Q&A: Carl Camden / Kelly Services Global
Q&A: Carl Camden / Kelly Services Global
On inter-generational diversity
By Lisa Cheong
Do you see inter-generational diversity and other diversity issues becoming more important in Asia?
Yes. But there are different challenges depending on various countries. There are some countries where women have very little representation in management ranks. That’s a basic fundamental issue that has to be dealt with.
There are other countries where various sub-groups have no appearance in spite of being well-represented in the population. But as companies move towards becoming global, then diversity becomes more and more important.
I see Asian companies stepping into that [inter-generational diversity]. They lag behind some of the European and Northern American counterparts for no other reason than because it has taken awhile for the economic activity level in Asia Pacific to get to the point where more and more companies need to globalise and regionalise.
But it will be a challenge for the next two decades especially for cultures which uses age as a status marker.
In cultures where hierarchy and seniority is expected, you say that notion does not sit well with Generation Y employees who are career-driven. So does it boil down to a mindset shift on the part of employers who realise that this system will no longer work, or will it driven by market forces?
That will be yes and yes. Yes it requires a mindset shift and market forces will help make that mindset shift. There aren’t many companies that can afford the luxury of advancing someone who is not a well-qualified leader simply because he or she has the right number of years in the company.
You only get to do it once before you realise it is a bad idea and you shouldn’t do it again. So market forces will help. But a mindset shift is going to have to take place.
You realised that your company’s management team were all within two years plus minus of each other, and sought to diversify the team. What was your role in that and how did you go about it?
Pragmatically, this [diversifying the team] meant that we could all retire within a short period of each other and not worry about a new management team ready to step in then. You have to ask: When are the next generation of corporate leaders going to come in, and how will they know how to be a corporate leader if they’re not part of that group?
So we looked for opportunities when openings were emerging to make certain that we were interviewing candidates that had a range of ages. And that is just one of the different diversity elements that we looked at. That doesn’t mean that at any open position we hired somebody that was of a particular age. But we always look at candidates from an array of ages, and in that process it ended up that some of them are better qualified.
Other than retiring early, what other benefits did you see?
A better array of ideas. People of the same age tend to generate a lot of the same solutions, they have the same experiences.
People who grew up in the last decade just have a whole different experience. Their experiences then allow us to create unique solutions, because it’s your ideas, your ideas plus mine is something cool that emerges.
What do you think constitutes experience? Does it come with age?
We tend to equate age and tenure to experience and I’m not certain that it does.
If candidate A has worked in several different countries in several different departments, compared to another person who has worked in the same country and in the same department but is a lot older, I might probably conclude that the first person will have more experience.
So it is how diverse your experience and challenges are.
So what can HR do to help groom the range of experiences for employees?
Coach people to take risks. Usually when people think of career planning, HR has traditionally coached them to take what they believe to be the safest path.
I want to know, what have you done that was not safe? What chance have you taken for your career? What risk did you run?
HR needs to encourage people to be risk-takers rather than risk-avoiders.
HR also has to be massively honest in providing feedback. HR has to say to you, “You are never going to be able to do X. You can do A, B and C but this X isn’t going to work, so work on this,” So tag in some real intellectual honesty and authenticity in the coaching process.
Carl Camden is the president and CEO of Kelly Services Global. camden joined kelly in 1995 as senior vice president of corporate marketing.
- Kelly Services Singapore Pte Ltd
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