Mastercard's Amanda Gervay

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Seeing the 'Great Resignation' as a 'Great Re-evaluation', Amanda Gervay, Senior Vice President, People & Capability, Asia Pacific, Mastercard, shares with HRO's Tracy Chan takeaways to help employers retain their best talent.

From manufacturing to marketing, transport to trade, employers globally cannot find the people they need with the right blend of technical skills and human strengths. Talent shortage has been haunting employers, as the latest ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage survey shows three quarters (75%) of companies have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring – a 16-year high.

The situation has undoubtedly been further magnified by the global pandemic. Health concerns, social distancing, and a change of working styles arising from the public health crisis, all drove people to reflect and reshape their personal priorities, leading to the phenomenon called the 'Great Resignation'.

As the name suggests, a great deal of talent, for various reasons, are resigning from their current positions or even relocating from where they live in search of something that matters to them, and employers who can provide that.

According to a recent survey by Michael Page, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Singaporeans surveyed are looking for new career prospects this year. Rather than leaving the country, employees in the Lion City tend to resign to look for a work style that better aligns with what they value.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as we know, has significantly shifted the way people live and work, with people rethinking and reshaping their priorities and career choices, and, as Amanda Gervay, Senior Vice President, People & Capability, Asia Pacific, Mastercard, said, “triggering an upheaval in the workforce”.

“A lot has been said about the ‘Great Resignation’ in the last couple of years,” she said. “But I think of it more as a ‘Great Re-evaluation’ – a moment in time where people are questioning just how they want to spend their working lives.”

Embrace the change for flexibility and balance

In Gervay’s view, some of the trends and expectations that have surfaced over the past two years aren’t going to go away, such as the demand for flexibility and life-work balance. This is echoed by a recent Mercer report, and the aforementioned Michael Page survey, as both showed that people are willing to forgo pay increases or promotions for being able to work flexibly and have a better life-work balance.

“[We need to] continue to offer the flexibility and tools that allow our employees to balance their work and personal lives, and to do their best work,” she said.

At Mastercard, under its ‘Flex Work’ programme, all employees are allowed to choose when to come into the office, and “work from elsewhere” for four weeks annually. By providing end-of-week flex time and quarterly meeting-free days, employees can also enjoy uninterrupted time to focus on work, learn new skills, or practise self-care.

“[By implementing such measures,] we’ve sought to give our employees greater autonomy over their time,” Gervay said.

She believes in supporting the right balance of being together, while empowering employees with flexibility in work locations and work options that are best suited to them. This, she is clear, will “contribute to fostering an environment of trust, job satisfaction, and retention”.

As hybrid working is here to stay, she encourages businesses to look at new work models as an opportunity for attracting and retaining talent, rather than as an inconvenience. “It might require more careful management of human resources, but it also promotes a more resilient, engaged workforce,” she affirmed.

Build a healthy and meaningful workplace

Under the new normal, the lines between work and home are increasingly blurring and people are becoming more focused on wellbeing. The working environment and culture, therefore, have become critical factors that influence employees’ stay-or-go decisions.

“It has become critical for employers to invest in working environments conducive to wellbeing so that employees are not at risk of burnout, presenteeism, or low productivity,” she said.

To ensure employees feel included and connected, Mastercard conducts regular climate checks to monitor its workplace culture and has launched a programme called ‘Thrive’ to provide mental health resources, including paid-for therapy sessions, for employees.

Gervay also pointed out that, among many factors that drive employees to quit, a not-so-uncommon driving factor is internal competition, which can breed unhealthy work environments.

“A desire to compete is a natural human trait, but let’s not forget, so is co-operation,” she said. “Unfortunately, the nature of many workplaces is such that we focus too much on the former and not enough on the latter.”

To cultivate a culture of collaboration, Mastercard has put in place formal ways of evaluating and rewarding employees for demonstrating a “Decency Quotient”, a term coined by Mastercard chairman Ajay Banga to tell employees to treat their co-workers and community the way they would want to be treated.

Gervay believes this approach helps “discourage sharp elbows, and promotes the type of trust and teamwork that leads to innovation and impact on the business, our partners, customers, and, of course, one another”.

Meanwhile, today’s employees are also reflecting on the meaning of their work, and looking to contribute to society outside of a pure business context – be part of something bigger than themselves. To engage employees in that sense, companies have to find ways to give them a greater sense of purpose.

“We provide opportunities for them to get involved in social justice issues and dedicated time off for volunteering work,” she shared. “We also have ‘business resource groups’, where employees with common identities or backgrounds can connect and support one another and their broader communities.”

Provide a clear internal development path with proper upskilling

Gervay indicated that companies which can connect their employees to their desired career paths within the organisation, and equip them with the skills they need to grow, are likely to see better retention rates and build a more sustainable talent pipeline.

“There are two key parts to making internal mobility sustainable,” she explained. “Obviously, you need to give employees the ability to grow and progress internally, but you also need to give them a sense that these opportunities are within their reach.”

To raise employees’ awareness of the internal development opportunities, Mastercard held its annual career month across Asia Pacific to discuss performance and internal mobility, and to help employees plan their next step in the company.

Clearly, upskilling is key to enabling talent retention and development. This not only helps employees to be better prepared for career progression, but also allows them to connect to the business future, which in turn, brings more sense of fulfilment at work.

“Upskilling helps individuals to tackle their work more effectively, and it gives them the ability to play a genuine role in helping to move a business forward.”

Through its AI-powered digital opportunity marketplace called ‘Unlocked’, Mastercard’s employees can take control of their career planning and progression by exploring potential career paths, developing new skills, receiving mentorship, and gaining more exposure within the organisation.

Along with other dedicated programmes such as ‘Women Who Lead’, ‘U Future Leaders’, and company-led training, Gervay said the company aims to support front line, mid-level, and senior leaders to develop skills and unlock their potential.

“We make sure everyone, from an intern to an executive, has the opportunity to be the best version of themselves by providing them with the resources they need to unlock a lifetime of learning and growth,” she affirmed.

While governments and educational entities have a clear role to play in terms of providing skills, Gervay believes employers can get involved more actively. “Companies – where much of this change is being seen first-hand – really can help to lead the charge on upskilling.”

“L&D needs to be considered a crucial element of talent retention because it impacts so many facets of the employee experience. L&D provides variety and mental stimulation, a greater sense of purpose, and bolsters an understanding that the business is investing in their workers – all of which contributes to employee satisfaction.”

Expand the talent pool beyond boundaries

The pandemic has proven how technology can help break geographical constraints, allowing people to work anytime, anywhere, and everywhere. While it may not replace a face-to-face conversation, Gervay agreed that it does help companies to easily reach and recruit suitable candidates in other parts of the region or the world.

“This new-found flexibility means we’re less constrained by geography in finding new talent,” she said. “So we can cast a wider net when we’re seeking to find the best employees for roles, while at the same time building more diverse teams.”

Apart from searching for talent beyond borders, companies can also tap into untapped or under-represented pools to fill up the gaps caused by the talent exodus, such as parents on a career break.

Through a series of initiatives, such as ‘Relaunch Your Career’ and a collaboration with Mums@Work, a social enterprise working towards women’s career development in Singapore, Mastercard strives to bring these parents back into the workforce and empowers them in re-establishing their careers by providing them structured trainings.

“We believe in providing everyone with fair and equal access to opportunities, regardless of where they are in their careers.”


This article first appeared in the Q3 edition of Human Resources Online's Hong Kong e-magazine. View the e-magazine here, where you'll find power-packed features and interviews with leaders from Hong Kong, Singapore, and more!

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Images / Provided (Lead image: Amanda Gervay, Senior Vice President, People & Capability, Asia Pacific, Mastercard)

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