Career

Know Thyself: Building Business Cultures in Growth Economies

21 March, 2019
  • Dhruv Mehra

    Multinational Client Group Leader, South & East Asia Singapore, Mercer

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"Businesses in growth economies must act now to establish prosperous internal cultures that embrace the emerging opportunities of a digitally transforming world."

Culture is how people make sense of the world. From the cacophonous streets of Mumbai and sultry beaches of Brazil to the neon lights of Tokyo and rhythms of Mexico City, culture gives us our identity. Culture is also scalable. Nations, regions and workplaces have cultures that define their collective individuals.

When groups of people behave according to a shared understanding of values and sensibilities, they are contributing to a culture. Businesses in growth economies must act now to establish prosperous internal business cultures that embrace the emerging opportunities of a digitally transforming world.

Build Consensus Throughout the Business
 

The evolving global economy presents growth nations with unprecedented access to a borderless international marketplace. The rapid pace of change, however, has many business leaders at odds regarding the value and role of culture to their financial success. This lack of consensus can muddle a company's vision, as well as confound a business' workforce and consumer base.

C-suite executives, managers and HR professionals — in businesses throughout the world — often have different interpretations of what internal culture means to profitability. The high-level takeaways from Mercer's research report, "Mitigating Culture Risk to Drive Deal Value," which focused on the mergers and acquisitions industry, offers businesses throughout growth economies valuable insights into the complexities of building consensus around culture:

  •  C-suite executives rate governance and decision-making processes as the most important components of culture (60%).
  •  Independent advisors believe performance management (measurement) can and should play a role in driving organizational change and defining culture (45%) — only 18 percent of HR professionals agree.
  • Corporate development professionals (41%) think that risk tolerance and management can undermine a transaction.
  • HR professionals rate collaboration (69%) and empowerment (54%) as the most important components of culture. 

 

Businesses in growth economies should be proactive about defining who they are as a culture. Does the culture value technological innovation and input from employees, or is it risk-averse and strictly hierarchical? Does the company stress individual effort or teamwork? Is it focused on international growth or regional prominence? Is it rebellious and irreverent or humble and serious? What is the definition of success, and how are the employees and customers factored into that definition?

An effective corporate culture begins with building consensus throughout the leadership, workforce and operations.

Clearly Articulate a Reason for Being

Every business leader and employee must be able to answer the question: Why do we work here? The response to this self-reflective ask compels the people within a business — from top decision-makers to workers at every level — to internalize the reason the business exists. This understanding provides meaning and context as to why an individual elects to be part of the business and its mission. 

Next, business leaders must articulate that reason for existence into strategic objectives illustrating the market value the business offers to whom and how. The strategic goals must accommodate the budget and timeline as understood by all employees — unifying everyone in a collaborative journey pursued within a shared value system.

In Asia (excluding Japan), according to the "Mitigating Culture Risk to Drive Deal Value" report, 67 percent of respondents believe collaboration is a top behavior in "high-performing" work cultures. In Latin America, 65 percent of respondents agreed. However, "collaborative" did not make the top five list of drivers for high-performing work cultures among Japanese respondents. It is critical for businesses in growth economies to establish strong internal cultures before attempting to make an impact in the competitive global economy. That internal culture, however, can be inspired by a variety of influences — including geography. Hangzhou-based Alibaba, for example, has a very different culture than Shenzhen-based Tencent.

A strong culture empowers businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors and effectively respond to adversity, risk and uncontrollable swings in the economy. Deciding how to approach risks and navigate challenges not only reveals the cultural values of a business but gives its employees and stakeholders a common cause that builds cohesion. A clearly articulated internal culture is key to longevity.

For businesses looking to establish and strengthen their cultures in different geographies, having a fundamental understanding of geographical nuances, like collaboration, for example, can prove critical to setting and successfully achieving your strategic goals.

Empower Leaders Who Live the Promise

 

Leadership is the foundation of every prosperous internal culture. In fact, the Mercer report reveals that, in Asia (not including Japan), 69 percent of respondents indicated "how leaders behave" was the number one "top driver" in a healthy organizational culture; in Latin America, the response was 64 percent. Japan led the group with a pronounced 74 percent response affirming the importance of leadership to workplacecultures.

The success of businesses can often be directly linked to leaders who embody and communicate an organization's values to employees and customers. Both Alibaba and Tencent are renowned for their respective leaders, Jack Ma (now retired, of course) and Pony Ma. Leadership supplies vision, energy and direction. Assessing and selecting leaders who best represent a business' values and promises are critical to corporate cultures. This does not always mean choosing the most accomplished or most popular businessperson, but the one with the best chemistry, as in any relationship — the one who delivers inspiration, creativity and motivates others to push themselves.

Effective leaders demand accountability from every employee, including themselves. CEOs, C-suites and managers must behave according to the values and standards of the business they represent. Leadership legitimizes culture by exercising the vision and expectations of the culture. Hypocritical leaders who do not lead by example demotivate employees and undermine the public's respect for the entire brand. A culture that values the fair distribution of accountability creates rapport and stewardship among its workforce. When people feel they belong to something meaningful and bigger than themselves, they transfer that goodwill into their work. Strong cultures create quality products, services and customer experiences.

Align the Vision With People & Operations

 

Culture is the intangible force that bonds great companies. The ethereal nature of culture, however, makes it frustratingly elusive to many businesses — especially in growth economies where those cultures are entering a new era of global pressures and digital transformation.

I explained in a webcast about the report above, "Culture is like the weather. We like to talk about it, complain about it and we blame it for things. But we really have no intention of doing anything about it or frankly don't know what we can do about it." To explain that businesses cannot afford to treat culture like the weather, because tremendous amounts of money and value are being left on the table.

Culture, at its core, is an operational platform for people to work together. It is the epicenter of an organization's collective power. Though business cultures may be intangible, they can be easily recognized in the eyes and behaviors of employees and customers. Culture is everything from a workforce that understands its purpose and a single employee who feels professionally fulfilled to loyal customers who return again and again. Culture is when people come together and do something that gives them meaning. Culture is the reason a business exists.

MORE IN CAREER

Lewis Garrad | 30 Jan 2020

Employee engagement has become a critical topic for HR over the last 10 years as leaders have become convinced by two fundamental management ideas: having the best talent is essential to the future success of any organization, and having a highly engaged workforce is the most effective route to mobilize that talent to deliver what is needed. The result is that many organizations now invest in programs to boost engagement — mostly via an annual employee feedback survey. Yet, many organizations struggle to improve engagement and productivity in their workforce — no matter how much attention leaders and HR teams pay. Organizational inertia (or "drag") is a widespread phenomenon impacting progress on multiple levels.1 Most organizations find that people prefer to maintain the status quo rather than push for real change. This has led many HR leaders to explore what factors create more relevant and meaningful employee engagement. What Does the Science Say?   In a recent meta-analysis, scientists set out to understand how much of someone's engagement at work is predicted by personality.2 With so many organizations focusing on cultural and environmental factors, they wondered to what extent individual differences influence the way people engage with their organization. Their analysis showed that around half of someone's engagement at work is predicted by personality — with enthusiastic, upbeat and conscientious people generally displaying higher levels of engagement. This finding helps us understand why engagement can be so difficult to change. If half of engagement is predicted by personality, then organizational initiatives targeting work practices or work environment can only succeed if they include some impact at the individual level. If engagement is driven by both employee perception and personality, a shift needs to occur at the manager level. Initiatives should be implemented to target the individual employee to help create a stronger connection between that person and the work they do. Cultural/collective changes should also occur to improve conditions, like wellbeing, collaboration, creativity and productivity. This does not mean that hiring "engagable" people is a strategy for success. Diversity in an organization is an incredibly important resource. People who are more skeptical and critical might be more difficult to engage — but they are also far more likely to challenge the status quo. These people are just as important to have in the workplace, and screening them out is not an effective approach. Job Design Can Make Work More Engaging   Recently, the Facebook HR team published research that examined some of the reasons people at the company quit.3 The main reason is that employees find the day-to-day work they are doing less interesting and engaging than they want. For Facebook, it's not managers that are disengaging — it's the jobs. However, job design is typically something that managers do, and they often do it poorly. Managers are rarely given any guidance about how to do it, especially compared to the amount of training they are given about other factors, like performance management. But job design has the potential to be a more important function in people management. As AI becomes more accessible, organizations will outsource transactional work. This creates substantial opportunities to rethink how work gets done, which means we can actually use technology to help us redesign work to make it more interesting and engaging. The second opportunity in this area is adopting evidence-based management. The science behind effective job design is well established. Implementing a simple process and framework is important in empowering managers to assess current job design and improve the quality of work they create. While designing work might seem like an easy task for managers, very few employees will stick to their specific job description. By making job design a collaborative process between manager and employee, research has shown that people who craft their roles are more engaged, productive and see more meaning in what they do. Careers Can Connect Employees With the Future of Your Organization   Most organizations have been focusing on career trajectory for years. Talent reviews, internal job boards, career development conversations with your manager — all these things are designed to enable a more optimistic view about career progression. The problem is these actions do not work as well as they should. Why? Because many people are not clear about the realistic career options available to them at any one time, and the careers that are available now quickly become outdated as the organization changes structure and requirements. Carefully planned careers end up becoming irrelevant as talent demands shift. This is a really challenging topic. Even educators in schools and universities struggle with this problem — what jobs and future careers are available to students now and in the future? Constant social, technological and economic changes make this question impossible to answer. Businesses have the best opportunity to help with this challenge — but it requires a shift in focus from jobs to skills. If organizations can move from thinking of jobs as a list of functions to a bundle of adaptable skills that provide value to customers, then we can start to understand where the valuable and transferable skills are in the business. Making this shift also helps leaders talk to employees in a different way about career progression. Using technology, we can help people see the valuable skills they have, the skills that are decreasing in value and skills they need to stay relevant. Technology can also use individual engagement data to help advise employees which experiences excite them and coach them in a direction that will be the best fit for their personality. In addition to technical skills, organizations also need to think about talent for leadership. Maximizing leadership potential is a topic that many organizations care about but that few do well. As the volume of people data increases, helping people build stronger self-awareness is critical, so those who are best fit for people leadership roles can focus on developing the necessary capabilities. The Benefits of Building a More Holistic Employee Value Proposition   Work needs to be elevated from a list of tasks to be completed and instead viewed as a set of actions that have both personal meaning and commercial value. This shift isn't possible unless the HR function starts to think of the employee value proposition in a vastly different way. The most effective value propositions appreciate the whole employee experience rather than just the narrow "economic" role that work plays. It's relatively easy to make a living but it's hard to do work worth doing. A compelling employee value proposition makes an effort to do both. This means thinking past the transactional elements of the employee (pay and benefits) to incorporate more future-oriented elements of the relationships — the opportunity to innovate and create, experience a sense of sustainable wellbeing and develop new skills. The Value of Thriving at Work   Currently, many engagement programs are focused on answering how to get employees to do more for the organization. But the question that should be asked is, "How can the organization and the employee create a shared future together, using technology to create a healthier and more productive experience?" This changes the relationship dynamic and starts to value the contribution people make in a much broader way. HR leaders should look at building tools that help improve employee self-awareness, connecting what employees think about their work and how they behave in a powerful way. In summary, employee survey programs have been failing for years, in part because they have been so narrowly focused on outcomes, like an "engagement index." As technology starts to democratize the way we use employee feedback data, there is an opportunity to use it in a more two-way fashion to coach both individuals and managers. Keeping improved personal experience at the heart of innovations in employee surveys and feedback can help HR leaders make better decisions in adopting tools that will really work. For more information connect with us here: https://www.mercer.com/what-we-do/workforce-and-careers/talent-strategy/allegro-pulse-survey-platform.html Sources: 1. Garton, Eric. "Your Organization Wastes Time: Here's How to Fix It." Harvard Business Review, 13 Mar. 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/03/your-organization-wastes-time-heres-how-to-fix-it. 2. Young, Henry R.; Glerum, David R.; Wang, Wei; Joseph, Dana L. "Who Are the Most Engaged at Work? A Meta‐Analysis of Personality and Employee Engagement." Wiley Online Library, 23 Jul. 2018, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/job.2303. 3. Goler, Lori; Gale, Janelle; Harrington, Brynn; Grant, Adam. "Why People Really Quit Their Jobs." Harvard Business Review, 11 Jan. 2018, https://hbr.org/2018/01/why-people-really-quit-their-jobs.

Pat Milligan | 19 Dec 2019

Life expectancies have risen sharply in recent decades, from an average age of under 53 years in 1960 to 72 years in 2017. And in high-income countries, the average life expectancy is closer to 80 years of age.1 Given longer lives and longer work lives across the globe, fewer people today are adhering to a career model defined by three key phases of professional working life: school, work and retirement. Instead, a multistage life is increasingly common — one in which individuals may go in and out of the workforce, work part time or join the gig economy, and get new training or credentials in midlife or later. As workforces live longer and delay retirement, employers are struggling to evolve models, practices and policies that align with this new reality. To permit people to extend working life and remain productive into older age, employers must become "age ready" — or risk losing out on the benefits this growing segment has to offer. Another important factor is ensuring these employees are not victims of age discrimination — a common prejudice that often goes overlooked even in organizations committed to employment equity and that embrace the most comprehensive Diversity & Inclusion strategies. A Global Workforce of Experienced Employees   Mercer's "Next Stage: Are You Age-Ready" report reveals that, though populations across the world are living and working longer, the Asia Pacific region is feeling the greatest impact from a rapidly emerging generation of experienced employees. In fact, the report states that there will more than 200 million people age 65 and older between 2015 and 2030. Japan is becoming the world's first "ultra-aged" population, where those over 65 years of age will comprise more than 28% of the population. Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan — designated as "super-aged" populations — are not far behind, with more than 21% of their citizens soon becoming 65 and older. Increasing life expectancies have forced mature employees to face some difficult decisions. While many continue working out of a desire to learn new skills, connect with others or satisfy a desire to contribute to society, some aging workers don't have that choice. Instead, these employees continue working simply to finance the costs of their extended lives. Getting older is expensive, and weakening pension systems, poor savings habits in a context of inequalities in income growth, and low interest rates have all conspired to undermine the security once taken for granted by those nearing retirement age. Aging workers who opt not to retire present their employers, as well as incoming generations of younger workers, with unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Dispelling Preconceived Notions and Biases   Though workplaces around the world have greatly improved their efforts to curtail discrimination related to an employee's race, sexual orientation and gender, efforts to address age discrimination are often overlooked. Here are some of the most entrenched and damaging myths concerning seasoned employees, according to Mercer's Next Stage report: 1.  Myth: "Experienced workers are less productive." Truth: Extensive research dispels the myth that job performance declines with age. 2.  Myth: "Experienced workers have difficulties learning new skills and technologies." Truth: The hurdle here is not that these workers have difficulties learning new skills, but rather they often haven't previously received the training necessary to advance certain skills or knowledge. However, research shows that 85% of workers, including experienced employees, actively seek opportunities for skills development and technical training to enhance their career development possibilities. 3.  Myth: "Experienced workers are more costly." Truth: Pay can be higher for increased age (and responsibility) but older workers can significantly reduce costs for employers in other ways, like through reduced turnover rates. In Mercer's data, some drop off in pay for the same level of job is experienced as workers age. Mercer's penetrating research and analysis on the productivity levels, learning intent and capacities, and employer expenses related to experienced workers reveals a much more nuanced and complex relationship between older employees and their younger colleagues. Even in study cases where older workers did show lower individual productivity levels, the assessments did not account for key nuances, such as the time dedicated to mentoring, training and guiding others instead of focusing on their individual performances. Expanding the Value of Experienced Employees   Businesses must learn to capitalize on the talents, skills and potential of mature employees who are postponing retirement. Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report states that the integration of modern technologies into corporate HR systems presents older employees with powerful tools that can teach them new, valuable skills. In addition, these technologies provide them with curated career development paths using specialized learning functionalities and predictive software algorithms. Corporate learning platforms can be used to shape content relevant to a particular ambition, close a skills gap or build connections among peers who can share expertise. Curated learning programs also allow employees to develop at their own pace and earn credentials based on benchmarks determined by personal career objectives. Professional development opportunities for experienced employees are also limited by many employers' inability to accurately assess the value and scope of their contributions. Mercer's Next Stage report argues that experienced workers can contribute significantly to organizational performance through their deep institutional knowledge, social capital specific to the business and technical or content expertise honed from years of on-the-job practice. Also, critical soft skills, such as listening, communicating, collaborating and team building, are commonly undervalued. Businesses that rely on common proxies for performance, such as performance ratings, promotion probability and pay, are likely to under-appreciate the contributions of their experienced workers and miss opportunities to better leverage their work. By maximizing the value and potential of experienced workers, employers can create new professional development opportunities that leverage these workers' experience, expertise and life-knowledge. With age comes wisdom. When empowered, experienced employees can lead their companies into the future — guided by their invaluable experience with the past. Sources: 1. "Life expectancy at birth, total (years)." The World Bank, 2017, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/sp.dyn.le00.in

Digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution are rapidly changing how workers perceive their professional futures and career experiences. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and automation are replacing once reliable careers and industries with worried workforces, putting the global economy in a constant state of flux. These technological advancements, however, are revolutionizing how employees perceive and manage their own careers. Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 study reveals that both individual employees and employers must collaborate to address the disruptive impact of advanced technologies. Fortunately, in Latin America, Kimberly-Clark recognized this fact and partnered with Mercer to develop a game-changing approach to professional development in an economy defined by constant digital change. The solution combines the value of seasoned mentors within the workforce and a digital platform that empowers employees to create their own paths toward professional development. The Career Experiences Platform   Kimberly-Clark challenged us with the task of deriving positive outcomes from the costly disruptions that will impact the company's employees and business operations, so we went straight to the source. We surveyed 150 workers and discovered a startling outcome: 4 out of 5 employees reported having a lack of clarity regarding their careers and desired more support in finding that clarity. In light of these responses, we created a digital mechanism that enhanced job satisfaction and career stability for employees in an era haunted by the specter of the unknown. The result was the Career Experience Platform. Kimberly-Clark wanted to provide its employees with ways to advance their careers at a time when the business landscape was being restructured and impacted by forces that people felt were far beyond their control. Knowing this, we dove deeper to gather all the information we could to truly understand what employees were feeling — and why. From our findings, we devised a program based on four key sprints: 1.     Information gathering 2.     Content enhancements 3.     Streamline applicability 4.     Validate everything The results were surprising and incredibly valuable to employees and the company in realizing the importance of unique career-driven experiences. By implementing an agile methodology based on sprints, Mercer was able to seamlessly build and iterate the development of the platform and process within Kimberly-Clark's existing organizational structure. Kimberly-Clark considered Mercer's creative approach to being a flexible and adaptable partner as a key differentiator. Each agile sprint featured a clear objective, from brainstorming and interviewing employees and stakeholders to building detailed experience maps and designing an intuitive interface that employees found engaging. Mercer worked closely with every level of Kimberly-Clark's employee structure in manageable sprints and timelines to ultimately deliver an inspiring digital career playbook and suite of professional development tools and assets, so employees could create their own career path strategies. The Career Experiences platform features a customized host of tools and functionalities that combine the value of human wisdom with digital management insights and capabilities. By providing each employee with recommendations from seasoned mentors within Kimberly-Clark, employees can make informed decisions and professional development choices based on their personal aspirations. This allows employees to take a proactive approach to their own career enhancement through continuing education and select career paths and work experiences. These recommendations, when combined with individual use of the platform to make decisions based on evolving interests, talents and skills, will prove critical in confidently navigating a work environment that is constantly evolving due to the rapid advancement of technological innovation. Self-Determination Through Transparency   Transparency is critical to C-suite leaders and managers who are responsible for the well-being and productivity of their employees. Oftentimes, the higher-ups in large businesses feel disconnected from the realities of their employees and seek ways to genuinely connect with them to understand their challenges, ambitions and professional goals. Our platform democratizes communications between employees and leaders, which increases mutual understanding, while reducing bureaucracy and empowering employees to take control of their own careers. The Career Management Platform offers employees at Kimberly-Clark an invaluable advantage as they consider the future: career management clarity. Designing and fulfilling a career plan is a complex process that involves navigating often nebulous and confusing opportunities and challenges. Mercer developed the platform so employees could leverage a self-administrated tool that grants them access to career experiences and recommendations from senior mentors. This collaborative dynamic provides employees with the ability to easily see they have both a future at Kimberly-Clark and access to top-notch career advice about how to achieve their professional ambitions. The platform compels employees to grow and dream at their own pace while constantly inspiring them to expand their skills, talents and knowledge base — as well as their job security and career paths within the company. Self-administration also allows employees to take control of their own careers and professional development. Everyone knows a friend or family member who had their careers hindered by an unhelpful boss or manager. This platform allows each employee to showcase their goals and accomplishments outside of the bias of any individuals who have disproportionate amounts of control over their future. For executives, this new level of access to the employees and human capital in their businesses is game changing. It's also worth noting that when a productive employee leaves because they feel overlooked, underappreciated or ignored, the multifaceted cost of replacing that employee can be quite burdensome to an organization. In Latin America, only 50% of employees in our engagement survey reported being satisfied with their career development opportunities — meaning there's a chance the other 50% have contemplated looking for a more satisfying job elsewhere. This can be devastating to companies that not only lose valuable people but also must spend significant time, money and resources to replace them. The New Horizontal Upward Mobility   Traditionally, career advancement was defined by moving upward — increasing your salary, position and power by making vertical moves up the corporate ladder. However, today, employees should consider horizontal moves as an effective, long-term career strategy. Our platform can connect employees to unprecedented opportunities for professional development. Though restructuring can mean the elimination of conventional jobs, our new world is increasingly connected by powerful technologies that provide employees the chance to move horizontally to previously overlooked but incredibly rewarding opportunities. For example, an employee could become a first assignment country manager in places such as Bolivia, Nicaragua or Uruguay. Change is underway, and the jobs of tomorrow will not simply require years of toiling behind the same desk or workstation using the same conventional skill sets. Beyond even horizontal shifts, career advancement in the future will require critical thinking abilities forged by challenging job experiences and unique professional histories. It's time to place new value on experiences that can result in more dynamic, well-rounded and informed employees. The Future of Work From Day One   Our research has found that the top three concerns for employees are job stability, salary and future career opportunities. We've developed the user-friendly Career Experiences Platform to reconcile these concerns. Kimberly-Clark trusted us to fulfill their mandate of creating new, unprecedented opportunities for their employees in an economic landscape where nothing is certain. The final result garnered an incredibly enthusiastic response from not only the employees but from their managers and leaders, too, who felt an obligation to provide their employees with a stable and rewarding career experience. The collective response of appreciation was moving for everyone involved. In addition, the platform poses exceptional value to workers and employers, because it can be implemented from day one of an employee's career. It serves as a source of truth throughout their journey within the organization. As the global economy adapts to digital transformation, Latin America and the rest of the world must find ways to empower employees and companies so that human beings and technology continue to invent new ways to find job satisfaction and quality of life. The Career Experiences Platform is an excellent start. The best lesson we learned from this experience is that employees and employers want what is best for each other — and we're glad we can facilitate that connection.  

More from Voice on Growth

Lewis Garrad | 30 Jan 2020

Employee engagement has become a critical topic for HR over the last 10 years as leaders have become convinced by two fundamental management ideas: having the best talent is essential to the future success of any organization, and having a highly engaged workforce is the most effective route to mobilize that talent to deliver what is needed. The result is that many organizations now invest in programs to boost engagement — mostly via an annual employee feedback survey. Yet, many organizations struggle to improve engagement and productivity in their workforce — no matter how much attention leaders and HR teams pay. Organizational inertia (or "drag") is a widespread phenomenon impacting progress on multiple levels.1 Most organizations find that people prefer to maintain the status quo rather than push for real change. This has led many HR leaders to explore what factors create more relevant and meaningful employee engagement. What Does the Science Say?   In a recent meta-analysis, scientists set out to understand how much of someone's engagement at work is predicted by personality.2 With so many organizations focusing on cultural and environmental factors, they wondered to what extent individual differences influence the way people engage with their organization. Their analysis showed that around half of someone's engagement at work is predicted by personality — with enthusiastic, upbeat and conscientious people generally displaying higher levels of engagement. This finding helps us understand why engagement can be so difficult to change. If half of engagement is predicted by personality, then organizational initiatives targeting work practices or work environment can only succeed if they include some impact at the individual level. If engagement is driven by both employee perception and personality, a shift needs to occur at the manager level. Initiatives should be implemented to target the individual employee to help create a stronger connection between that person and the work they do. Cultural/collective changes should also occur to improve conditions, like wellbeing, collaboration, creativity and productivity. This does not mean that hiring "engagable" people is a strategy for success. Diversity in an organization is an incredibly important resource. People who are more skeptical and critical might be more difficult to engage — but they are also far more likely to challenge the status quo. These people are just as important to have in the workplace, and screening them out is not an effective approach. Job Design Can Make Work More Engaging   Recently, the Facebook HR team published research that examined some of the reasons people at the company quit.3 The main reason is that employees find the day-to-day work they are doing less interesting and engaging than they want. For Facebook, it's not managers that are disengaging — it's the jobs. However, job design is typically something that managers do, and they often do it poorly. Managers are rarely given any guidance about how to do it, especially compared to the amount of training they are given about other factors, like performance management. But job design has the potential to be a more important function in people management. As AI becomes more accessible, organizations will outsource transactional work. This creates substantial opportunities to rethink how work gets done, which means we can actually use technology to help us redesign work to make it more interesting and engaging. The second opportunity in this area is adopting evidence-based management. The science behind effective job design is well established. Implementing a simple process and framework is important in empowering managers to assess current job design and improve the quality of work they create. While designing work might seem like an easy task for managers, very few employees will stick to their specific job description. By making job design a collaborative process between manager and employee, research has shown that people who craft their roles are more engaged, productive and see more meaning in what they do. Careers Can Connect Employees With the Future of Your Organization   Most organizations have been focusing on career trajectory for years. Talent reviews, internal job boards, career development conversations with your manager — all these things are designed to enable a more optimistic view about career progression. The problem is these actions do not work as well as they should. Why? Because many people are not clear about the realistic career options available to them at any one time, and the careers that are available now quickly become outdated as the organization changes structure and requirements. Carefully planned careers end up becoming irrelevant as talent demands shift. This is a really challenging topic. Even educators in schools and universities struggle with this problem — what jobs and future careers are available to students now and in the future? Constant social, technological and economic changes make this question impossible to answer. Businesses have the best opportunity to help with this challenge — but it requires a shift in focus from jobs to skills. If organizations can move from thinking of jobs as a list of functions to a bundle of adaptable skills that provide value to customers, then we can start to understand where the valuable and transferable skills are in the business. Making this shift also helps leaders talk to employees in a different way about career progression. Using technology, we can help people see the valuable skills they have, the skills that are decreasing in value and skills they need to stay relevant. Technology can also use individual engagement data to help advise employees which experiences excite them and coach them in a direction that will be the best fit for their personality. In addition to technical skills, organizations also need to think about talent for leadership. Maximizing leadership potential is a topic that many organizations care about but that few do well. As the volume of people data increases, helping people build stronger self-awareness is critical, so those who are best fit for people leadership roles can focus on developing the necessary capabilities. The Benefits of Building a More Holistic Employee Value Proposition   Work needs to be elevated from a list of tasks to be completed and instead viewed as a set of actions that have both personal meaning and commercial value. This shift isn't possible unless the HR function starts to think of the employee value proposition in a vastly different way. The most effective value propositions appreciate the whole employee experience rather than just the narrow "economic" role that work plays. It's relatively easy to make a living but it's hard to do work worth doing. A compelling employee value proposition makes an effort to do both. This means thinking past the transactional elements of the employee (pay and benefits) to incorporate more future-oriented elements of the relationships — the opportunity to innovate and create, experience a sense of sustainable wellbeing and develop new skills. The Value of Thriving at Work   Currently, many engagement programs are focused on answering how to get employees to do more for the organization. But the question that should be asked is, "How can the organization and the employee create a shared future together, using technology to create a healthier and more productive experience?" This changes the relationship dynamic and starts to value the contribution people make in a much broader way. HR leaders should look at building tools that help improve employee self-awareness, connecting what employees think about their work and how they behave in a powerful way. In summary, employee survey programs have been failing for years, in part because they have been so narrowly focused on outcomes, like an "engagement index." As technology starts to democratize the way we use employee feedback data, there is an opportunity to use it in a more two-way fashion to coach both individuals and managers. Keeping improved personal experience at the heart of innovations in employee surveys and feedback can help HR leaders make better decisions in adopting tools that will really work. For more information connect with us here: https://www.mercer.com/what-we-do/workforce-and-careers/talent-strategy/allegro-pulse-survey-platform.html Sources: 1. Garton, Eric. "Your Organization Wastes Time: Here's How to Fix It." Harvard Business Review, 13 Mar. 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/03/your-organization-wastes-time-heres-how-to-fix-it. 2. Young, Henry R.; Glerum, David R.; Wang, Wei; Joseph, Dana L. "Who Are the Most Engaged at Work? A Meta‐Analysis of Personality and Employee Engagement." Wiley Online Library, 23 Jul. 2018, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/job.2303. 3. Goler, Lori; Gale, Janelle; Harrington, Brynn; Grant, Adam. "Why People Really Quit Their Jobs." Harvard Business Review, 11 Jan. 2018, https://hbr.org/2018/01/why-people-really-quit-their-jobs.

Nancy Mann Jackson | 30 Jan 2020

Blockchain technology is not just for high-tech industries; it's gradually becoming an important part of even the most traditional professions, including agriculture. For example, India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry recently announced a blockchain-based e-marketplace for coffee producers. The marketplace is helping bridge the gap between coffee growers and buyers, allowing farmers to drastically increase their income. This initiative reflects a global trend of merging technological advances with agriculture. Blockchain Is Boosting India's Coffee Producers   Coffee produced in India is a premium product, produced by farmers who grow their beans under shade, hand pick them and dry them in the sun. The coffee is sold at premium prices around the world, but the farmers receive only a small portion of the profits, because there are many layers of buying and selling between the grower and the final consumer. The new blockchain-based marketplace app for trading Indian coffee brings growers closer to their ultimate customers, helping them earn fair pay and provide reliable traceability that allows consumers to trace their coffee from bean to cup. For customers, the ability to track the journey of the product they are buying can build trust. From the business perspective, that traceability can result in faster and more accurate recalls, reducing risk of food poisoning. By using the online marketplace, growers no longer have to depend on intermediaries. They can interact directly with buyers and earn fair prices for their products. Exporters can also use the online marketplace to quickly find reliable suppliers and traceable coffee products to meet their needs. When the Indian Coffee Board, a division of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, introduced the e-marketplace in March 2019, a group of about 20 coffee farmers, exporters, importers, roasters and retailers were already registered on the platform from India and abroad.1 From a user perspective, the platform is easy to use. Coffee farmers can log their product credentials, including their relevant certificates, growing location and elevation, details about the crop and other information. For each lot of coffee sold on the marketplace, the system creates a block. That block and its credentials are then stored on the blockchain throughout its journey and are unalterable, creating a record known as a blockchain ledger. A blockchain ledger is useful for all types of agricultural products because of its ability to record and update the status of crops — from planting and harvesting to storage and delivery. A secure, immutable ledger ensures that large agricultural operators never lose a load and that consumers can access the history and details of their food's background. Agricultural Uses of Blockchain Are Expanding Globally   India isn't the only place where the benefits of blockchain technology are having a positive impact on agriculture. France and Ethiopia have also instituted blockchain marketplaces for coffee, and similar marketplaces are operating or under development around the world for other crops and agricultural products. In China, for instance, e-commerce platform JD.com traces the production, selling and delivery process for beef raised in Inner Mongolia and purchased by customers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. By scanning a QR code, a consumer or retailer can see the size and age of the cow, its diet, when it was slaughtered, when the meat was packaged and what the results of the food safety tests were. Another Chinese company uses ankle bracelets on chickens to record the details of each chicken's life using blockchain, providing assurance to consumers that the free-range chicken they're paying for is actually free-range.2 Analysts expect that the blockchain technology market for agriculture around the world will continue to escalate, growing 56.4% from 2018 to 2022.3 Blockchain marketplaces allow producers and buyers to view trade history, local prices and other information that allow them to negotiate prices with confidence. As food producers around the world continue adopting blockchain technology, they bring more efficiency to their supply chains, improving food safety and traceability, as well as profit margins and consumer trust. Clearly, blockchain can bring about positive change in a variety of ways, but adopting and implementing the technology is much easier said than done. In an industry like agriculture, blockchain will have to reshape a decades-old framework, and that won't happen overnight. It's up to leaders everywhere to understand the value of this technology and get their teams on board with implementing it to achieve that value — even if it means starting small. Sources: 1. "Coffee Board Activates Blockchain Based Marketplace in India." Press Information Bureau, 28 Mar. 2019, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=189586. 2. Peters, Adele. "In China, You Can Track Your Chicken On–You Guessed It–The Blockchain." Fast Company, 12 Jan. 2018, https://www.fastcompany.com/40515999/in-china-you-can-track-your-chicken-on-you-guessed-it-the-blockchain. 3. "Global Blockchain Technology Market in the Agriculture Sector 2018-2022." Global Banking & Finance Review, 26 Sep. 2018, https://www.globalbankingandfinance.com/global-blockchain-technology-market-in-the-agriculture-sector-2018-2022-market-to-grow-at-a-cagr-of-56-4-with-agriledger-full-profile-ibm-microsoft-ripe-technology-te-food-dominating-rese/.

Jackson Kam | 30 Jan 2020

China is fostering a culture of innovation throughout its society — but most notably in its startup businesses. Multinationals can take advantage of this increased energy by investing in Chinese startups or taking a cue from how the successful ones — the "unicorns" — are meeting the demands of a growing Chinese consumer base. Multinationals must also be mindful of what Chinese workers desire most from employers, which is the ability to have a healthy work-life balance, according to Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 study. Currently, this is a very real challenge for employees working at tech startups. Developing a Culture of Innovation   To foster this culture of innovation within its industries, the Chinese government is making it easier for entrepreneurs to experiment and grow by implementing more "benign" business regulations. It's also ensuring that there is efficient infrastructure and local support in place.1 One sector that is particularly thriving under this new spirit is insurtech. For example: ZhongAn Online, a digital insurer backed by Ping An, Tencent and Alibaba, has launched a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform for insurance companies, giving them rapid access to ZhongAn's accumulated data on medical claims, medical insurance directories, drug prescriptions and local hospital information across the country.2 Another insurtech example is the partnership between Rui Xin Insurance Technology and China Lending, which aims to help the insurance company develop its own consumer financial platform offering China Lending's products. The two companies will also collaborate to develop more insurance products and attract more customers on both of their platforms.3 These insurtech partnerships exemplify how China is now setting the stage for experimental collaboration and innovation that challenges the status quo. Taking a Cue From Chinese Unicorns   Across many sectors, thousands of Chinese startups are disrupting industries — and stealing customers from established companies — by developing innovative business models to sell even more innovative products.4 Indeed, China has 120 successful startups, more than half of the 234 unicorns globally.5 Chinese startups are excelling because they can quickly reach scale in the large market, and they can tap a growing talent pool, particularly professionals with PhDs — twice as many as those in the U.S. They are also exhibiting a higher risk tolerance that's enabling them to conduct "fearless experimentation" to push out new products as fast as possible. With the rise of digital disruption, these unicorns are eager to take big risks and put their country back on the map as an innovator.5 How Multinationals Can Leverage This Energy   Hengyuan Zhu, associate professor and deputy chair in the Department of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Tsinghua University, believes that startups are successful because they are practicing "contextualized innovation." This entails collaborating with local customers within the country to make sure products meet the specific demands of those localities — and multinational companies operating in China should take a cue.6 "If they want to be successful, multinational companies will have to give more decision-making power to their local branches in China," Zhu said. "They need to do this so that they can leverage global resources, integrate into the innovation system and innovate in China for Chinese customers." An innovative workplace culture must be counterbalanced for organizations to be successful. For instance, organizations need to be willing to experiment but in a highly disciplined manner. Carefully taking this line of thought into consideration in all aspects of the workplace will ensure the success and application of a productive, innovative culture. Dealing with 996: An Unhealthy Work-Life Balance   There is a rising backlash occurring in the Chinese tech community, particularly among startups, that centers on what is known as "996.ICU." The name comes from the typical work schedule for Chinese programmers: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.7 Some startups are forcing their workers to abide by this schedule, either explicitly or by demanding certain KPIs in an unreasonable amount of time. Others are encouraging these schedules by appealing to long-held beliefs within the Chinese culture. For example, Alibaba founder Jack Ma has stated, "No company should or can force employees into working 996 . . . But young people need to understand that happiness comes from hard work. I don't defend 996, but I pay my respect to hard workers!"7 These sentiments are contrary to what the majority of polled Chinese workers shared during the Global Talent Trends 2019 study — that the foremost condition that would help them thrive in the workplace is the ability to manage their work-life balance. This also ranks ahead of their desire to have opportunities to learn new skills and technologies and have a fun work environment. Multinationals considering investment in Chinese startups or taking cues from unicorns may consider adopting many of the attributes of those successfully innovating while fostering a healthier work-life balance for Chinese workers — which can ultimately benefit the organization's bottom line, as well. Sources: 1. Jun, Zie. "Whole-of-society effort drives technology development in China," Global Times, 25 Jun. 2019, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1155732.shtml. 2. Fintech News Hong Kong. "ZhongAn Technology Launches AI-Powered Data Platform for China's Insurance Industry," Fintech News, 14 Aug. 2018, http://fintechnews.hk/6308/insurtech/zhongan-technology-saas-insurance-data/. 3. China Lending Corporation. "China Lending Forges Strategic Partnership with Rui Xin Insurance Technology to Develop Online Financial Services Platform," PR Newswire, 15 Jul. 2019, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/china-lending-forges-strategic-partnership-with-rui-xin-insurance-technology-to-develop-online-financial-services-platform-300884622.html. 4. Greeven, Mark J; Yip, George S. and Wei, Wei. "Understanding China's Next Wave of Innovation," MIT Sloan Management Review, 7 Feb. 2019, https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/understanding-chinas-next-wave-of-innovation/. 5. Nheu, Christopher. "The Secret Behind How Chinese Startups are Winning," Startup Grind, 1 May 2018, https://medium.com/startup-grind/the-secret-behind-how-chinese-startups-are-winning-44876b196626. 6. Zhu, Hengyuan and Euchner, Jim. "The Evolution of China's Innovation Capability," Research-Technology Management, 10 May 2018, http://china.enrichcentres.eu/sharedResources/users/4807/The%20Evolution%20of%20China%20s%20Innovation%20Capability.pdf. 7. Liao, Rita. "China's startup ecosystem is hitting back at demand-working hours," TechCrunch, Apr. 2019, https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/12/china-996/.

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