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Case study: How 3M has strengthened foreign-local workforce complementarity

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3M considers a diverse talent pool "the innovative lifeblood" of the business. This focus on diversity has been implemented through its globalised leaders initiative and the 3M leadership way, affirms Yuko Nakahira, managing director, 3M Singapore in this case study.

The US-based conglomerate known for science and innovation, 3M, considers a diverse talent pool "the innovative lifeblood" of the business. This focus on diversity has been implemented through its globalised leaders initiative and the 3M leadership way.

Referred within the company as “Globalised Leaders 2x2x2”, the “2” refers to the possibility for employees to gain experience in two businesses, two functions and two geographies. 3M has five business groups: consumer, electronics and energy, healthcare, industrial and safety and graphics, enabling participating employees to gain exposure in different functions, businesses and geographies.

The spark behind the idea

"As a science-based company, our success relies on our ability to identify, develop and leverage on its employees’ competencies," says Yuko Nakahira, managing director, 3M Singapore. "Having people who can “think out of the box” becomes especially important in an environment where the frequency of disruptive technologies is increasing."

Driven by the diverse structure and needs of its businesses, 3M fosters innovation by promoting collaboration as an expected behaviour embedded into “3M Leadership Behaviours”, i.e. the framework by which leaders are assessed on how well they foster collaboration and teamwork.

The Globalised Leaders initiative enhances collaboration as it promotes employees’ understanding of different businesses, functions, and technologies and different businesses. Through this focus, they are expected to be able to combine different 3M solutions to help solve bigger problems for customers.

The programme is open to 3Mers who are consistently high performers, key talents, high-potentials or employees who are ambitious to grow and stretch themselves. The avenues can be via management recommendation / nomination or self-application.

Boiling point: Overcoming the challenges

Nakahira provides additional context to the initiative: "When we look to the future we know we need to continue to expand our global network and, therefore, our labour pools, in order to meet changing business models."

"At present, 3M employees collaborate across geographic borders extensively, mirroring practices already in place in 3M’s technical community," she explains. What that means is if a specific expertise is not available in proximity to its St. Paul, Minnesota, headquarters, for example, the team has learned how to reach out globally to locate the talent we need.

Moreover, 3M encourages collaboration across geographies to find expert scientists wherever they might be, i.e. the people needed to create optimal solutions for its customers. "Strengthening these networks means we don’t have to rely on where talent is. Rather, we simply rely on our ability to tap that talent to get specific projects or work accomplished," adds Nakahira.

"A global talent network also allows the transfer of critical skills from anywhere in 3M’s network to the locations and people that are in need."

A positive chemical reaction of collaboration and careers

The globalised leaders programme has allowed 3M to match new applicant skill sets with the needs of the different business divisions, resulting in shorter on-boarding time and faster assimilation of 3M’s Leadership Behaviours, such as, collaboration.

Since its implementation in 2012, more than 100 employees at 3M Singapore have undertaken interesting career choices and switches. Nakahira elaborates: "Financial consultants became marketers, R&D staff converted to marketing managers, and some even switched career fields twice – from marketers to HR business partners to business managers." From the perspective of the employees, it keeps their working life fresh and appropriately challenging, she adds.

In building this platform for employees, 3M Singapore has stayed in tune with national manpower needs, having signed the Employer’s Pledge of Fair Employment Practices with TAFEP (Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices) on January 1, 2011.

"Since then, we have been getting enormous support from TAFEP to enhance our competitiveness by developing a fair and progressive workplace culture that are complementary to our collaborative culture and our relentless efforts in driving diversity and inclusion at the workplace," says Nakahira.

Besides, 3M Singapore is also part of the pioneer batch of Human Capital Partners (HCPartners), signifying it as an exemplary employer in the nation. Nakahira affirms: :"We believe being a part of the HCP programme enhances our employment brand and would have a positive impact on our recruitment, engagement and retention efforts."

Photo / Provided

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