, the leaders in an organization. Leaders must embrace an agile and forward-thinking approach to the business, from how and where people work to how they source talent and empower existing staff.
Cynthia Currie is intimately familiar with these shifting workplace dynamics. As the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at IGM Financial Inc., one of Canada's premier personal financial services companies, she brings broad financial services and human resources (HR) expertise to the workplace.
In her role, Cynthia’s responsible for developing and executing IGM Financial’s HR strategy, ensuring it aligns with the strategic direction of the organization, specifically as it relates to hiring, supporting and retaining talent while fostering a diverse, inclusive work culture. She shares her insights on how organizations can effectively position their business and employees for the workplace of tomorrow.
Please tell us a bit about your current role with IGM Financial Inc. and what propelled you to join the organization.
I joined IGM in September 2018 and was recruited for this role through an executive search firm. I met with IGM's President and CEO, Jeffrey Carney, who I worked with many years prior at another financial services organization. Because we worked together previously, I knew about Jeffrey's leadership style — he's a change agent, and has an innate ability to think more long-term with respect to future opportunities and workplace trends. This is very much in line with my own approach and work ethic, so I knew we would be a good team, and this role would allow me to look at the big picture, take disparate, complex elements, pull it all together and simplify it to create a unique value proposition and purpose that people are proud of and compelled by. In fact, I believe that's the biggest challenge for executives and HR leaders – how do you operationalize that purpose, and get everyone on board? I welcome that challenge, and am passionate about taking complex strategy and distilling it down into something more tangible. This role allows me to do just that, and enables me to be more of a strategic operator than an HR executive per se.
When it comes to the future of work, how can organizations lead effectively?
It boils down to courage. When you think about different workplace demographics, every demographic wants similar things but millennials are the first generation to have the courage to ask for it. I think we all need to start embracing that mentality and exercising that courage. Our world is changing rapidly with respect to technology and that should alter the way we work as well. For instance, many employees are seeking flexible work conditions, such as remote work, increased work-life balance, and roles with a greater social purpose. To truly lead effectively, organizations must embrace change and disruption, and have the courage to re-evaluate the way their teams work and thrive. I’m a firm believer that leaders should be personable, welcome diverse viewpoints and treat everyone fairly to foster an inclusive workplace that will effectively handle the challenges of today and tomorrow.
What is IGM Financial’s approach to recruiting, retaining and upskilling talent in the Digital Age?
Most employees will come to an organization because of the brand, but they stay for the employee experience, so this is a key area of focus for our organization. This means being more proactive when it comes to the way we recruit talent — leveraging technology is one part of the process, but it also requires a fundamental shift in how you look at the marketplace and your potential candidates. And embracing diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is a critical part of that process.
Gender parity is of particular importance at IGM, and we recently signed onto the United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs), institutionalizing their seven guiding principles as a key step in transforming our workplace and achieving gender equality. Social economics is another area that isn’t discussed enough, and companies should be making concerted efforts to recruit and retain talent from all backgrounds and walks of life to have the most inclusive workplace possible.
And, of course, ongoing learning and education in the workplace is important in the Digital Age to ensure existing staff have the right digital tools and resources at their disposal to thrive in their roles.