A VIEW FROM A CORPORATE EXECUTIVE
I n my work at a multinational corporation, I never thought I’d find sustenance in the concept of Jewish Peoplehood. And yet, I recently found myself drawing inspiration and creativity from the idea of clal Yisrael in a global assignment that had nothing to do with Judaism.
Our company is headquartered in New York City, but we have offices in dozens of cities throughout the world. As part of a restructuring assignment, I was asked to corral these communities under a shared vision and culture. My team was to create bonds and locate commonalities between employees in Brazil, the United States, Greece, China and everywhere else in between. As each local community had its own distinct culture and practices, the challenge was obvious: to unify business satellites in far-flung and often disparate locales under a single rubric that would attract top-notch employees and clients. Not a small task.
As a Jew — and, therefore, as a member of the global Jewish people — I soon realized that my own tradition and heritage offered an interesting parallel. As we look at the Jewish people, whether in Argentina, Hungary, Australia or Tel Aviv, what compelling basis do we have for connection? From my own travels throughout the world, I noticed several characteristics of what we know as Jewish Peoplehood: a responsibility to a historic commitment; a pride in that commitment and a desire to sustain it; rituals that transcend continental divide; a wish to be part of a community; communications channels to share best practices and information between communities and potentially with a center; a need for leadership development to ensure a successful future; and an inclination to participate in tzedakkah and tikkun olam.
These shared values and goals create the possibility of a global people that is open to connecting and sharing, regardless of whether its constituents come from different local cultures or whether their lives interact on a day-to-day basis.
It occurred to me that the very basis of Jewish Peoplehood was a perfect model for our work. My team began to consider how to create an infrastructure that would foster a similarly compelling reason for people in different cities and countries to participate in shared practices. Key to our strategy was the concept of independence with accountability.
We redefined our vision to make it generic enough to work across borders, but inspiring enough to promote local relevancy. People began to feel satisfaction belonging to a company that valued concepts in which they could take pride locally. We created programs that were based on proven sound business practices but that also could be customized for local understanding. We created forums for discussion in person and on-line to share best practices around how we identify, attract and retain top talent in a competitive marketplace. We had a long-term view. We had a lot of patience. We did a lot of research to understand local cultural norms and motivations. We explained to each of our satellites that in the past, we had allowed each country to operate as an island as long as they provided best-in-class work and were profitable. Now we would transform ourselves into a company that would require participation in certain global processes around effective talent scouting, employee development and identification and retention of future leaders. These traits will keep us ahead of our competitors in the global economy.
We then started to require participation in the programming though an annual process in which local office management would report to central global management on their achievements against specific criteria that they had created together. The key to success in this realm is ongoing conversation, recognition of top offices that embraced the processes and programs with great success, and mutual respect for cultural differences.
Our company has become more competitive and a more compelling place to work. Now that we have consistent global processes, our employees participate more successfully in international opportunities. Local management can depend on peers in different countries to share best practices and even clients.
Naturally, it is difficult to compare a multinational corporation with a religion and culture. And yet, in some respects, our business has thrived off a uniquely Jewish concept. Like the global Jewish people, our corporation now celebrates individualism while helping our employees achieve that core human need of belonging to a larger community. ■
The author is a corporate executive who wishes to remain anonymous. To contact her, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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