Amy Scissons

Amy Scissons

Chief Marketing Officer, International at Mercer

Amy has over 20 years of experience leading and developing go-to-market strategies for firms across the globe, primarily in business-to-business finance, technology and consulting industries. Her areas of expertise include marketing strategy, demand generation, customer-centric digital/data-driven marketing, and leading high-performance teams.

Articles

Career

Paternity Leave Plays Important Role in Women's Empowerment in Japan

New fathers' willingness and ability to take paternity leave is an important signal of women's participation and empowerment in the workplace in Japan.

Paternity Leave Plays Important Role in Women's Empowerment in Japan
Career

Learning and Development Drives Value for a Diverse Workforce

In today's world, the need to develop and retain a diverse workforce is more challenging than ever. Simply tasking talent acquisition with "solving" the diversity problem won't work, because a failure to also grow and develop those diverse individuals will lead to retention and engagement problems. This is echoed in a comment from the Mercer report Diversity and Inclusion Technology: The Rise of a Transformative Market: "Leaders increasingly understand that not having a diverse organization and an inclusive culture is a systemic problem, therefore individual interventions alone will not work." The good news is there are targeted ways to specifically support the needs of a diverse workforce. Before jumping right into the details, let's first take a look at the importance of building, maintaining and nurturing a diverse workforce. Benefits of a Developed, Diverse Workforce   In order to survive, companies today are having to prioritize agility in every facet of the business, including in HR. Research from Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report shows that approximately 30% of companies are confident in their ability to change at speed and rapidly navigate disruptive trends with minimal business upsets. So, what does an agile approach to HR look like in practice? This agility and confidence comes, in part, from having a well-developed, diverse workforce. Upskilling employees to meet tomorrow's demands for the business can ease any transitions caused by business disruption, from digital automation to industry convergence and everything in between. Imagine the competitive position of being agile enough to smoothly navigate those broad, sweeping industry changes that are crippling competitors. In order to get to that point, however, you need to focus on what a diverse workforce needs. Understanding the Needs of a Diverse Work Population   To start, today's talent demands a hiring process that showcases opportunities for skills development. In Mercer's 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, only 66% of employees said their company gives them the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. That said, according to Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report, the workplace priorities for individuals around the world differ slightly. Across the globe, employees and employers place varying degrees of priority on the need for upskilling. In some countries, developing new skills outranks all other factors in terms of what workers want from the employment relationship. Globally, it ranks at number three in the list of what employees want from their employer. For instance: 1.  Brazil: Recognition for contributions ranks first in priorities, as it does throughout most of the world, but the second priority for workers is upskilling and developing new capabilities. 2.  Mexico: Having the opportunity to learn new skills and technology is the first priority for employees, followed by managing work-life balance. 3.  China: For Chinese employees, work-life balance is the first priority, followed by learning new skills. Their third priority is engaging in a fun work environment. 4.  Middle East: Above all else, opportunities to develop new skills and learn new technologies is the top priority in the Middle East, followed by work-life balance in second, and working on meaningful projects in third. These preferences can play out in different ways. For instance, more than 9 out of 10 Mexican workers would be willing to work in a more casual, freelance-style arrangement, which demonstrates an appetite for new work opportunities and an interest in managing their own schedule to some degree, which ties in with their high ratings in work-life balance. While the selections vary a bit by country, they paint an interesting picture of how — despite all the global, cultural and geographic differences — employees want very similar things from the work environment. The challenge manifests in how employers approach skills development. Reskilling, Upskilling and Fostering Your Workforce   When it comes to reskilling and upskilling, traditional training isn't always the best method to use, because it usually doesn't address the more specific needs of a multicultural workforce. For instance, in a lecture-style session, it's challenging to get audience members to understand a subject when it isn't put into a context relevant to them. Additionally, it can prove difficult to have conversations when the audience is not comfortable broaching a subject within a broad group. However, as Mercer's Diversity and Inclusion report notes, employers can use several unique methods that leverage new technologies to support these types of challenges. One such example is the use of private communication channels. New tools, such as those provided by Translator and other vendors, allow participants in classroom trainings to ask difficult questions anonymously, enabling the trainer to serve as a moderator for better balanced discussions. These tools also allow trainers to do pulse surveys of the audience to evaluate comfort levels with the conversation topics over time. Leveraging new technologies and methods like this can have an impressive impact on developing your workforce — which comes with its own set of benefits, too. Though, It's worth noting that prioritizing development without an equal emphasis on retention can lead to poor results. There's nothing more frustrating than developing a key individual only to have them leverage those new skills at a competing firm. That is why, instead of seeing learning as an end goal, employers must look at it as a continuous series of steps on an employee's career journey. While the data shows that employees crave development and appreciate its impact on their careers, employers must tap into more innovative approaches to learning in order to remain competitive. Developing all workers, including those with multicultural backgrounds and other diverse needs, is the secret to sustained business performance over time.

Learning and Development Drives Value for a Diverse Workforce
CAREER + RETIRE

With Age Comes Wisdom: Thinking Strategically About Experienced Employees

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

With Age Comes Wisdom: Thinking Strategically About Experienced Employees
Career

Thoughtful Communication Can Empower International Teams

What does it take to lead successful international teams? Successful teams are often united over a common goal and a shared set of experiences. But, as the workforce becomes more distributed and business travel becomes increasingly burdensome to the bottom line and detrimental to the environment, leaders need to be more creative in developing and fostering positive team dynamics. With fewer face-to-face meetings, how are international leaders coalescing their teams? Here are four habits I have adopted that you should consider in managing international teams: Habit 1: Remove the Mentality of "You Need to Be There"   Technology is, without a doubt, the game changer when it comes to international team effectiveness. Yet, human-led organizations often struggle to accommodate and leverage the speedy and persistent nature of change brought by digital technologies. There are, of course, times when face-to-face meetings are required; however, Mercer has noticed clients are demonstrating an increasing comfort level with holding seminars, conferences and other traditional in-person interactions via online meeting platforms. Though the virtual workforce trend is nothing new, it has reached an inflection point where clients often prefer to partner with companies that actively internalize the power and practicality of being agile, versatile and virtual. Today's transformative Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) urge their C-suite peers to adopt have this mindset and leverage differentiating new technologies. As managers, marketing leaders will find that their employees and marketing teams are more productive and online more, if allowed to do their work on their own time. People react well to not only managing their work but also having the flexibility to set their own schedules. At Mercer, we have seen our people work with more excitement, passion and collaborative enthusiasm when provided the freedom to excel according to their personal cadences. Let talented people do what they need to do to get stuff done. Habit 2: Cross-Cultural Communication With International Teams   With the direction set and the team empowered to find their path forward, it's time to focus on communication. Different cultures, of course, perceive, process and interpret information and context differently. These differences can create communication breakdowns that are extremely costly in terms of time, quality and money. Effective messaging is direct and only refers to limited but critical pieces of information that necessitate a particular email, phone call or conversation. Inspiring leaders find their voice and communicate in a way that is simple, memorable and supportive. All correspondences among international teams should be carefully packaged, contained and well thought out. Don't underestimate the power of repetition. Often, when dealing with team members from multiple cultures and languages, repetition of established goals, processes, timelines and expectations is vital to successful outcomes. Repetition, when done with tact and clear intentions, is not disrespectful or seen as micromanaging. It bolsters the ability of everyone on the team to achieve their goals (honestly, I find repetition extremely helpful. By the time I'm reminded what we're trying to get done three or four times — especially in a few different ways — it sticks!). When you're dealing with cross-border teams, never assume that everyone fully understands the strategy and desired results on the first two or three discussions. Using repetition creatively helps the team focus on the north star. Habit 3: Be Succinct and Culturally Aware   Cultural awareness is learned. It took me a while to appreciate and understand the nuances of each member of my team, not only in their approach to solving problems, but the influence of their culture on their overall outlook. Our research on diversity and inclusion points to the value of ensuring all voices are heard on the team. As a matter of fact, there are a range of products today designed to enable employees to share their perspectives (separate from employee engagement surveys) — and many of these are being tailored for D&I purposes. With international teams, this lesson is particularly punctuated. When team members in Tokyo, Taiwan and Mexico City are speaking to each other, ensuring they use the same direct, simple and familiar language increases efficiency and the likelihood of success. Being culturally sensitive and aware is incredibly important. Years ago, I used to feel very concerned if people were not speaking up in marketing meetings or weren't instantly on video conferences showing their face, but I realized over time that people need to communicate in ways that make sense to them. As a leader, I've learned it is my responsibility to respect other people's learning and working styles and that — if I did that — these individuals would become increasingly more open and trusting of me. Marketing leaders have to earn trust, just like everyone else. It is important to not expect that people think and act the way you think and act. People come from different perspectives and have different personality types — from introverts to extroverts and everything in between. And that diversity is instrumental to success. Habit 4: Lead With Genuine Positivity   My favorite habit, is bringing my whole self to work. As leaders, we must make a conscious effort to be encouraging and find genuine, sincere ways to boost people's confidence. This takes time and awareness as each person behaves according to varying types of motivations, instructions and sensibilities. As a company, we have to be demanding, because we have aggressive goals. However, the most effective and rewarding route to achieving those goals is by making the conscious decision to encourage employees as they execute their responsibilities — especially during challenging times. Regardless of gender, race or nationality, I think that one overriding universal truth is that people respond more graciously, productively and passionately to authentic positive feedback and encouragement. I know this personally, because I have benefited from positive reinforcement many times in my career — often when I needed it the most — from my peers, colleagues and fellow team members. It really helps. In fact, the most successful leaders I know and have worked with are extremely positive people. Teams and individuals need to be reminded, particularly during tough times, that they are doing excellent work and they are moving in the right direction. Never underestimate how much a genuine comment, like "You're doing a great job" and "Keep going" can do for someone who feels overwhelmed, underappreciated or unmotivated at a particular moment in their career. Positivity is all about appreciating the time and work employees invest into success and giving them credit for their efforts and accomplishments. Originally published in Thrive Global.

Thoughtful Communication Can Empower International Teams
Career

Achieving Work-Life Balance In The Era Of ‘ALWAYS ON’

Building habits to keep your sanity is key when taking on a global role. I’ve held a global role for so long that I’m not sure I remember a time where I didn’t have to check my email on a Sunday night as my team in Asia got into the office or join calls late into the night or early in the morning. And, according to a recent survey by Harvard Business Review, 94% percent of professionals work 50 hours or more a week, so I know I’m not alone in this. As marketers, we’re constantly tasked to come up with the next big creative campaign. Creativity is often found when you lean away from your work, not into it. It’s no coincidence that inspiration comes when we least expect it – on the train to work, in the shower, while you’re watching TV. When we give ourselves time to breathe, magic happens. But when you have a global role, it can be difficult to disconnect. I’ve outlined my top three tips on how I manage my work and life priorities. Learn which fires you need to fight   As leaders, we’re often good at knowing where to prioritize and focus our attention on when faced with a work challenge or emergency. But, do you practice this at home as well? With two kids, there are key things that I don’t want to miss, and when things get overwhelming, I prioritize time spent with them in the way I would a work task. I may not be able to take them to school every morning because of calls, but I make sure to have dinner with them at least four times a week and make my work schedule around important events in their lives. Schedule time away   In an ideal world, we’d all use our paid time off to take relaxing vacations at regular intervals to help us recharge. But, sadly, that isn’t the reality for most leaders. When I can’t schedule paid time off, I make sure to put time in my calendar away from my desk, doing things I love, whether it’s an hour, an afternoon or a whole day. Keep interruptions to a minimum   When you’re in the middle of a task or project and get interrupted, it can take twice as long to complete. By keeping interruptions to a minimum during your workday, you can get through more each day, giving you time to contemplate whether or not you really need to sign on after the kids are in bed. While it was a difficult habit to adopt, I find I’m so much more productive and more present in both my work and home life. Slow and steady wins the race   Adopting any new habit is difficult, but choosing one that’s for your well-being can seem impossible. It causes you to have to put boundaries in place at work and home, and it takes discipline and focus. As both a mom and an international leader, I’ve learned how important it is to be present in both of my roles. The perfect work-life balance may not exist, but I’m getting closer to what works best for me every day. What do you to help keep your sanity between work and home responsibilities? Originally published in Thrive Global.

Achieving Work-Life Balance In The Era Of ‘ALWAYS ON’

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