Embracing Technology to Develop Mercer Culture

If there is one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us as a global team is the power of communication. The ability to connect and communicate is often one that is taken for granted – how we go about it is critical to our relationships and growth. With Mercer being a global company, these relationships become even more important to ensure a shared understanding of our vision, purpose, and values. When our teams did not have the option of in-person communication, we turned to digital communication in all aspects of our business.

Becoming Digital in the Pandemic

Prior to March 2020, Mercer was already adopting cloud services. In the summer of 2019, a small global group was selected to trial new systems and provide feedback to prepare for the changeover globally. As you may guess, this changeover became expedited in early 2020 as each of our operations received work-from-home orders from regional governments and implemented safety restrictions to keep our on-the-floor employees safe.

Though we believe this trial phase was integral to our fairly-smooth transition to public cloud software-as-a-service, we also must give credit to the business model and uniqueness of Mercer as a whole. Our work culture has proven how adaptable our team members and leaders are by making digital working a reality. In a crisis, we proved that all is possible, with teams emulating autonomy, responsibility and great work every day, despite the challenges we faced.

Growing as a Team

Our existing shift to the cloud already showed that Mercer understood the potential positive outcomes of using such information management and processing tools. However, the way our teams fully shifted to digitalization has demonstrated further advantages and possibilities in moving online. In a crisis, we become efficient, and that adaptability allowed for high-level functioning in the ever-changing circumstances we were experiencing together.

While working from home came with its individual challenges, it largely worked thanks to relationships formed prior to the pandemic. Digital meetings were just another avenue to connect with our teams. As a global company, these meetings also offered the opportunity for team members, whose previous interactions may have been limited to email and phone, to now meet on the screen and put a face to a name. Colleagues across oceans were able to connect more regularly, deepening relationships that may not have existed before.

Growing within Our Functions

Because the opportunities for global communication grew exponentially, so did our projects – with more minds collaborating, more ideas have taken seed and grown across our operations. A number of projects have started throughout the pandemic, focusing on aligning our strategies and systems for shared growth. Some of these projects include:

  • The continued adaptation in the workforce to digitalization;
  • our Continuous Improvement Project (CIP), analyzing internal processes within operations to implement improvements; and
  • our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiative, with our current focus to increase the recruitment and retention of women at all levels of the workplace.

While each project carries great importance in the workplace, they can only succeed when the teams understand one another. Though our teams have been able to connect more frequently across the globe, we understand that to be successful in these projects is to set team members up for success. How can we continue to develop interpersonal connections while working together effectively in our respective countries?

Growing our Cultural Awareness

As a global company, understanding the cultures we have within our workforce is critical to our success. To expect one message to be understood in the same fashion across the organization does little for respecting the cultural nuances we have. For our leaders – and project leads, in particular – common purpose comes together with shared understanding. This is why Mercer, with the help of external resources who understand cultural nuances, offers training opportunities to provide this understanding and context that aligns us all on the same path.

  • The Mercer Leadership Program – Mercer’s most notable training program, beginning in 2011, the Leadership Program is provided through our partnership with the St. Gallen Management Institute in Switzerland; a world leader in senior leadership development. The school provides Mercer-focused management and strategic development training for our future leaders, with cohorts made up of employees from all Mercer operations. Since the program’s inception, our understanding of leadership and culture has evolved to incorporate further training opportunities to broaden awareness and support growth.
  • Intercultural Awareness Training – developed with CIP in mind, the Intercultural Awareness Training is provided to global project groups in two sessions: 1) for German colleagues to learn more about North American culture, and vice versa and 2) in a mixed-group setting to share learnings from the first session. This tailored training provides a safe space to learn about our fellow colleagues in a respectful manner.
  • Unconscious Bias Awareness Training – in order to succeed in our DE&I goal to increase the recruitment and retention of women in our workforces, we must first understand our internalized biases that may affect our hiring and growth decisions. The Unconscious Bias Awareness Training asks us all to reflect on these internalized biases, think about where they came from, and see how to break down thinking patterns we may find ourselves in. Our first group had a selection of 148 team members, with 85% of participants completing the training. The remainder will be rolled into future group sessions as an ongoing opportunity.

Continued Growth and Development

The past two years have been ones of great learning for the Mercer team globally. We have shown that we are adaptive in the face of a crisis, with the ability to retain productivity without forgetting to connect with each other. We are proud of the resilience that our team members have shown and are excited to see how our current and future projects develop. As restrictions continue to ease globally, our teams look forward to the opportunity to begin connecting in person – whether it be for the first time in two years or the first time ever.