Innovation

Digital Transformation: Learn What it is & Why it is Important

5 August, 2019
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"Implementing new technology requires organizations to find ways to embed digital transformation—and the innovative mindset it requires—into their company culture. "

Digital transformation is here and it is affecting companies in various degrees. Learn what it is and why it is important.

Digital transformation is generating some of the most impactful improvements to the customer experience, with two-thirds of global CEOs reporting they will adopt a digital-first focus by the end of 2019. But the trend is transcending beyond the customer experience to also steer the employee experience. A company’s employees—all digital consumers in their personal live—are also expecting to leverage digital experiences to enhance performance and gain professional development.  

The human resources industry—no longer viewed as just a support function for employee services and benefits—has stepped up to the front lines to greet the digital transformation that is disrupting how organizations worldwide operate and thrive. The HR department, in addition to talent management, is now expected to lead a company’s digital transformation journey and deploy effective change management strategies.  

For an organization to succeed in implementing new technology, they must find ways to embed digital transformation—and the innovative mindset it requires—into their company culture or they risk falling behind the competition.  

What is digital transformation? 

Emerging technology is often the main focus of the digital disruption conversation. Through transformation programs, HR teams are helping companies enter the digital age and transition from using legacy technology to embracing new technologies, such as machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, data analytics, cloud computing, a multitude of mobile devices, smartphone integration, social media, and more.  

But digital transformation is actually guided by innovative approaches, people and business processes—not just the technology itself. Digital transformation cannot be defined by a single transformation project nor a single technology. The technology is constantly changing and updating itself. The only fixed element of digital transformation is the innovative mindset that drives it.  

With this mindset in place, HR teams can identify faulty processes and user challenges—and subsequently determine what technologies should be infused as solutions. The end goal is to better understand, engage, satisfy and deliver on the user’s expectations for a multi-channel experience.  

Why is digital transformation important?

Adopting a digitally driven business model with next-generation capabilities isn’t just critical to beating competitors—it’s an imperative for surviving in today’s competitive corporate environment. Business leaders are focused on results, innovation and continuous improvement. To this end, they must constantly challenge their organizations to ensure that new technologies and processes are being implemented to push productivity gains and offer significant competitive advantage—all while delivering exceptional user experience for a multitude of stakeholders.  

For HR teams, digital business transformation is the ultimate challenge in change management because it affects all levels of an organization (every process, department and stakeholder) and even extends to its supply chain or network of partners, in some cases. But this omnipresent disruption is what makes digital transformation so critical for organizations.  

Digital transformation is helping companies make transitions to new business models. An external example would be a longstanding retail store that is struggling to attract millennial customers who prefer to shop online. This business can leverage digital technology to optimize its website for e-commerce, set up responsive customer service capabilities online, collect location data and gain insights into customer expectations and behaviors (to drive both online and in-store interactions).   

But more importantly, digitalization is impacting internal operations to help companies deliver the digital experience from the inside out, starting with employees. For the HR industry, harnessing the digital experience is critical for sustainable talent recruitment, retention and training.  

HR professionals are using technology to continuously transform how they design and deliver the employee experience—anytime and anywhere. They are combining the human element with the power of technology to gain insights and adapt processes that add new value.  

Important elements of successful digital transformation

Although the roadmap for digital transformation varies based on organizations’ specific challenges and demands, there are a few common attributes that a digital strategy should incorporate:  

1.  Integrates digital technology to optimize process efficiency. 

As with any HR change, whether digital or not, there should be a clearly defined objective that makes a process more efficient. Most of the time for the HR department, this goal will be to solve an issue employees encounter or one that the HR department faces in its talent management.  

It is recommended that companies start simple and small and consider the areas of the HR process that might benefit from a digital makeover. This could include recruitment, onboarding, learning & development, payroll management, benefits administration, performance reviews, etc.  

2.  Improves user experience. 

Digital transformation aims to solve problems and ease pain points for the end user and, when it comes to HR service delivery, the end user is the employee. Business leaders and employees are accustomed to being digital consumers and they—just like customers, clients and partners—expect a digital experience relationship with the company.  

Technology plays a critical role in the relationship that millennials have with their employer, including how long they stay at a company, how productive they are and how they contribute to company growth. The increasing importance of technology implementation—especially its implications for longevity and productivity—is narrowing the focus of HR departments across all industries on creating end-to-end consumer-grade experiences for employees.  

3.  Modernizes company culture.

Digital leaders focus on vision, management, agility and empathy for the end-user. Digital transformation is therefore more about company culture than it is about installing one particular type of technology or improving a single process. Transformation efforts can only succeed when company culture inspires innovation and creativity in its human capital, inspiring workers to adopt new processes, ways of working and approaches to breaking down silos and relating to stakeholders in more meaningful ways. Company culture also plays a critical role in attracting millennial talent and improving employee engagement in the digital age.  

The dynamic qualities of digital culture are different than, and often in conflict with, analog culture at traditional companies. Where analog culture is defensive, digital culture aims to be proactive. For processes that analog companies choose to complete in-house, the digital company seeks out a network of expertise. Analog companies report on past performance while digital companies gain real-time insights for decision-making.  

4.  Reduces traditional expenditures.

Cost savings is a primary driver of digital transformation, according to data from the Cloud Industry Forum. But digital transformation demands that companies cut costs with a purpose, namely to drive innovation and enhance competitive capabilities. An example of this would be implementing cloud platforms, which can accelerate digitization for numerous processes within a business. In addition to greater speed and agility, this innovation also offers lower costs in the long term. 

Though digitalization should be imagined as a revenue generator rather than a cost reduction function, companies should be cautioned against using cost savings as the only justification for transformation initiatives. This narrow focus can end up limiting the scope and impact of process improvements and present long term ramifications.  

5.  Researches, strategizes & sets goals based on evolving tech/digital landscapes.

The digital landscape is constantly in flux and companies need to strategize to adapt. The digital transformation process can be especially painful for well established companies. Some large brands have disappeared or are currently struggling to stay relevant in the digital age.  

It is important for companies to develop a formal organizational digital business strategy that involves research and goal setting. Yet just one-third of companies have this in place. As a working document, the plan should be updated in response to the evolving landscape. Regular analysis of current digital infrastructure can assess current challenges and anticipate future needs.  

A sound digital strategy, based on in-depth analysis, can help a company anticipate possible risks, formulate budgeting needs and better deliver desired results.  

Why companies put off digital transformations

Human life is a constant conflict between progress and inertia. Change is often difficult, whether in our personal or professional lives. For most people, especially managers and leaders, changes within a company can feel like chaos is wreaking havoc on their once predictable workplace. This is part of why it is called the digital disruption.  

In order to transform a company, the points of contention that make companies resist digitalization must be addressed:  

1.  Requires a system-wide overhaul. 

It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that digitalization needs to be implemented immediately and everywhere throughout business operations. That task can appear quite daunting, with some leaders choosing to put it off altogether. While it is safe to say that digitalization will eventually require a system-wide overhaul in the way most companies operate, processes and projects can be digitalized and changed incrementally. The main point is that companies overhaul their long term vision for how they plan to adapt and innovate in the digital age.  

2.  CIO/CEO need to believe in it.

As a company prepares to digitalize, it is often the case that employees embrace the change while management and leadership are resistant. For this reason, it can again be said that digital transformation isn’t just about technology—it’s also a leadership issue.  

Change-agile leaders have a clear purpose and can readily answer the question of “why” a technology is being adopted. They know they’re not just adding technology to add technology. It’s being implemented to maintain a strong competitive advantage, enhance productivity on a specific process and push the company toward innovation. These leaders are also willing to fix what’s broken and, in the process, take risks that may require some experimentation. Another key leadership trait, especially in the context of digitalization, is the ability to forge positive partnerships that help streamline the transition and avoid common pitfalls.  

3.  Upfront costs are high.

Very often, leadership poses two questions when confronted with digital transformation: Will digital transformation require new spend that is not currently accounted for? Do I need a specific budget for it? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding “Yes.” However, as previously stated, this can be implemented incrementally across the organization.  

Many companies are finding benefit transitioning digitalization from a capital expense model to an operating expense model. The goal for digital transformation, when implemented strategically, is to yield enough cost savings that it becomes a self-funding mechanism.  

But how much are companies spending? Expenditures for digitalization are growing worldwide at compound annual growth rate of 16.7% and by 2020 it is expected that 30% of G2000 companies will have allocated capital budgets equal to at least 10% of revenue to fuel their digital strategies. 

4.  The company needs specific technology for their industry or feels comfortable with the status quo. 

Every industry is being confronted by digital disruption in some capacity. But how it plays out and the degree of impact it has on a company will vary widely depending on the specific sector and the market space in which the company operates. The pace of disruption is chamges by industry.  

Digitalization can be a challenge within certain industries as some companies require highly specific technology or processes for the work they do. Many times, this specialized technology is too expensive or hasn’t even been commercialized yet.  

Another case of resistance to digitalization comes from businesses who feel comfortable with the status quo. If a brick-and-mortar shop feels it is doing well, it won’t likely seek an online platform to conduct e-commerce.  

There may be a tendency for companies with specific industry challenges or comfort in the status quo to put off digitalization efforts. But it can be argued that these companies especially need to be outlining a digital strategy. The speed of disruption is increasing and disruption is likely to touch businesses in every industry and all sizes. The winners will be companies that combine traditional industry expertise with a deep understanding of how digital innovations could potentially disrupt their business.  

Tips to get your digital transformation strategy started 

Digital technology has the potential to transform HR and talent management as we know it. But it won’t come without backing from leadership and staff. Before a concrete strategy can be developed and executed, there are a few first steps an organization and its HR department can take to prepare:  

1.  Get buy-in from C-level leaders.

Having the support and understanding of executive leadership is critical for digital strategy. Digitalization, just as it impacts all roles in management and staff, can also impact the C-suite. The new COO must revamp operational processes and align front and back-office staff with the CMO’s strategy for consistent digital engagement. Meanwhile, the new CMO becomes data driven and omnichannel in approach. To fully compete in the digital revolution, some companies are even adopting a holistic model where a new chief digital officer is appointed to serve as a key enabler of transformation. 

2.  Identify pathfinder projects.

In order to build momentum for digital strategy, it can be helpful to identify some pathfinder projects to kickstart a company’s digital transformation journey and help pioneer the transition. What HR processes are currently presenting challenges for the department? Or more importantly, what processes can be improved for candidates, employees and leadership?   

Some applied examples of digital transformation technology within the HR space are augmented writing technology for job postings to better focus the search, chatbots to handle commonly asked questions from employees, AI-driven insights to guide the sales team on demographic trends, machine learning training customized for a team member or nudge-based technology for managers to complete performance reviews by deadline. 

3.  Communicate early and often with everyone in the organization.

Effective communications will play a key role in launching a digital strategy and creating the innovative mindset that fuels it. The strategy should have a timeline that incorporates a communication strategy with all team members on the status.    

Before any specific initiatives are outlined and put into action, an ample amount of time and effort should go into talking with executive leadership, management and staff. These critical stakeholders should be active participants in the strategy. Ask each employee about the challenges they face and their experiences with already laid out processes. Sometimes this is done in survey format so that insights and data can be gathered to help guide the strategy.  

4.  Hire people that embrace new technology and processes. 

As a result of the digital age, the workforce is shifting from fixed job titles and detailed job descriptions to ever-revolving roles. A widening skills gap is also a residual effect of the digital revolution, posing an imminent threat to organizations that don’t hire people open to learning new technology and processes.  

At the current pace of technology growth, it is likely that many of the technical skills a company’s workforce boasts today will become obsolete within a few short years. Hiring for today’s skills is not enough. Digital companies instead need to focus on upskilling and recruiting lifelong learners who have the ability to constantly learn new skills and navigate technology that might not even yet exist.  

Rather than seeking industry-specific skills, organizations are shifting toward “technology application within the industry” skills. Other core work-related skills include complex problem solving, active learning and cognitive flexibility. Curiosity, creativity and collaboration are key soft skills that are becoming increasingly valued by companies as they look to foster a high-commitment culture with strong employee engagement.  

To show how systemic the transition can be, many companies are now deploying digital technologies, like virtual reality (VR) simulations or gaming tools, in the interview process to help gauge skills that can’t always be verified on a resume or in a traditional interview setting. This allows recruiters to observe how a candidate handles unfamiliar situations in real-time or how well they absorb new information to troubleshoot problems. 

Conclusion

A company’s transition from analog to digital requires a systemic overhaul of business operations, renewed company ethos and an influx of critical human capital to power it all. After all, technology itself does not drive success. Albeit important, the tool is merely an enabler of the innovative vision. Effectively integrating new digital technology requires the right people in the right positions, which is why the HR department has been appointed to lead digital transformation strategy for many companies.  

As the voice for human capital amid an evolving workforce, HR can lay the foundation for digital strategy by cultivating the necessary elements for digital transformation. Customer experience has received much of the attention in the digital revolution. However, HR galvanizes the transition by empowering employees so a company can offer a digital experience from the inside out. This lights a company’s path toward becoming an intelligent enterprise— one that is continuously innovating, delivering, superior user experiences, creating new business models and reimagining processes to drive even more value.

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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. Here are three requirements for an innovative work culture: 1.  Means: This refers to the tools and authority employees need to conceive an idea, establish the right team, build the business case, and develop and test it. 2.  Motive: Organizations provide motivation by encouraging employees to think beyond their immediate job function and even take risks within a predefined framework. They can also enable them to participate, perhaps through a bonus, in any financial upside resulting from their work. 3.  Opportunity: Employees need time, tools and space for brainstorming and innovation. Agility is also key to an innovative digital workplace. Employees should feel confident collaborating with colleagues across functions and sharing ideas without encountering undue criticism. A solid budget for training will also ensure employees obtain the skills they need to contribute to their employers' success on an ongoing basis. 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.

More from Voice on Growth

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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