Innovation

Blockchain in HR: Interesting Use Cases for Human Resources

29 July, 2019
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"Blockchain technology will be integrated directly into the HR function through a multitude of use cases—lending transparency and trust. "

There is a significant opportunity for blockchain to establish itself in human resources. Learn about HR blockchain use cases.

Blockchain technology is perhaps best known for its role in safeguarding the cryptocurrency infrastructure (e.g. Bitcoin), making financial transactions secure without the need for a bank or a middleman. But the technology is eyeing a landing in the human resources space, which will inevitably change the way that HR professionals handle large amounts of sensitive employee data and deploy various HR processes.

As blockchain technology becomes more mainstream and accessible, all members of the HR department—from recruiters to the senior leadership—will likely find it disrupting their daily workflows, including the recruitment process, tapping talent pools, running background checks, verifying employment history, engaging contract workers with smart contracts, onboarding, maintaining employee data, maintaining employees’ personal data, handling financial transactions and managing payroll systems. It can even simplify cross-border payments by automating real-time exchange rates and other jurisdiction parameters, which hold implications for businesses that hire and operate globally.

One of the first challenges HR professionals face is understanding the fundamentals of what blockchain is and how it functions. Simply put, a blockchain is a distributed digital public ledger used to keep track of records. The term block is simply another word for record. A blockchain, at its core, is simply a chain of records. Blockchain is special and distinct from other recordkeeping systems because it relies on a distributed ledger, meaning the chain of records is subsequently stored across a large network of independent computers. This decentralizes and encrypts the data, making it safe and secure.

The high level of security makes blockchain technology a good match for the HR industry, which is often charged with managing large amounts of sensitive data about a company and its employees.

Despite all the ways blockchain technology could potentially disrupt human resource management, HR teams need not panic. There is still some time to prepare for the coming blockchain revolution—and the technology has a strong track record of success in the industries it has touched so far. For example, banks can now reduce infrastructure cost by 30% through blockchain solutions. This is achieved by encrypting millions of storage points, none of which contain a full name or an account number.

While just 0.5% of the global population is currently using blockchain technology, the demand is rising and it is expected that 80% of the population will be involved with blockchain technology in some capacity within 10 years. For HR teams, the mainstream adoption of blockchain could unlock value and benefit for employers and employees alike, starting with the ability of hiring managers to put the right people in the jobs.

To show how it could work on both sides of the employer relationship, blockchain can enable individuals to maintain, secure and offer controlled access to a comprehensive blockchain-driven digital ID that includes critical information about them to employers. This could include education, skills, training and professional performance. Through this digital ID, individuals would be able to turn their credentials into real value in the employment market while employers are able to identify the right employees more accurately and effectively through data-driven insights.

If its success in banking and supply chain is any indication, blockchain is poised to innovate the ways we manage human capital in many different capacities.      Now is the time that the industry is piloting and envisioning various use cases.

Examples of use cases for blockchain HR
 

Blockchain is disrupting many of the industries that HR departments work alongside with in order to manage human capital. For example, aside from blockchain’s prevalence in the banking industry, Forbes has identified the healthcare industry as one of the top industries likely to be disrupted. According to Bitfortune, 55% of healthcare applications will adopt blockchain for commercial deployment by 2025. HR departments will therefore need to be on the forefront of the evolving healthcare landscape—including the implementation of blockchain—so they can continue to be an authority on delivering healthcare plans and wellness programs to employees.

But the use of blockchain will be more than just a concept HR professionals need to be aware of for partnership purposes. Because the HR department is the keeper of so much of the data that is critical to employees’ lives and how a company operates, blockchain technology will be integrated directly into the HR function through a multitude of use cases—lending transparency and trust.  

1.  Strengthen security for sensitive personal & financial data.
 

HR teams are tasked with conducting some of the highest-volume financial transactions for an organization as well as handling sensitive employee data related to pay, healthcare, finance, banking, disciplinary records, performance records, expense reimbursement, and more.

All of the data an HR department maintains is at risk of being exploited and, as more companies face data breaches, it is of utmost importance that safeguards are in place to prevent fraud and maintain security. In the face of rising cybersecurity crime, blockchain technology is being lauded as a solution.

Blockchain’s role as a game-changer for human resources is defined by its security capabilities. In fact, blockchain has proven itself to be so effective for risk management and software security that even aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin is using it.

Implementing blockchain can help thwart both internal fraud and external hacks of sensitive employee records. Access to the blockchain is limited and controlled and even those with access can’t arbitrarily make changes to the record. This limits both internal fraud and external hacks of sensitive employee records.

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) in HR, there is growing concern as hackers often get in the door by strategically exploiting weaknesses in edge devices. The vigilance applied to computers is often neglected when ensuring the security of IoT devices, leaving organizations vulnerable to hacks. Blockchain offers strong protections against data tampering by locking access to IoT devices and shutting down compromised devices within the IoT network if a security event is suspected.

Blockchain serves to effectively decentralize data as a key defense against hacks and fraud. Data is part of a company’s currency in the digital age. It is fast becoming one of the most prized assets a company has. If you store all your jewelry, cash and other valuables in one location of your home, what happens if a burglar enters your home and finds this location? Because blockchain spreads data across a large network of computer storage spaces, it is like placing your most valuable belongings across a multitude of locations to mitigate your risk of being severely impacted or wiped out by a single hacking event.

2.  Improve recruiting processes, verification of job qualifications & background checks.
 

Whether we call it lying, embellishing or stretching the truth about work history, we know that sometimes what you see on a candidate’s CV is not always what you’re getting. A reported 75% of HR managers have identified a lie on a CV. With nearly 20% of hiring managers also reporting they spend less than 30 seconds looking at a CV, it is impossible to know how many fabrications actually go undetected.

Perhaps the greatest advantage that blockchain can offer is trust in the veracity of its data. In current recruitment systems, it is difficult to determine the accuracy of a potential employee’s work and education history. Even the most seasoned recruiters can be deceived by a candidate’s falsified employment history and education credentials.

Traditionally HR managers have relied on CVs, which applicants can modify and embellish. While LinkedIn and reference calls can be used to verify some information, these methods only provide a thin layer of verification. Additionally, these analog processes can also be time consuming and a hassle. 

As many HR professionals can confirm, conducting a traditional background check can be slow and expensive. It can also place a burden on candidates, requiring numerous forms to be filled out. Blockchain can reduce the labor and expense currently associated with background checking.  

Although blockchain cannot guarantee all inaccuracies or exaggerations will be detected, it can effectively reduce incidents. It also provides employers with the most accurate snapshot of a candidate’s credentials and background.

The benefit of blockchain is also passed on to candidates in the form of confidence, allowing them to apply to roles that they know they are qualified for. It also mitigates the concern that other candidates might be getting ahead of them by applying to the same job with fraudulent resumes and qualifications. This transparency levels the playing field for all candidates

3.  Streamline payroll, contractor payments & vendor tracking.
 

One of the most common use cases for blockchain HR involves a company’s largest expense and the process that employees appreciate the most: payroll. Blockchain has the power to replace many of the manual tasks and eliminate time lags within current payroll systems. Blockchain also offers ‘smart contract’ solutions that allow a company to automate and secure payments to contractors and vendors.

Global companies in particular could enjoy benefits with blockchain when it comes to issuing cross-border payroll to employees in overseas jurisdictions. Blockchain automatically sifts through exchange rates and communicates with intermediary banks so employees can be paid quickly—and at a lower cost to employers in the long term.

Through smart contracts, some organizations are using blockchain to pay out employees, contractors and vendors. In fact, it is reported that 45% of early adopters of blockchain are already implementing smart contracts within their organizations.

A smart contract writes out in code a set of parameters using statements in ‘if this, then that” (IFTTT) language. These contracts can be designed so that, once put in motion, the payment process is made entirely dependent on these codes. It is also made irreversible unless of course terms of a contract need to be updated.

When a certain number of hours of work have been completed (this would be a potential ‘if this’ variable), the smart contract automatically pays the employee, contractor or vendor the correct payment (a ‘then that’ variable) by deploying the ascribed piece of remotely executable code. This code is linked to an instruction from the company’s bank account to the contractor’s bank account, which ultimately facilitates the payment.

HR would not need to contact their company’s bank or do a monthly payment run. Instead, the transparent, real-time blockchain ledgers help track invoices and facilitate distribution, billing and reporting of transactions. There is also no need to wait for the usual payroll processing time.

The smart contract functions as a guarantee that work is completed and that the payment will make it to the employee, contractor or vendor properly and in a timely fashion.

4.  Automate taxes & mitigate the strain of audits.
 

Taxation plays a critical role in the life of a business or an individual. For HR professionals, constantly evolving tax laws and regulations across jurisdictions ensure they often have their hands full properly issuing taxes. Payroll taxes are then only further complicated by other factors like bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, back pay, accumulated sick time pay, human resources expenses, and beyond.

Blockchain’s keen ability to record and update employee tax considerations and provisions automatically is catching the attention of the HR industry. By wielding the capability to streamline and secure the taxation process, it is likely that blockchain-powered platforms will become the record of choice for HR departments around the globe.

Speaking of taxes, no business wants to be hit with an audit but it does happen. Audits are so daunting that it has actually held back countless businesses that only feel comfortable maintaining physical record systems, despite the time, energy and money they require to properly upkeep.  

If presented with an audit, having blockchain technology already in place is like having a life preserver thrown out to you while you’re struggling to stay afloat in choppy waters. The blockchain makes it easier for a business to sustain an audit because it can securely share its records with regulators in near real-time. The time and cost spent for document collection is subsequently reduced drastically. Furthermore, the blockchain’s cryptographic hashes and source verification build a strong barrier against document manipulation and fraud.

5.  Enhance employee experience with better access to benefit packages & a dynamic expense reimbursement system.
 

HR and employees alike will appreciate blockchain’s ability to expedite access to benefits packages. Once employers outline the terms of employment prior to hiring, it is HR’s responsibility to uphold the conditions in the contract. The traditional model requires manual implementation of provisions that might impact an employee’s benefits package, running risks of errors or preventing proper delivery of benefits.

Inputting these terms into blockchain technology instead allows HR to seamlessly deliver upon these benefits. For example, if a company outlines that an employee’s healthcare benefits are due to kick in after a 90 day waiting period, the blockchain technology can be engineered to implement those benefits at the right time. Again, this is coded through the same IFTTT language that governs smart contracts.

Apart from healthcare benefits, Blockchain can potentially offer a more robust approach to pay scales by applying defined salary increases for identified skills or key capabilities that are deemed valuable to the company. They can also administer performance-based bonus awards to employees in a more measurable, data-driven way.

Blockchain expands on the employee experience even in the realm of expense reimbursement. In its current format, reimbursing employees can be nebulous and time consuming. For employees, they are often forced to wait for paperwork to go through and checks to clear. For HR, it can also create pain points and expend time and energy.

Blockchain is disrupting the expense reimbursement scene by allowing organizations to create their own company currency. In developing an individualized cryptocurrency unique to their company, organizations will reduce expenditures associated with the current expense reimbursement process: elimination of processing fees, accounting for international exchange rates, reducing in-house HR staff, etc. This also appeals to both parties in the transaction and provides corporate mobility, with businesses now having the ability to easily reimburse between various jurisdictions.

With current reimbursement system, there is an ongoing conflict between employer and employee about what should be compensated, what should not, how, when, etc. Blockchain-led solutions ensure transparency, with all company-funded transactions linked into the blockchain network.

Though initially cultivated in the cryptocurrency industry, blockchain is branching out into the world of work. There are many potential uses for blockchain technology, which could disrupt hiring, payroll, taxation, benefits administration, data storage, and so much more. Despite current challenges in cost and scalability, the case for blockchain HR is strong.

Promoting transparency and trust in company processes are two priorities for HR professionals as they manage human capital and face a competitive hiring landscape. While the technical performance of blockchain technology and its ability to encrypt and offer laser sharp accuracy are hardly up for debate, blockchain’s success will ultimately depend on how well it is able to infuse trust and transparency into an organization’s operations.   

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Wejdan Alosaimi | 17 Oct 2019

For many decades, Saudi Arabia — as a nation, culture and economic force — has been inextricably tied to oil exports and the energy industry. However, a bold new vision, named Saudi Vision 2030, aims to wean the country off its dependencies on fossil fuels through the creation of sweeping new reforms and policies. This vision looks to modernize Saudi Arabia, both as a domestic society and a global financial powerhouse. The Power of Embracing Change   In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud led the unveiling of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative, which detailed the nation's unprecedented and extraordinary commitment to emerge as a leader in a rapidly evolving world. As oil prices continue to react to new economic realities and regional political forces shape the roles and objectives of nations throughout the Middle East, Saudi Arabia's decision to proactively embrace change could have extraordinary foreign and domestic ramifications. 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"Saudi Arabia's 'Vision 2030': Will It Save Or Sink the Middle East?" E-International Relations, 10 Jul. 2018, https://www.e-ir.info/2018/07/10/saudi-arabias-vision-2030-will-it-save-or-sink-the-middle-east/. 5. "Saudi Arabia Vision — Goals and Objectives." GO-Gulf, 14 Jul. 2016,https://www.go-gulf.com/blog/saudi-arabia-vision-2030/.

Varun Khosla | 03 Oct 2019

For decades, any conversation involving startups and executive compensation conjured images of Silicon Valley and shiny office buildings full of technology virtuosos working for innovative companies striving to be the next billion-dollar unicorn. Now, a new era of global startups is taking root in previously unexpected regions around the world. In fact, recent research reveals that $893 million was invested in 366 startups throughout the Middle East and North Africa. That number represents a $214 million increase from 2017, which saw $679 million in startup investments.1 Similarly, startups are increasing in Southeast Asia, largely driven by "SEA turtles" — locally born residents who studied and worked overseas (mostly in the West, in places like Silicon Valley) and are returning home to launch their own startup companies. The region has experienced a major inflection point, with VC investors in Southeast Asia investing over $7.8 billion across 327 deals.2 There's one key component all these startups need, however: leadership. But attracting and retaining executive-level talent and management teams can be a major challenge for these burgeoning startup hotbeds, especially when it comes to compensation. Corporate Investors Are Changing Executive Compensation   Many of the world's most recognizable startups were launched by charismatic, individual founding partners, such as Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma and Mark Zuckerberg. However, the rise of these luminaries and their compelling stories do not mirror the new era of startups blossoming around the world. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), for example, investment companies are providing the initial financial backing needed to launch startups. These investment companies are there from day one to ensure the startups have the capital needed to secure subsequent rounds of funding. Additionally, the executives of these startups are not the original founders and, therefore, desire different compensation models to secure their continued loyalty, creativity and commitment. Acquiring top C-level talent for startups can be a daunting task, as the risk level is high for businesses that do not have a proven track record — or any record at all. Traditionally, western-based startups have fashioned executive compensation packages around medium- to long-term benchmarks predicated on the company's expected growth, but triangulating growth models, investment strategies and executive payment packages can be a complicated and tenuous proposition. Since most global startups today are built around investment companies instead of inspirational individual founders, these companies must be diligent when determining how or how much to pay the executives — who can ultimately mean the difference between success and failure. How Much Should Executive Compensation Be?   Investment companies naturally want to maximize their profits, which means they want to retain as much equity in the startup and as many shares of the startup as possible. Every dollar, share of stock or option paid to startup executives is money the investment companies surrender to operational costs. However, low-balling startup executives or opting to hire those who aren't as skilled or experienced also comes with the risk of undermining the startup's ability to compete, grow and drive revenue. Financial arrangements that provide management with a potential share of equity (or shadow equity) require careful thought and consideration. An executive compensation plan must act as an incentive and retention device for startup executives while delivering a fair return to investors and shareholders who have funded the company. Investors and shareholders must decide how much dilution of equity they are willing to accept to provide an appropriate equity pool for the management team. This is why many companies decide to execute a scaled approach that decreases the size of the equity pool with each round of funding to accommodate the increasing value of the company. This type of program impacts the dilution of equity and can allow for more creative compensation strategies — particularly when dealing with more sophisticated startups, such as in the pharma and fintech industries, which require the talent and knowledge of more accomplished professionals and leaders. 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Or should executive compensation be based on employees performing their jobs to the best of their abilities, regardless of the outcomes — which are often determined by external economic forces beyond their control. Many startups now implement the former strategy, believing that benchmarks for returns on investments motivate executives and provide them with the extra incentive to do everything possible to create shareholder value. In fact, in a majority of cases, long-term incentive plans only pay out when investors receive a return. Alternately, some startups choose to compensate executives and management based on specific, mutually agreed upon corporate goals and objectives. Compensation can then be provided as cash or shares, though there may be restrictions on when those shares can be sold or vested or whether they come in the form of options or full-value shares. 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Jackson Kam | 05 Sep 2019

Over the past few years, China has emerged as a powerhouse in the increasingly digitized, e-commerce-driven world. Its digital economy accounted for 38.2% of its GDP growth in the first half of 2018,1 and it also happens to be home to 9 of the top 20 internet companies in the world, including the search engine Baidu, e-commerce behemoth Alibaba and internet services provider Tencent.2 China's success can serve as a lesson for companies and economies around the world that are pushing to remain relevant and keep a competitive edge. Policy Initiatives Help Drive Digitization   One driver behind China's success is the government's focus on shifting to a digital economy. In 2015, China's State Council, the highest organ of state administration, issued a report called "Made in China 2025." The document outlines its strategy for transforming China's manufacturing base through digital innovation. 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Since 2000, it's gone from about $40 billion to $443 billion, just shy of the $484 billion invested within the U.S., according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.6 China is also working to minimize any digital divide between citizens in its major cities and more remote areas. Several provinces have developed plans to digitize their economies. For example, the province of Guizhou plans to grow its digital economy by 20% annually.7 The World Economic Forum also explains that, in what are known as Taobao villages, at least 10% of households run online stores for Taobao, which is the shopping site for e-commerce behemoth Alibaba. Across one such village, this generates e-commerce revenues of at least $1.6 million, and more than 1,000 of these villages dot the Chinese countryside.8 Along with financial investment, policies that enable technology companies to thrive are essential to an economy's digital transformation and success in an e-commerce world. This includes an educational model that helps students develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as digital literacy. Moreover, education shouldn't stop once students graduate — instead, it needs to continue through training programs that help those employed stay abreast of advancing technology. Robust capital markets, solid protection for intellectual property and mechanisms to prevent and detect corruption are additional requirements for a strong, innovative technology sector. Collaboration between private and public sectors, such as programs that nurture new businesses, also contributes to a thriving digital environment. Start with Your Employees to Build a Digital Workforce   Businesses, as well as governments, can prepare for a growing digital environment and remain relevant and competitive. Somewhat surprisingly, it makes sense to focus on the workforce first and then the technology. Employees can make or break even the most advanced technology solutions. 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Invest in Technology to Keep Pace with Innovation   Of course, technology plays a vital role in digital success. Constraints, such as inadequate network capabilities and legacy applications that can't integrate with new systems, have impacted the digital transformation activities for three quarters of brands, according to a survey by manufacturing services company Jabil. Fortunately, 99% are investing in new technology to replace outdated platforms that hinder their operations.9 China's rise as a digital power is the result of planning, investment and work — and both companies and countries can learn from their digital efforts and e-commerce successes. Sources: 1 China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Xinhua News, December 23, 2018,http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-12/23/c_137693489.htm. 2 Heimburg, Fabian von, "Here are 3 lessons Europe can learn from China's flourishing start-ups," World Economic Forum, September 15, 2018,https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/3-lessons-europe-can-learn-from-china-flourishing-start-up-ecosystem/. 3 World Payments Report 2018," Capgemini and BNP Paribas Services, https://worldpaymentsreport.com/non-cash-payments-volume/. 4 State Council of China, "Made in China 2025," IoT One, July 7, 2015,http://www.cittadellascienza.it/cina/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/IoT-ONE-Made-in-China-2025.pdf. 5 The Made in China 2025 Initiative: Economic Implications for the United States," Congressional Research Service, August 29, 2018,The Made in China 2025 Initiative: Economic Implications for the United States," Congressional Research Service, August 29, 2018,https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10964.pdf. 6Gross domestic spending on R&D," Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED), accessed on April 1, 2019,https://data.oecd.org/rd/gross-domestic-spending-on-r-d.htm.https://data.oecd.org/rd/gross-domestic-spending-on-r-d.htm. 7CAICT under MIIT, "China's digital economy surges 18.9%, drives growth," China Daily, July 20, 2017,http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-07/20/content_30179729.htm. 8Wenway, Winston Ma, "China's mobile economy, explained," World Economic Forum, June 26, 2017,https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/china-mobile-economy-explained. 9Digital Transformation Strategies: How are They Changing?" Jabil,https://www.jabil.com/insights/blog-main/how-are-digital-transformation-strategies-changing.html.

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Amy Scissons | 28 Nov 2019

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.

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.  

Didintle Kwape | 14 Nov 2019

Africa's youth employees are a valuable, ample talent source that multinational companies can tap as they expand their operations throughout the continent. Record numbers of teenagers and young adults in Africa are either unemployed or underemployed but are willing to work if given the chance. In South Africa alone, where the unemployment rate is expected to grow beyond 30% this year, two-thirds of the jobless are between 15 and 24 years of age.1 Realizing the Untapped Talent Pool   "We are very much alive to the fact that youth unemployment is indeed a national crisis," stated South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in June 2019.2 Governments across the continent are now rewriting labor laws and breaking down bureaucratic hurdles to make hiring youth less cumbersome for both multinational corporations and local small businesses. They are also teaming up with nonprofit organizations to nurture young talent and teach necessary workforce skills. Alliances are being forged to aid these efforts, such as the International Labour Organization's (ILO) partnership with the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Together, they hope to address youth employment at regional and national levels. To better prepare youth for work, the ILO provides employment services, skills development and labor market training — with a focus on technical and vocational education, apprenticeship and job placement services for disadvantaged youth.3 In June, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Young Africa Works program, a public-private partnership for youth employees between the Mastercard Foundation, the Kenyan government and the private sector. Within the next five years, the program aims to groom and place five million young Kenyans in "dignified and fulfilling work." 4 The MasterCard Foundation, along with two Kenyan banks — Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank, as well as their respective foundations — will provide about $1 billion in capital, business development services and market linkages for the program. The aim is to create these jobs for youth employees, which will also help over 200,000 micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises strengthen their productivity, sustainability and creation growth.4 The international hotel industry is one sector that's nurturing the development of the continent's youth, as hoteliers expand into Africa's emerging markets, according to Jan Van Der Putten, Hilton's VP of Operations for Africa and Indian Ocean.5 Hilton now has 46 hotels open across Africa, including sites in Morocco, Kenya, Zambia and Botswana, with plans to more than double that amount in the next five years. Expansions in tourism and hospitality will not only boost socioeconomic growth, but it will also provide meaningful employment opportunities. As such, it's paramount to foster an environment to help African youth workers succeed. Training the Youth of Today   In addition to basic workforce skills, the emerging digital economy also requires youth employees to learn the skills of digital fluency, creative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, empathy and adaptability.6 Simbarashe Moyo, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar at the University of the Witwatersrand, notes, "Although countries like Rwanda and Kenya are already making considerable progress in preparing their youth for the digital economy and the future of work, more African countries are yet to take meaningful action to address the yawning skills-gap and digital infrastructure inadequacies bedeviling the continent."7 Moyo advises that African nations need to equip youth for the future of work. First, they must create responsive education systems that will equip the youth with the proper skills and a sense of responsibility. They also need to develop a nationwide digital infrastructure to improve interconnectivity between nations. In addition, to keep stakeholders in check within the expanding digital economy, they need to formulate proper regulatory policies. Lastly, they need to optimize public-private cooperation to support digital training initiatives on a larger scale. "Collaboration between governments, multinational development banks and the private sector will create room for innovative financial models which promote upskilling among Africa's youth," Moyo writes. "This will also reduce inequalities caused by duplication of efforts, especially when establishing digital infrastructure in African nations. Public-private cooperation will therefore enable more young Africans to access training programs and digital infrastructure." Empowering the New Workforce   Employers can also take advantage of the rising use of mobile phones among Africa's youth by providing training and development programs via mobile apps. Workers in South Africa echo the sentiments of those in other countries who rate opportunities to learn new skills and technologies as the number one way they can thrive at work, according to Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report. The survey also shows that workers like to learn independently, and they want their employers to provide platforms enabled with access to curated knowledge and expert sources. A combination of both employer- and employee-driven training can give people more control over what and how they learn while tying their development directly to organizational goals. Mercer's research also reports that 99% of companies are taking action to prepare for the future of work, and they're doing so by identifying gaps between current and required skills supply, developing future-focused people strategies and adapting skill requirements to new technologies and business objectives. For multinational organizations interested in expanding in Africa, these steps will prove critical to upskilling, enabling and empowering the youth workforce. By taking the time to understand what Africa's youth employees need and developing integrated people-centric strategies for them, multinationals can be at the forefront of developing the continent's workforce. This will allow them to meet stakeholders' needs today, while also building a bigger, better and smarter workforce for tomorrow. The long-term benefits will result in a completely reinvented Africa — with engaged workers as far as the eye can see. Sources: 1. "Africa's Youth Unemployment Rate to Exceed 30% in 2019: ILO," 7Dnews, 4 Apr. 2019, https://7dnews.com/news/africa-s-youth-unemployment-rate-to-exceed-30-in-2019-ilo. 2. D, Sourav. "Youth unemployment a 'national crisis' in South Africa, says Ramaphosa," Financial World, 18 Jun. 2019, https://www.financial-world.org/news/news/economy/2276/youth-unemployment-a-national-crisis-in-south-africa-says-ramaphosa/. 3. "Youth Employment in Africa." International Labour Organization, https://www.ilo.org/africa/areas-of-work/youth-employment/lang--en/index.htm. 4. Mbewa, David O. "President Kenyatta launches program to tackle Kenya's youth unemployment," CGTN, 20 Jun. 2019, https://africa.cgtn.com/2019/06/20/president-kenyatta-launches-program-to-tackle-kenyas-youth-unemployment/. 5. "Exclusive: An interview with Hilton's Jan van der Putten on expansion in Africa," Africa Outlook Magazine,7 Apr. 2019, https://www.africaoutlookmag.com/news/exclusive-an-interview-with-hiltons-jan-van-der-putten-on-expansion-in-africa. 6. "World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature of Work," The World Bank Group, 2019, https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2019. 7. Moyo, Simbarashe. "4 ways Africa can prepare its youth for the digital economy," World Economic Forum, 29 May 2019, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/05/4-ways-africa-can-prepare-its-young-people-for-the-digital-economy/.

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