Bloomberg: Bringing culture to the community
It was an idea that was pretty “out there”, perhaps even a little far-fetched.
It came with its own set of challenges and brought on some unexpected anxiety, as Vandna Ramchandani, Head of Recruitment, Philanthropy and Engagement, Bloomberg Asia-Pacific, recalls. But the company was determined to bring a food truck to university campuses across Singapore.
This is no ordinary food truck. Fondly known as the Bloomberg Career Express, the specially-outfitted vehicle replicates signature elements of Bloomberg’s culture, and showcases some of the latest technology used by the company.
Designed specifically to educate and inspire students about Bloomberg careers in business and finance, the bus visited ten campuses across Singapore as part of a month-long mobile recruitment outreach last year.
“I felt that the way to attract talent was to bring our culture to campuses because this is who we are. We are very creative, technology-savvy, and we have a great culture,” Ramchandani explains.
To create the Bloomberg atmosphere within the truck, it was fitted with glass walls. A news ticker was installed and a typical Bloomberg pantry, which is the company’s hallmark point of internal collaboration, was stocked inside. There were also Bloomberg terminals as an emblem of the real timeliness of the business that the company drives.
Besides allowing students to get a taste of the inner workings of Bloomberg, the truck also offered a place to directly interact with the company’s business leaders. “I think about 30% of the office was with us at different times at the campuses,” Ramchandani says. “Bringing in talent is so important to any company that it cannot just be the responsibility of HR. It is our responsibility as an organisation to have a culture of recruiting and our business leaders need to drive that top down.”
The campaign was a success along with the three graduate roles posted which attracted about 1,200 applicants before it was closed. For each role, Bloomberg were hiring up to 10-12 candidates.
Sense of ownership
The one-of-a kind recruitment drive was part of Bloomberg’s anniversary celebrations as it commemorated its 25th year in Singapore in 2015.
When Bloomberg opened its office in Singapore in 1990, it had just two local employees. It has since grown into the company’s hub for South Asia and Southeast Asia, with over 550 employees from 25 countries.
Bloomberg’s corporate culture of innovation, creativity, diversity, and customer service threads through its offices globally, including in Singapore. “This is the pervasive culture no matter where we are,” Ramchandani explains. “It’s a very bold and dynamic culture. We encourage employees to take ownership, not only in terms of driving the business globally and locally, but also of taking charge of their own careers.”
She says Bloomberg’s typical career trajectory involves staff taking ownership and additional responsibilities, which comes with a lot of accountability. In turn, the flat structure, coupled with diversity and creativity, creates a very entrepreneurial spirit. “We expect our people to be entrepreneurs, and to come to the table with solutions rather than to just talk about the problems. So, every time you go to the table for a conversation, you should have thought through about the issue as if it was your own business and your own ability to make impact and come up with solutions. I think that really creates quite a unique environment,” she adds.
Whole new realm
Coming from the sales and global data departments prior to heading recruitment, Ramchandani is able to bring a different perspective to the local HR team. “I think what’s been unique is that because I understand the business, there’s a lot of credibility that comes with it. Once you have been in the shoes of the business leader, you can understand the needs of the business – not just theoretically, but on a day-to-day basis,” she explains.
For example, she says she is able to better understand succession planning and how it impacts employee movements. “Bloomberg is very supportive of mobility and there are a lot of opportunities but you can only take those if you are thoughtful in the way you develop your people and get your people ready,” she says.
Coming from the business side, she is also able to build a tighter and more executional framework. “We have a very good HR department, but sometimes, you can link the dots better and create a more effective culture of execution when there is a team of HR professionals with market and business experience,” explains Ramchandani. “When the business needs to execute quickly, support functions like HR will require a robust framework that can support our people and the overall business. It is imperative to balance fast execution with the proper implementation of best practices and policies, at the right pace and over time, while thinking ahead of what’s next for the business.”
Ultimately, Ramchandani sees HR as a direct as well as indirect contributor to the company’s bottom line.
More than a support function, she believes HR is an important partner that can influence decisions. “I may not influence the exact business but I influence the business through the people. For us at Bloomberg, our people are our biggest assets; so, influencing the growth, development and the talent that we bring in is a direct contribution to the bottom line,” she says.
The course of a career
As exemplified by her own career path, Ramchandani says every Bloomberg employee’s journey is unique. With a lot of support from the company, employees are expected to take ownership of their own pathways.
For example, Bloomberg’s in-house intranet has a function that allows staff to search for vacant positions within the organisation – anywhere in the world. They can also connect with colleagues to network and to exchange their experiences, based on their individual background and career path.
This creates opportunities for staff to expand the scope of their jobs, Ramchandani says. “While people are always looking for the next opportunity, sometimes they are also just looking for the next challenge, and the next challenge doesn’t have to mean a new role. It could very well be within the current role.” For instance, employees could take additional responsibility, or get involved in regional or global projects.
Ramchandani likens career paths at Bloomberg to a jungle gym, instead of a ladder. Even though employees are encouraged to take additional responsibilities and grow within their roles, they also get the support needed to explore other lateral areas to move to.
“Somebody from data can move to sales. Somebody from sales can move to corporate communications. Or somebody from data can move to news. We have had all these examples within the organisation,” Ramchandani reveals.
She adds there are employees who went through a “traditional” career path where they became team leaders and managers and specialists in their areas, and career progression also comes in the form of opportunities to work in different Bloomberg offices around the world.
Bloomberg also engages its employees in various ways, including throwing its famous summer parties for staff and their families, and opening the doors for employees’ children to have a taste of a day in the office.
The company also introduced a Jump Start series in Singapore, part of its 25th anniversary campaign. This involves business leaders in different fields, such as in technology, finance and the arts, being invited to tell their personal leadership stories to the local team.
Employees get the rare opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk with the newsmakers and leaders in the field through this series.
“We want our employees to gain from different experiences. Sometimes they will go outside to get those and sometimes, you have to bring them in. This was one of the ways to bring the experiences in for them to get exposure to different leadership styles,” Ramchandani explains.
With 25 years of strong growth, Ramchandani reckons the Singapore office will continue to develop. “We’ve seen 10% employee growth year-on-year and I don’t foresee any change in the next couple of years,” she says. “It’s definitely still going to be a growth story.”
Moving forward, she foresees that Bloomberg’s policies in Singapore will evolve based on the needs of the region and of the changing world. For example, the company recently made progressive adjustments to the number of parental leave days for both primary and secondary caregivers. Ramchandani says this is not only the right thing to do, it is also important in order to keep the best employees.
Bloomberg also wants to make sure that it is hiring more graduates from within the local countries in the region, including Singapore. “We are very focused on local leadership, and these graduates are going to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Ramchandani explains.
So, can we expect the Bloomberg Career Express to make its rounds again in 2016?
“We plan it to be a yearly event for the next couple of years. By the time it’s becoming expected, we will switch it around and do something different. That’s who we are; we like to keep things moving, so nothing should become status quo,” she shares.
However, Ramchandani already has something in mind to make it a different experience for the next round. “I want the Bloomberg Career Express to have a fish tank because it is a unique feature in Bloomberg offices around the world,” she adds.
That’s definitely something to look forward to.
At a glance
Total number of employees at Bloomberg (Singapore): 550
Size of the HR Team (Singapore): 20
Key HR Focus Areas:
Engaging through philanthropy
Philanthropy and the arts are a big focus for Bloomberg. Last year, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed over $460 million to five key areas: public health, environment, education, government innovation and the arts.
Through its “Best of Bloomberg” initiative, employees can sign up and get involved with the community through partnerships with various parties such as Habitat for Humanity, Beyond Social Services and Junior Achievement Singapore.
Bloomberg also partners the Singapore Repertory Theatre to fund front-row tickets for every show for youths between the ages of 15 and 25, and sponsors playwright training programmes for emerging talent.
“We want to bring the arts to the students, because this is the future of the country, not only for ourselves but for Singapore,” Vandna Ramchandani, Head of Recruitment, Philanthropy & Engagement, Bloomberg Asia-Pacific, explains.
Who’s Who in HR
HR Business Partner, Global Data and the COO
Employee Services, Singapore Region
Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.