HP and the drive for people power
IT giant HP has not only set itself an ambitious goal to dramatically improve the wellbeing of its supplier factory workers, but it’s also nurturing the next generation of professionals in areas that most need the technology company’s help. HP is investing in the power of people.
As one of the world’s biggest technology companies, HP's supply chain is one of the most extensive, with manufacturing plants operating all over the globe, in some of the poorest communities. For almost 20 years the organisation has been committed to ethical issues, beginning with the establishment of its Supply Chain Responsibility programme in 2000, which works to reduce the negative impacts of its processes on the environment while protecting the wellbeing of its supplier factory workers. This is nothing new for the company.
HP is also very well known for its socially responsible approach to business. In 2010, HP topped Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens list (called one of America’s most important business rankings by public relations bible PR Week), and was named the second most admired company in the world by Fortune Magazine.
In 2015, HP set itself an even more ambitious target: to develop the skills, and improve the lives of, half a million of its workers over the next decade, by teaching them worker safety, ‘how to achieve a better work/life balance’, financial security and health care.
Empowering the workforce
The training programmes are being delivered where HP's factories are located, predominantly in China and Southeast Asia. Judy Glazer, Global Head of Sustainability and Product Compliance, explains why they are focusing on specific demographics: “We pay particular attention to vulnerable groups including students and foreign migrant workers as well as women. Women make up a substantial part of our workforce and supporting their wellbeing is a priority and doing so contributes directly to our business success."
Programmes are tailored, so women’s health teaching is delivered face-to-face. They are also trained to become teachers of the sessions themselves. “In this way, the information is conveyed peer-to-peer, which increases participation and trust,” Glazer adds. “They are learning valuable leadership skills that extend beyond the factory walls.”
In the case of young workers and students, in China, HP has partnered with WeChat, the country's most popular instant messaging app. By scanning QR codes from posters around HP’s sites onto their smartphones, workers can access videos, quizzes and games that are all educational in nature. To put these programmes into place HP works with governments, NGOs and big-name corporations including Disney and Walmart.
As well as the obvious benefits to the welfare of the workers, it's advantageous to the business, as happier staff traditionally means higher productivity and employees who will stay at the company longer, thus strengthening relationships with investors. As Glazer explains: “Vendors with better management practices can deliver higher-quality products and reduce costs, which in turn creates savings for HP.”
Training future generations
As well as developing its own workforce, another part of HP’s 2025 target is to improve the learning and job prospects of 100mn people around the world. Haiti made headlines around the world after the 2010 earthquake; a disaster that ravaged an already hugely impoverished nation. The country was in fact chosen as the starting point for HP’s sustainability programme. "Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere," Glazer says, “so driving systemic change there, is essential.”
With limited access to clean drinking water, the population of Haiti is largely reliant on bottled water, leading to tremendous amounts of waste, so HP employs people to collect the littered plastic bottles, which are then recycled to make ink cartridges. HP is also investing in education, healthcare and start-ups.
In North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, HP Learning Studios have been installed into 60 schools so far, equipped with the latest software and hardware to train students in design and social entrepreneurship. A further six studios are in development in Jordan and Lebanon to specifically support young Syrian refugees who’ve lost their homes in the country’s civil war. In Istanbul's Maharat Centre, refugees can train using the free, online HP LIFE (Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs) programme, which has 27 courses including business and IT skills (available in seven languages across 200 countries). In Tunisia alone, HP LIFE is reaching over 25,000 people and has helped generate more than 1,250 jobs in technology, services, and graphic design among other sectors as part of the Mashrou3i project for start-ups and young entrepreneurs. Another HP scheme is World On Wheels; 48 vehicles kitted out as mobile classrooms with HP technology delivering digital education to remote parts of India.
All of these initiatives are run by the HP Foundation, the company’s non-profit organization, and they all carry largely the same purpose: to make training and education accessible to all, and improve job prospects for those who’ve faced hardships.
Working with tens of thousands of people around the world while trying to bring about change is complex, whether it’s because of differences in language, culture, geopolitics, regulations or infrastructure. “Innovating, disrupting the status quo, breaking barriers, and doing unprecedented work is always a challenge,” Glazer says. However, stakeholders, suppliers and customers, along with policy makers and industry bodies see the benefits. “Quality education is a fundamental building block of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It reduces inequalities, empowers healthier and more sustainable lives, and is crucial to fostering tolerance and advancing more peaceful societies.
“It also seeds the next generation of thinkers and innovators that are vital to the sustainability of our business and the global economy. As a global multinational company, we are aware that our business actions can have a tremendous impact, yet we know we can’t do it alone."
Glazer adds that by 2025, HP would like to see industries worldwide taking action to ensure their workers feel empowered and protected. “Our ultimate goal is that everyone, everywhere, will have the skills and opportunities to thrive,” she concludes.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.