“There is a very close tie between employee and customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to customer retention, a key driver of success,” says Nathalie Gatt, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Michael Debono Limited, who, throughout her career in both the private-public and private sectors, has drawn on her background in psychology to understand the dynamics of human resources and their influence on a company’s success.
As part of a series of interviews with women business leaders in Malta, Nathalie tells MaltaCEOs.mt that her career kicked off within the recruitment sector, which led her to become increasingly passionate about furthering her studies in occupational psychology, “as I could see the indirect correlation between employee-workforce culture fit with company performance and brand reputation.”
After taking on a facility management role within the private-public sector, and later promoted to head the human resources function across the foundation and its multiple facilities, Nathalie decided to move back to the private sector “to enjoy the thrill of actioning strategies”, taking on the role of Director of Human Resources at an international group before moving into her current role, “which aimed to combine employee and customer experience.”
“This seemed a bigger challenge, to introduce a new mindset at a time when customer experience was not mentioned enough and most of the time was confused with customer service,” says Nathalie, who one year later was promoted to Chief Operations Officer, and last April, to Chief Customer Experience Officer, responsible for the overall profitability of the company, employee and customer satisfaction.
“In my role I rope in teams to develop the annual customer-centric strategy based on historic and predictive market trends and customer needs. The role I hold today gives me a sense of purpose, in being able to address and solve customer needs and pain points.”
Throughout her career, Nathalie explains that, fortunately, she never faced discrimination based on her gender, and was “lucky enough to have worked with mentors, who not only saw potential, but also exposed me to different business facets and were pushing me out of my comfort zone to ask challenging questions,” she says.
“In addition, the company’s executive team is equally gender balanced. The company appreciates the benefits that result from different forms of diversity across all levels.”
Indeed, this may be the exception rather than rule, as Malta still scores low among EU countries in its representation of women holding board positions in large companies. She says traditional stereotyping of the female gender may strongly contribute to this statistic.
“Although Malta is experiencing increased equality in the sharing of household responsibilities, I would assume that in the majority of cases, it is the woman who would negotiate flexible working arrangements to take care of the household responsibilities, including the upbringing of children,” she asserts.
“Besides existing Government support measures – such as childcare, after-school programmes and other forms of flexible working arrangements equally available to both males and females – I firmly believe that it has to primarily come from the individual,” says Nathalie.
“Here I refer to one’s confidence level, curiosity and resilience when testing, failing and learning, together with the drive to push harder and being determined to succeed, with success being interpreted individually.”
“Communicate effectively your brains and your passion” – is her key advice to any male or female striving to succeed in their professional career. “Any company would wish to have as part of its core team a passionate, purposeful individual, who is able to channel his/her mental abilities in asking the right questions and developing strategies that will yield beneficial results, even if this means testing and learning about new ways of doing.”
Nathalie adds that one’s level of confidence plays a big role in this. “The more confident the individual feels, the more likely it is for them to be able to communicate thoughts, opinions and ideas in a simple, logical and rational manner”, which in turn makes it more likely for them to be understood by the target audience and hence, “more likely for others to capture the worth of the individual, irrespective of gender.”
Moreover, the she considers prioritisation as another key factor for success – a skill she has had to master to balance busy work/life schedules, using the 80/20 rule. “Before the start of each year, I would shortlist the top five priorities that would help me reach annual targets and, on a weekly basis, I would ensure that I dedicate quality time to each of these by focusing on the 20 per cent that leads to the 80 per cent results.”
By learning to prioritise which tasks to complete and by when, Nathalie says she can actively contribute to the business and not waste time on tasks which do not provide added value. “Personally, I found this tactic critical to pushing myself out of my comfort zone and delivering the value to grow the business exponentially by addressing customer needs.”
Finally, time management. “As the Group CEO once told me, ‘time is the scarcest resource, we have to fight for it’. I personally find it very useful to block time to work on my weekly priorities and ensure that no other meetings or interruptions take over these golden hours. This also requires discipline and assertiveness with the teams.”
Nathalie Gatt / LinkedIn
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