In the chilly winter of 1966, a young fintech – decades before the term was coined – set to address a unique payments-related need. It grew from being a young startup into a global technology leader, working to deliver a world beyond cash where everyone can benefit from the transparency and ease of digital payments. Today, Mastercard is working with customers and partners to collaborate across formal lines to unlock new opportunities for millions of people and businesses around the world.
From its humble start focused on the U.S. market, to a global Fortune 250 company employing more than 15,000 people across the world, this historic success is without a doubt attributed to the company’s focus on pursuing the frontiers of innovation.
Innovation is part of Mastercard’s DNA. But how does a company get to this point?
To answer this question, an organization needs to consider two fundamental questions.
Firstly, what does innovation mean to us internally?
Innovation is not just about building the latest technology, or inventing something completely new. Innovation is also about the small achievements that make every day work more efficient and simple.
Whilst Mastercard builds many amazing break-through innovative products, some of the most interesting innovations I hear about are when a team thinks creatively and differently about an existing process or approach that has served us well for years but needs a refresh.
This could be to keep up with customer or user demands, or simply makes it easier for our employees to go about their everyday work.
That’s why a business that wants to be successful, must focus on achieving innovation within not just its core business, but across all its functions. Innovation needs to be cascaded throughout the company with the responsibility in everyone’s hands to innovate and think differently in the work they do.
Which brings us to the second question.
Can innovation be taught?
This is a question that Human Resources leaders ask themselves all the time – and at Mastercard, we firmly believe – yes. But for innovation to happen at all levels of the company, we have focused on a range of enablers to support this: talent development, organization design and structure and how we evolve our thinking on leadership.
We have been focused on ensuring that all employees, regardless of their job feel like they have the knowledge and tools to innovate every day and that our culture is one where people feel empowered to try new things.
We have invested in training our employees across all functions on the latest technological innovations and in tools on how to progress new ideas like Design Thinking which can be applied within their own fields of expertise
We are leveraging Virtual Reality to help deliver sophisticated training solutions for our people. For example, we are using VR as a realistic and immersive environment for our sales teams to experience engaging with a customer. We also recently followed a start-up over the course of a year to video document their business journey which we built into a training program for our emerging leaders. The video documentary provided real situations the start-up was facing which our emerging leaders needed to make decisions on and they could then see the real-life consequences of these decisions.
Within our own HR function, we have also embraced the latest technology advancements. Take for instance, Artificial Intelligence.
Today AI is showing significant potential in resource management, organizational planning and identifying required skillsets across markets.
By leveraging data analytics, we are able to see a picture of what skills we have today and where we may have future gaps that help to inform our investments in additional resources.
Ultimately people are they key
While it presents several benefits, the use of technologies like AI and VR will not do away with people in HR, but rather complement them and enable them to achieve more innovation within this space.
But, technical skills are only part of the equation. An organization’s ability to deliver results now and in the future will depend on building and maintaining a winning culture.
At Mastercard, we believe this starts with decency at the core. That foundational premise and commitment helps us to attract the best people from diverse backgrounds.
One of the key parts to this is a sincere commitment to inclusion –and an employee experience that creates a sense of community, unified purpose and belonging.
Everyone can and should feel that their voice is heard and valued. This care and respect for our people at an individual level is what encourages unique insights, new ideas and a passion about the work we do that ultimately drives innovation.
After all, the greatest technology will need the will need bright, dedicated people to continually advance the conversation and think about what’s next. It’s for that reason that our people will remain at the core of our innovation.