Catherine Zhu is the managing partner of Egon Zehnder in Hong Kong.
Give and gain: managers have a responsibility to share their skills
From the Brexit vote in the UK to the rise of isolationist and nationalist movements in many other countries, recent years have seen an unmistakable backlash against globalisation. This presents risks for global expansion strategies by Chinese companies, as well as for the careers of globally minded professionals in Hong Kong.
These developments also shine a spotlight on the uneven rewards produced by globalisation. While the world is much more prosperous than it was 20 years ago, many people and communities have been left behind by the march of technology and trade, and have seen their incomes decline in real terms.
Companies, and the executives who lead them, can’t leave this problem to governments to solve. To contribute to the stability of the societies they operate in – and to secure their own long-term success – they will need to take some bold and imaginative steps to broaden the benefits of economic growth and strengthen the social fabric.
In Hong Kong, the Swire Group provides an example of the shift required for a “social business” approach. The company has partnered with multiple NGOs in fields ranging from childhood development to people with disabilities, and is using its own malls, along with Facebook, to drawing support from thousands of Hongkongers. This initiative goes far beyond traditional corporate social responsibility.
Some companies are focusing on youth skills development. This is a critical issue in Hong Kong and elsewhere, as many young people feel shut out from economic opportunities and are increasingly alienated as a result. Companies can partner with governments and universities to make education more relevant to today’s job market – and give young people practical workplace experience.
At the individual level, established managers can engage the next generation. In my own leadership role, I have committed to spending more time mentoring the younger members of my team; their most frequent request is to be listened to and supported in their development.
I believe managers today have a responsibility to share their skills set and take on a personal role in making economic growth more sustainable and equitable. In other words: give before you expect to receive.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Give and gain.