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PROPERTIES OF THE IDEAL GLOBAL CITIZEN a.k.a. "A CORPORATE LARA CROFT"
User ID: 454918
11/19/2008 10:16 PM
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I was in Washington DC to release a new report on global skills at a human resources industry conference in September.
At the end of the conference I ran a workshop on recruitment and placement issues with 30 global HR directors of multinational corporations.
Initially we canvassed matters associated with managing a global workforce. The merits of concepts such as developing "tailored careers", cultivating a "culture of innovation" and providing "constructive feedback" were popular themes.
However, I felt we were dancing around an issue. One term that kept popping up was "global mindset". Another was "global thinking". Yet another was "cultural sensitivity".
Nobody explained what they meant by these terms and yet they littered the discussion.
I wanted the group to describe their idea of "the perfect global corporate citizen". They each had specific ideas of what they were looking for when placing a candidate in a senior role. Indeed it was almost as if they were independently describing different aspects of the same being.
I put it to them that I wanted to create a "corporate Lara Croft", a virtual being that would perfectly fit into a management role. How old would this person be? What would their CV look like? What would be their skills, experience, attitude and personal situation? The group was immediately energised by the challenge.
To the question about age, the group quickly converged on 38-42 years. In order to take up a senior role, with a view to making it to C-level management (for example CEO, CFO), the candidate must have at least 15 years' experience. This criterion immediately places candidates at late 30s or early 40s.
The group then talked about the need to have a "moveable spouse". If the candidate is married to, say, a doctor, it can be difficult to relocate because patients cannot be moved. Helpful hint: if you are thinking of becoming a global corporate citizen, make sure you hook up with someone who is moveable.
They wanted someone with a basic degree plus an MBA or a law degree. These were seen as providing the technical basis for decision-making later in life. They also wanted a second language.
Others chimed in with "may have lived abroad in their youth".
At this point, attendees had to think harder. They wanted someone who had run a division or a program overseas. And there were extra points if this was in another field altogether.
They thought someone who ran a program for, say, World Vision while at university and picking up a second language along the way, would be ideal.
They don't want someone who has never worked outside their field of expertise; they were looking for broad experience.
Then came a jaw-dropper. One person put up his hand and suggested "may have spent time in the military". The room erupted. "Why?" He calmly responded. Someone who has spent time in the military is used to delegating, to taking orders, and to moving, and is more likely to have a "global perspective". They all agreed with this view.
The final attributes they wanted were technical excellence, experience and relationships.
I can understand the technical bit and the need for experience, but what did they mean by relationships? Relationships with whom? The group responded: relationships within industry, with suppliers, with clients, with government, with everybody.
And there you have the perfect global corporate citizen, according to a bunch of HR directors for multinational corporations.
For some days I reflected on this mythical person and started to align the attributes of Generation Y with what it is that these global HR directors were looking for.
Today's Generation Ys are in their 20s and so have plenty of time to reach the height of their careers late next decade. Generation Ys often have double degrees and have travelled widely. Many completed student exchanges, or gap years, and so have exposure to other cultures and languages. Ys are also known for their esprit d'corps in working with causes abroad.
I realised that what my Washington workshop had done was describe the attributes of Generation Y. Here is a generation that is being groomed for roles as global corporate citizens.
But then the perfect alignment started to unravel.
The global HR directors want people who, by the age of 38-42, have experience and relationships. Experience is gained by sticking at a job, with a company, and within an industry, over time.
This attribute doesn't sit well with Gen Y's predisposition to move on if they are bored, unfulfilled or uninspired by the person to whom they report. And without experience gained over time, robust time-tempered relationships are unlikely to blossom.
The key issue was encapsulated by the HR director of a Paris-based financial institution who lamented the flightiness of Generation Y. He said he wished that Generation Y "would sometimes trust the organisation".
I nearly choked at his suggestion. Yeah, right, like Gen Y is going to trust the big bad corporation?
He politely (but firmly) asked to be heard. He said that sometimes professional and personal development is best advanced not by doing what individuals want but by doing what the organisation needs them to do.
Instead of insisting on a transfer to a sophisticated city such as London or New York but instead going to, say, Kiev, the individual is presented with real challenges.
He continued: "Personal growth isn't always about doing what you want, or doing what is easy. It's sometimes about doing what is hard, by enduring, by overcoming, and by persisting. This is how true management expertise is gained."
I thought his perspective was brilliant.
And I think this is precisely why Generation Y should not always flit and float about between jobs.
There comes a point where professional development is best advanced by staying put and working through difficult situations and relationships rather than cutting and running at the first obstacle.
Indeed I would like to suggest to Generation Y, and anyone else contemplating the highest levels of corporate life by their 40s, that there is no better time to follow this philosophy than during a recession.
[link to www.theaustralian.news.com.au]
“The world doesn't make sense until you force it to.”
- Frank Miller
"Don't buy into a superficial reality. It has an expiration date."
— Truth Devour (Wantin)
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