Narrator: When you’re on a tight deadline, you need your technology to hold up its end of the bargain. No lagging, no freezing, no spinning wheel of death. But if you can get ahead of these issues, you improve productivity. You improve security. You improve the digital employee experience. Because the future of the digital employee experience is not just predictive, it’s proactive. And that’s what we’re talking about today with Bill Taylor.
Bill Taylor: We’re not just in the sort of the ticket taking business of fixing a problem, moving on to the next, issue and fixing that person by person, but rather, having a mindset of solving the problem at a macro level so it doesn’t reoccur. we’re getting out in front before it impacts large, populations within the organization, within msci.
Narrator: Bill is Managing Director at MSCI, a global leader in investment services and solutions. Bill has over 20 years of experience dedicated to managing the digital infrastructure at companies like JPMorgan Chase and CS Technology. He brings with him an “engineering mindset” of solving problems instead of just fixing them. And today, Bill is discussing the benefits of shifting employee communications to video, why it’s important to offer accessibility options by default, and how MSCI leverages data to be proactive instead of reactive.
On Cruising Altitude, we talk about employee experience lessons from leaders at companies with over 30k employees. A lot like reaching Cruising Altitude at 30k feet, things look a little different when you’re managing 30,000 people. On this podcast, we bring you insights from the leaders who inhabit that rarefied air. Today’s episode features an interview with Bill Taylor. But first, let’s take a quick break to hear a word from our sponsor.
Bill Taylor: I manage workplace technology and we think of workplace technology at M S C I as the technology, whether it’s hardware or software that our employees are interacting with and using every single day, regardless of where they are. So specifically part of, team’s responsibility will include handling of laptops, and other types of devices, uh, that people are using to connect. Uh, also the applications, the common applications that are used across the, all the employees. Things like 365 or Microsoft teams, uh, as two quick examples. and. In addition, we’re responsible for, you know, the technology in the offices specifically the meeting room technology, uh, which we have, uh, a great deal happening with right now.
Narrator: Before we really take off, let’s take an overall look at MSCI and get an understanding of the employees Bill is working with in the Flight Plan.
Bill Taylor: MSCI is a financial services firm that is providing critical decision making tools to investors and in support of the global investment community. and we have focuses in a number of different areas. Uh, specifically ESG climate. Uh, we have an index business, an analytics business, and, uh, a business that, uh, focuses on real estate. So MSCI is a company of about 5,000 people or so, and we have a number of different. Uh, employee personas that we are constantly thinking about, and especially if we think about from an experience perspective. Uh, we have client facing teams and sales teams, uh, as well as, uh, business product teams. We kind of think of that as, one persona. nearly half the company is made up of technologists, engineers, developers. So that’s a, another component, uh, or persona that we think about. Uh, we also have, uh, a third component or persona where we would think of our internal functions like hr, marketing, finance, legal, and compliance. We also have what we classify as another persona of executive assistants. Only because their needs and requirements tend to be unique and different from most of the other, employees So we, we think of those, as well. And, one other persona would be our research teams, uh, which tend to be very heavily sort of quantitative oriented, right? So they have very specific needs in order for them to perform their job.
Narrator: The varied roles and locations of the employees Bill is serving means he has a lot to juggle.
Bill Taylor: I think unique challenges, that I face at MSCI related to employee experiences is ultimately, we talked a little bit about the different types of personas that we have. So we have a, we have a number of different working styles, uh, or working requirements across those different personas. so we have to often look at,each of these persona types and determine. What do we have to tweak or potentially significantly change in order to give, the best employee experience possible? I think the other aspect of this is we’re a global organization, right? And so the sort of needs and experiences that, you know, people may expect In the United States may be very different than what people need and expect, uh, in India. So, uh, just as an example. our aim, our goal, our mission is to provide a world-class employee experience. Again, regardless of where you are, So, I think that’s been a specific challenge
Narrator: But it’s a challenge Bill is up to. And over his 7 years at MSCI, he has made a big difference in the seamlessness of the digital workflow across roles and locations for a truly First Class experience.
Bill Taylor: So, at MSCI, you know, we’ve transformed the workplace technology. organization and function over the last three years or so, and with a significant focus on how do we create the best employee experience possible. And so we’ve done a few things, uh, in that time to make that happen. The first is we’ve changed the mindset of the team to be proactive instead of react. When we think about traditional workplace technology or IT types of support, it’s often responding to problems that people are having, and then fixing it and moving on to the next problem. And what, what my team has really evolved into, and we’ve invested in tools as well to help with this. Is to be, be proactive in two different ways, at least, right? One would be using the tools to help us ascertain and assess what’s happening in our environment where we can get in front of certain issues or problems and at a minimum, inform people about what those might be. but ideally actually fixing them before they impact a large portion of our organization. and then secondly, as a person reports a problem that comes in. What we want is,,to take that problem and see who else is having it. And again, that’s where the tools come in to help us. And from that perspective, It enables us to, you know, be out in front and solve the problems, and before they become more widely impacting. The second thing we’ve done is upgrade our talent. We’ve intentionally gone out into the market and looked for people with the mindset that I’ve just described, the mindset that we’re not just in the sort of the ticket taking business of fixing a problem, moving on to the next, issue and fixing that, person by person, but rather, having a mindset of solving the problem at a macro level so it doesn’t reoccur. we’re getting out in front before it impacts large, populations within the organization, within msci. And the last thing, and this is really something I’ve taken a lot of interest in and a lot of pride in, in terms of how we’ve changed. it’s communicating and it’s using modern methods to reach our employees. especially when we talk about adoption of new tools, of new applications and, and new features and functions that could be available within them. What we’ve done is, we’ve now started to communicate to our employees through short video articles, uh, or short video clips, right, that are describing and showing people a new feature or function that might be available in like Microsoft Teams or Outlook or other applications that everybody’s using. we’ve designed ways to keep people informed but not overwhelm them. and again, we’ve, really looked to put together information that is easy to consume, easy to understand, and honestly, you know, makes it, relatively fun, so to speak, in terms of being able to, give people something that they look forward to each, uh, week when we’re we’re publishing, the content that we’d like them to see.
Narrator: Bill mentioned getting out in front of issues before they arise. And he does that through specific tools they have in place at MSCI that help them identify where those issues are cropping up.
Bill Taylor:One of those tools is called Next Bank, and this actually gives us a incredible amount of data from all of the endpoint devices and at MSCI mostly that is laptops that people are using that allows us to correlate specific problems a person might be having with what is happening on their laptop. And so what we’ve been able to do for one quick example around this is related to people who may be experiencing just slow performance on their laptop. And so what we’re doing is constantly monitoring things like memory usage and how, other performance aspects of their laptop and when it crosses a certain threshold, the way we use Next Inc is it actually puts a little popup on the person’s screen that tells them, Hey, we think you may be having some slow performance, uh, and here are some actions you can take, to reduce that. Right? And up to and including, you know, just restarting their machine. Right. Or another example is we would tell people that, hey, we’ve noticed that you haven’t restarted your machine in X number of days. Right. And usually that’s like nine or 10 days. that gives them an opportunity again to restart their machine and bring it back to a, a, a more stable state. So, by getting out in front of, uh, these issues we’ve been able to, you know, give people a better experience. Like we’re not just force rebooting, their laptop right in the middle of their business day, which is again, another experience point that is just awful for a person, right? Especially these days when people are on meetings nearly all the time and they’re always online, right? So restarting a machine could, significantly impact their productivity. So, we put things into the employee’s hands so they can make the decisions about what’s going to work best for them and when it will work best for them.
Narrator: Another important tool used for employee communication is the MSCI intranet.
Bill Taylor: We have a intranet home site that runs on SharePoint that we call the Hub and within the hub are many tiles of information or news stories, if you will, that are powered by the Firstup platform, which we refer to internally at MSCI as My MSCI. we partner very, very closely with our internal communications team to present information to employees in a way that allows them to easily absorb it, uh, and easily get to it. So one of the great things that we’ve done over the past couple of years is again, integrate, the Firstup platform with our SharePoint intranet homepage, so that we’re constantly presenting articles and information to our employees. And we have, different types of sections, right? So we’ll have an executive section, so which is, information and announcements coming from our, most senior executives at the firm. Uh, we have, a community section, right, we have a number of offices where almost, uh, 30 offices across. The globe and the community section is an opportunity where we see what’s happening in other offices. Right. It’s kind of a little more of a fun section, if you will. So, our, my s d I platform is a, has become a, a really big draw I would say in terms of where information is shared, that we want all employees to see.
Narrator: But the format of information Bill’s team is sharing with employees has changed since he started there.
Bill Taylor: When I think back to even just, you know, 18 months ago, 24 months ago, we were posting articles into my MSCI for people to see. and they were written, You know, we’d have a headline that would hopefully, you know, attract and draw attention. And then we’d have a bit of a. You know, bullets or a paragraph or something that would describe what we were communicating. You know, what was the new feature or function that we were, uh, wanting for them to highlight and know about and how to use it. And initially we linked into external sites, uh, like a Microsoft site or maybe some, uh, YouTube video somewhere, right, where we would kind of show that would give more information or, or show people how to use it. And even since then, you know, we moved from, you know, relying on external sites, uh, to kind of creating content that was a bit more, connecting to people because we were referencing internal types of, information or uses. In the last eight or nine months or so have really switched over to video content. And, you know, you think about Instagram or TikTok and things of that nature, you know, these are huge draws, is how people consume their information today. Um, and nobody has time to read through articles. really I feel like the written word in terms of, uh, these types of information is becoming less and less of a draw for people like, not like, it’s almost nonexistent, and I think people are in a, in a place now, both through their personal and sort of their own social media interactions are in a place of enjoying and of really absorbing what a short video tells them. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve, moved to these 60 to 90 second videos sometimes or even less, and that get the point across, demonstrate it and, offer people, uh, links or something else if they’re interested in the topic, to explore it themselves even more.
Narrator: The shift to video is part of a larger conversation around knowing when it’s time for change. And that includes upgrading the tech tools they use at MSCI.
Bill Taylor: Knowing when it’s time to upgrade, tools. This comes from a couple different things, right? one could just be that, hey, the current version of, your applications that you’re using, are getting too old. You know there’s many releases or even a new release that that may be available, right? And so you want to deploy that. you want to obviously keep on top of, uh, security and all those types of things, so that we’re patching, uh, appropriately. the second is round requirements, right? So what are we hearing from our employees, right? And again, from a workplace tech organization perspective, that’s something that didn’t exist three years ago, three or four years ago, when I started managing this organization, we really built a, what we refer to as a customer success team that is interacting more with our employees so we can understand better about what their needs are and get ahead of them. it’s really created an environment where our employees feel comfortable, they know who to go to for myself and within my organization in order to help them get what they need ultimately. So that’s a second aspect of it. Like, we research, you know, what various options are from a solution perspective that can help meet their needs. And then I would say the last piece when it comes to, knowing when it’s time to upgrade, is when conditions change, right? And the best example, right, that everybody’s experienced has been with the pandemic and covid. And so conditions changed. people were not in the office at all anymore. They were at home or somewhere. So we knew we had to make, you know, investments in various different, components to help people be as productive and effective as possible. , whether it was webcams or monitors or, helping them, get keyboards, mice, whatever it may be from a peripheral perspective as just one specific example. Then conditions changed again, right? We started to, come back to the office. And at M S C I, we’ve embraced hybrid work people may be in, people may be out, we’re a global organization, so we’ve always had conditions where people are meeting with each other, and they’re not in the same location and the biggest aspect of this as we, came back into the office, was we wanted to. when people were all remote and everybody was in a meeting, right? Everybody was in their own little video box and everybody could be heard. Well, and everybody could hear everybody else was in the meeting. But when you start to come back to the office and go into meeting rooms, That’s a very different situation. You have a group of people in a meeting room and you have people who are not in a meeting room and in what I would call, you know, pre pandemic days. Those who are not in that room think often had a very hard time connecting to what was happening in the room, both visually and audibly and vice versa, right? Those in the room may not have been able to really, connect well with people outside the room. So, we’ve made investments in our meeting room technology in order to, create that experience where both people in the room and outta the room feel equal within the meeting. and so any of the investments I’ve mentioned for sure, our leadership has been behind cuz they know it’s, making our employees more effective and more productive at the end of the day.
Narrator: But Bill says his team needs to be judicious about these upgrades, because each one is an investment.
Bill Taylor: ] We have 200 or more meeting rooms across all of our offices. We are not upgrading every room, uh, for multiple reasons, right? One just the overall dollars associated with that. But the more important is how are we, how are the rooms being used? people coming back into an office and having these types of, hybrid meetings, in different ways than they did before the pandemic. And we’re watching again how people come back into the office when they come back to the office or in, in, in what numbers are coming back, And lastly, we want feedback on the technology that we are implement. Cause we don’t wanna invest in technology that ultimately is providing a poor experience.
Narrator: With each upgrade, too, comes some amount of change management. Bill’s team offers tiered options of basic to advanced instructions for users who prefer more information or support with the change. And that communication is targeted towards the appropriate group.
Bill Taylor: From the perspective of there’s sort of that, like you might call it like the instant change management that has to be done in the sense that. there was an old technology in place on Monday and then you know, Monday night we put the new tech in place. And so there, now it’s there on Tuesday. So there is sort of that initial, change, right, that happens that you wanna let people know about. and so, we’re communicating that through, you know, And we target it, right? We’re not letting the whole firm know we set up one particular room in our New York City office, for example, right? we’re targeting that to our, New York City employees. so there is the aspect of letting people know what’s changed there is. Again, all that’s done ahead of time, right ahead of the changes we’re preparing, again, short sort of videos that would demonstrate how the room is used, the advantages of it. we really wanna like sell and market these things and get people to utilize the rooms. And like I say, most importantly, give us feedback about it. and there’s obviously some instructions in the room on how to use the new technology as well. But the thing that’s really changed in my mind anyway, is that it’s not just about that instant, you know, Monday to Tuesday shift and letting people know about it, right? we have new hires, you know, coming in all the time. How are we informing them about this, technology and how to use it? we have, in addition to new hires, you’ll have people who will come in and use the room in January and may not use the room again until June. And they’re not necessarily gonna retain how to engage with the technology in the room in the most effective way. So, it is a challenge, right? Cuz you wanna provide simple and easy, instructions. For people to reference and utilize. Yet some of the technology and capabilities that are available can get a little complex, right? so we actually have done, both, in other words we’ll have like a bit of a two-sided one page, document in a room that’s where. One size, just, Hey, this is the easy way to connect. And then you know, some more advanced instructions on the other side that can give people some information.
Narrator: Aside from offering tiers of instructions, there are other ways MSCI is differentiating the user experience so every employee can access and make the most of their tech tools.
Bill Taylor: I think some applications and some, vendors of software products do a really great job with accessibility, building in accessibility features, that help people who have, specific challenges. and I think Microsoft has done a, a great job with this especially when you think about like people who may have a hard time visually, that there are many options to actually listen to content, right? Here and then audibly respond to it. So, those types of instances are, great it’s a tremendous benefit. but I never really, from a workplace tech point of view, I never thought much about it. I kind of knew those features and functions were there. Um, but figured people could find out about it on their own if they were that interested in, in knowing more about it. so I didn’t think a lot about it. at s d I, one of the great things about working here is the different employee resource groups that we have. We have a black leadership network. We have an employee resource group, called the Asian Support Network. We have a Pride Resource Group. We have a climate action resource group. and one resource group that I’ve become very involved with is we call it our All Abilities resource group. this kicked off maybe 18 months or so ago. And at the time, I wasn’t, had not joined the resource group at the time, but there was sort of this kickoff call that was, available that all employees could join. And there was this great guest speaker, his name is Rich Donovan, and he was a founder of, Uh, return on Disability Group, And he said something that just completely, it was a complete mindset shift for me. and he basically said that, Hey, you, you know, you have people in your organization who have challenges, but they are never going to tell you about those c. that’s all he said. that told me, oh, wait a second here. We have all these potential solutions that we can offer to people to help them. . and just because I’m not hearing about them or physically seeing someone who may have, a specific disability doesn’t mean that they don’t need them. So that’s when it struck me. I was like, I need to help get the information out there. Let people know that these solutions or features or functions within applications exist. Right.And then, put that out there, let everybody know about it. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s like The more I learned about these features and functions, the more I learned them myself. I use them myself, I should say. Right? So, you know, whether it’s, you know, dictating an email, right? as opposed to typing it because it’s just easier, I began realize that every single person in our organization can take advantage of these tools and functions. And, um, again, it was, you know, that moment of just realizing that, hey, people are not gonna tell you about their issues, that they’re having. And like that made perfect sense to me. Like why would they Right. so, to make those solutions available, uh, and advertise them to people, to let them know about it. And again, going back to our whole communication, strategy and how we communicate information. anytime we’re communicating about a feature or function net is. Something that we would, uh, feel associated with that all abilities employee resource group, we make sure to brand it that way, right? So people, uh, especially I think people who could really take advantage of these things because they really need it. they can focus in on that and, uh, and read or watch more about.
Narrator: MSCI has always had its eye on what’s next – what does the future of work look like? And how could the work experience be improved? One major event that really solidified that mindset was, of course, the pandemic.
Bill Taylor: At msci we started a future of work steering committee, which I was part of mid 2020. So I feel like MSCI has been sort of right at the edge, uh, and thinking about this right from the start. As soon as we realized, Hey, this is a significant change. And, who knows what the future brings, right? So we, were preparing for that and working through, uh, how we would think about the future of work. But I personally think the future of work is now the present of work MSCI is a company that truly embraced hybrid working. and while that will continue to evolve, in my view, this is absolutely here to stay. you know, I think people have spoken for sure , we’re interacting with our employees a lot, not just from a workplace tech perspective, but also from an overall employee engagement perspective. And we’ve, the feedback we’ve gotten from our employees about how they feel about how we’ve implemented a future of work at M F D I is overwhelmingly positive. now, from the perspective of how are we handling this digitally? Right. as we moved into the pandemic and through the pandemic, we’ve implemented the right tools and technology to enable people to stay connected, to be able to collaborate, to be able to, you know, visually see each other and work together.
Narrator: Bill and his team have truly transformed the digital employee experience at MSCI. So new information is targeted and more digestible, and the tech tools work more smoothly. But Bill wouldn’t be able to support such a world class employee experience without also having seen the more rough and tumble side as well.
Bill Taylor: I think a, a very awful employee experience is when you as an employee, you need help and you can’t get the answers that you need to solve whatever problem you’re having. And I think about interactions with sort of the very first, point of call, if you will, that most employees would have, which is a help desk. So, I’ve seen some really significantly bad experiences when you call a help desk. and it’s very difficult to a, communicate with the person, in the sense that they are not understanding the problem you’re describing. And are ultimately not able to help you. I’ve had experiences where that help desk person would, you know, they want to be helpful and nothing in taking away there for sure. but they will remote into your, laptop or your desktop PC and attempt to find the problem. Right. And you could tell they’re sort of. You know, wandering around, like just trying different things, seeing if it works or not works. And you know, you’re sitting there, you know, waiting half hour, 45 minutes an hour and you just wasted that much time. Right? so those have been, not positive experiences at all.
Narrator: He has also tried some things that haven’t worked as well as he had hoped.
Bill Taylor: So one of the things I think we’ve had challenges with in getting this off the ground is what we would call like a champions or an ambassador program. some people might call it a tried and true method of being able to, really connect. The employees at a company so that, you know, what’s, happening, you know, what, how they’re feeling about things. getting requirements, helping them with solutions. Um, and you know, it’s something we’ve, we’ve attempted to, kick off, you know, using various blueprints that we had from vendors that we worked with. but it’s been a challenge Groups of people are very engaged with us and you know, others are not. And it’s ultimately how much time do you spend, trying to, engage people that may not want to be so engaged. Right. So, that’s been a particular challenge for us because ultimately at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is understand where where those negative employee experiences are happening so that we could do things to fix it ultimately.
Bill Taylor: The only thing I would say,or might add here would be, I think the importance of connecting with stakeholders, to provide, the best employee experience possible. When we’re trying to get that type of bigger program off the ground, it is critical that, you know, myself and my leadership team are connecting with, the stakeholders that represent those different personas I talked about so that we’re, gathering information, listening to requirements, and on listening to challenges people have so that we’re able to provide them the most, uh, optimal solution that gives them the best experience.
Narrator: But whenever Bill faces a challenge, he says the most important thing is to be actively involved in solving the problem with your employees.
Bill Taylor: When I think about, you know, leadership in times of change, A number of things come to mind. I think first is, my leadership style is very much, hands on, you know, I like to know and, understand details. and this way I understand and know specifically the challenges that people, uh, are having whether they’re on my team or whether it’s like employees that are having, specific issues. My leadership style is one where I lead from the front. And as our CEO of Henry Fernandez says, and I feel exactly the same, is that I don’t ask people to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. So when we, send people home, at the beginning of Covid, one quick example is we immediately put together training classes. For people, right? So they understood, the most effective way they could work at home, how they could use Microsoft Teams, how they could, from their devices at home, make their connections back to the information and content that they needed, or data that they needed. that was within the Msti network. Right. So, I was giving those classes at the time, right. In addition to, people on my team. I’ll do whatever it takes to help solve our problem. Right. To help, our employees again, have a, positive experience. and making sure that. We’re giving our people the best experience possible, whether no matter where they are, right? Whether they’re in the office or outside the office.
Narrator: So get out in front. Get out in front of employees and be hands on with their digital experience. Get out in front of problems before they become larger issues. Leverage data to enable a smoother, more productive digital employee experience. The future of work is here. Welcome aboard.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Cruising Altitude. This episode is brought to you by Firstup, the company that is redefining the digital employee experience to put people first and lift companies up by connecting every worker, everywhere with the information that helps them do their best work. Firstup has helped over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies like Amazon, AB InBev, Ford and Pfizer stay agile and keep transforming. Learn more at firstup.io