There was a Hewitt Associates that I joined on this day in 2003…. and what an organization it was !! I was remembering the special times that I have spent in Hewitt because, it has had an interesting journey since its marriage to Aon and the subsequent partial divorce leading to the creation of Alight Solutions.
I was working for Spectramind (now Wipro BPO) in 2003 when I got a call from Alok, about this great opportunity with Hewitt Associates. I checked with him if it was “Noble & Hewitt” the placement guys because thats how I knew them. Alok told me, the position was with the outsourcing team and it was HR outsourcing. I was too new to the outsourcing industry and all I knew was how to run a call centre at that time, so I couldn’t understand what in HR could be outsourced. But, their office was in the “ship” building on NH8 and I had been wanting to see the inside of that building for a long time, so I agreed to do the interview.
When I walked into the “Hewitt Associates” outsourcing office in the “ship” building, it was a bit of an anticlimax because the office was not nice, the sofas were not nice, and everything had a very temporary feel to it. Well, I realised later on that it was indeed a temporary office, so I didn’t let the office furniture bother me. I met with HR and then the operations leader. HR interaction was ok but Mr. Mehra was on his best behaviour that day and that meant I was sold ! I liked Mohit, my future boss and that in itself was something because I have usually been a little unlucky in the “boss” department. Could be that I was a difficult employee, because I have never known how to be a wallflower. I am more “break-the-wall” kind of person :):).
After Mohit I met Gurinder, Rohit Rao and then finally Rajeev… Hmm, Rajeev wanted me to commit to atleast two years with the organization and I said yes. He is still trying to get rid of me because 14 years later he is still connected to me through ShikshaDaan. Gurinder and I didn’t know then, that one day we will debate not just about the food at Moet’s but also about what business we should be in or not. Anyway, I agreed to join Hewitt and to this day I thank my stars that I had the sense to join them.
Hewitt felt like home from day one. Betty and Cheryl who took my interview from the US team are dear friends to this day. Cheryl and I got to work together when we setup the customer service team in India and then again with the East teams. Jan, who was a little intimidating to many people because she was sharp as nails, remains sharp as nails even today and still a very dear friend. Carin likewise from day one has been a friend and nothing has changed. When I walked into the first meeting at the Lincolnshire office, I realised that it was almost an all women group, something I had never experienced before in India. When Cheryl took me to the cafeteria and I saw the beverage selection – I guess I decided then, that I would never work for any other organization. Who gives you 140+ beverages to select from? And at that time associates could have all three meals free. Who does that anymore?
I often share the example of Hewitt’s mission statement “Making the world a better place to work” as the best example of a mission statement – you can wake me up in the middle of the night and I will remember it. Simple and so powerful. It was a way of life for us. I learnt for the first time what it meant to be on a client team – when a Hewitt associate introduced himself or herself, they spoke the name of the client and not Hewitt. The client team was almost an extension of the client, just sitting in Hewitt’s office premises. That was the client centric culture in its true sense.
A client’s employee could not be nasty to the Hewitt call center employee … they lost the right to call the center. Imagine how that felt to some of us who had gone from a third party BPO’s call center, where the callers could sometimes be nasty enough to make our reps cry. Oh I miss that Hewitt so much ! And don’t miss the mission statement in action in this instance too. We were making the world a better place to work.
It took me six months to understand the culture and then my understanding deepened as I spent a year, then another, then another and so on. My understanding deepened every year for the 11.5 years that I worked with the organization and that was special because it never got boring. Hewitt Associates was an organization that truly empowered its associates to try different things … I will never forget my friend Rama’s advise in 2004 just a few months after I had joined. She and I were having lunch in the newly commissioned cafeteria at the Centre Court office and she said, “just understand the culture first, then you can try anything. Hewitt is very supportive”. I passed on that nugget to many many associates who joined later and it remained true for me.
I have very special memories of many many people but I have written about it earlier so am not repeating it here. Read – A fist out of water … After 11.5 years. This blog is just to remember the Hewitt that was because soon, in the VUCA world that we live in, one day, no one would remember such an organization existed.
Hewitt Associates married into the Aon family in 2010 and that was a nice change. Learning to work in the new culture and learning to become nimble and data driven was very interesting. The culture remained largely intact but like with all marriages, when two families come together, you take some of their culture and add some of your culture and its a new culture that emerges. We also became a larger, more mature organization and that meant changes as well. All positive changes and some that didn’t sit well with the old timers but were important to make.
I left Aon Hewitt in 2015 and just recently the outsourcing arm was sold off and renamed as Alight solutions. There are many old timers in Alight and also many who have no connection to Hewitt.
For me, Hewitt Associates will always remain a gold standard in terms of people practices and an organization that felt like home. The warmth of the associates, the true diversity and the deep client connect was just amazing. Well, life is about change and its good that things change, otherwise there will be stagnation. In all those changes, the fundamentals remain the same and for me Hewitt Associates was like a fundamental that doesn’t change.
I have left out a lot of names because the narrative went in a particular way and not because I have forgotten.
Here’s a toast to the “Hewitt Associates” that was ! A grand organization… and my last organization. I haven’t joined any other place and I don’t think I will 🙂