Seshni Samuel was recently promoted from her role as Africa people leader for EY to talent leader for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA).
Starting out as a senior manager in a client-facing role, Samuel worked on software solutions and applications (mainly SAP) implementations, helping EY’s clients to manage the risk around and gain strategic advantage from these implementations, which are long-term, costly and involve the entire organisation.
“I had progressed to the point in the advisory business where I was looking at the technical aspects of these implementations and I realised it’s a linear thing.
“Doing the right thing, applying knowledge, getting an outcome is one thing, but getting support for the implementation and the cultural changes that are needed is much more difficult.
“Some organisations do it successfully, others don’t. I almost got to the point where I could walk into a company and immediately sense if a SAP implementation would succeed or not. It’s a mix of culture, leadership and attitude. This got me really interested in the people space and the culture space.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to step into a role as a talent leader across Africa, dealing with 33 countries. And I loved it. It looks at how we create consistent, engaging employee experiences for people across Africa.”
In her new role, Samuel will be doing this across EMEIA. EY’s global purpose, she says, is to build a better working world — for its people and its clients. If organisations work better, the world works better, and communities benefit, the theory goes.
“It’s about achieving our global purpose,” she says. “People lie at the centre of that.”
The company sets out to achieve its purpose by delivering exceptional client service, says Samuel. To do that it focuses on its markets and brings the highest performing teams together to deliver what its clients need.
“It’s about using our global advantage to be locally relevant — scale, scope, size, expertise. So from a talent perspective we bring in people to create those high performing teams.”
Managing that, she says, is a combination of leadership and a robust performance management system that allows people to be recognised, and creates the context within which to do so.