Harnessing the Hive Mind for the Greater Good
The coming together of rival companies in the business services sector to work towards raising awareness of the field, as reported inside our BSS special report in this issue, is certainly unusual, if not completely unique, but I wonder if it might be a herald of things to come, a world where mutual assistance trumps self-interest.
Facing down a labor crisis is not made any easier if many of your best talents have gone abroad, in search of better pay, yes, but also more interesting careers. Hungary wants those talents to return, but for that it needs challenging roles to offer and, unless a country has a state-funded moon shot project to offer, it will need to rely on the private sector to provide those careers.
When BlackRock’s Melanie Seymour started recruiting for roles in the company’s Budapest operation among the emigre Hungarian population in London, she came to realize this offered people a chance to come home, to pursue an interesting career in the land of their birth. (See our interview with her in the April 26 issue of the Budapest Business Journal.)
When the experiment was repeated in Germany and the United States, it proved just as alluring. People have many reasons for leaving a country to work abroad, but an interesting job is also often high up on that list. Seymour realized from conversations she had with Hungarian colleagues and friends that a lack of interesting jobs – or a lack of awareness of their existence – was also stopping people from coming back.
Her answer wasn’t simply to continue recruiting for BlackRock alone, but rather to cooperate with the likes of Morgan Stanley and Citi and MSCI. Why offer 50 jobs in one firm, when you could offer 500 across a sector?
The Business Service Sector Project is cut from similar cloth. Rival firms, who routinely poach staff from one another, are working side by side to raise awareness about what exactly goes on in a shared services center (hint: its way more than answering a telephone), the types of career that are available, and the possibilities for advancement.
This all started with some research undertaken by BT a few years back. I was so struck by it at the time that I put it on the front cover of this newspaper. The project has since been taken on and developed with the help of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary, an organization which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in the Hungarian Parliament just after this issue goes to print, and just before it is published.
AmCham, like all international chambers, is founded on the concept of mutual assistance. There are many examples to draw from, but the one that always strikes me is AmCham’s Regulatory Committee, which brings together some of the sharpest legal minds from rival law firms to bounce off one another (rather than into one another, as they tend to do when representing clients on either side of the conference table) in drawing up cogent responses to draft legislation.
If lawyers can move from the adversarial approach to the collegiate in the greater interest of all, and then back again, then so can anyone. I have a friend who likes to talk about “win-win” situations. I hate the phrase because it sound like marketing drivel, and most of the time it is. But perhaps this is an exception. If business sectors can draw on a hive mind, perhaps we can all benefit.
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