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Nationwide focusing on leadership ‘agility’

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Building society Nationwide is focusing on improving the agility of its leaders, HR director Ann Brown has told HR magazine.

Brown, who joined Nationwide from Capgemini seven months ago, said the “ability to be nimble” is becoming central to leadership development.

“We have a really clear corporate plan and strategy but there’s a realisation that you need to be more agile,” she said. “Is a five-year plan really a five-year plan when the world is changing so significantly?”

She added that while Nationwide has “some amazing leadership capability” and a “stable cadre of leaders”, it is important to think about how they can best deal with a volatile and uncertain world.

“Our leadership has been secure during a period of tremendous volatility [the financial crisis],” Brown said. “We need to keep that but also think about leaders coming up and how they are going to respond. It’s about nuancing what we’ve got, putting effort into developing more muscle in certain places.”

Nationwide is focusing on extending “strategic capability” throughout a wider leadership population to deal with challenges such as new entrants to the market, changes in technology, and growing complexity, she revealed. It is also focusing on collaboration.

“We have skilled experts in their areas of activity and up until now that has been fine, but the supply chain is becoming more complex,” she explained. “[Leaders] need to start working more as a team.”

Brown said she is also bringing together Nationwide’s various wellness initiatives into a more coherent and holistic strategy.

The strategy, called Flourish, will include four strands: financial education, mental health, physical health and work/life balance.

It will also look at the issues arising from a multigenerational workforce, particularly the challenges of eldercare.

“Absence can be reactive,” she said. “Get on the front foot. Stop talking about absence and start talking about care.”