Developing Global Leaders



Using Cultural Intelligence
to Grow Business in Emerging Markets

davelivermore | April 26th, 2011

–An Interview with Guido Gianasso, Vice President of Human Capital at IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) was founded in 1945 as a way to ensure that airlines and governments would work together to guarantee safe and efficient air travel. Today, IATA’s membership totals 230 airlines from 120 countries carrying more than 2 billion passengers annually and 35.2 tons of goods. It’s believed to be one of the most important organizations supporting today’s global economy.

But ten years ago, IATA was quickly becoming irrelevant. They were losing money and it took several days after 9/11 before IATA offered any response to the crisis. Just months later, Mr. Guido Gianasso was asked by the newly appointed CEO to come to IATA to help him in transforming the organization inside out. We recently interviewed Mr. Gianasso to learn about the change process he’s led internally at IATA as vice president of human capital.

Describe IATA’s staff when you arrived 10 years ago compared to today.
Despite the international breadth of IATA’s staff and work, the corporate ethos I inherited was led and dominated by European and North American men. We knew we had to better reflect the fast growing markets in other parts of the world. Today, our personnel represent more than 140 different nationalities. We have men and women leading with us in 74 different countries. We just appointed a Singaporean woman as a director outside of Asia. That never would have happened 10 years ago.

What kinds of challenges do you face in leading your staff to work across so many different countries?
We’ve faced the same kinds of global challenges as many other multinational organizations: How do we operate in global markets that we don’t fully understand? Where do we find leaders able to grow the business locally, communicate with headquarters and manage local teams effectively while implementing global processes, initiatives and strategies? The traditional solution to these problems has been to send out experts from corporate headquarters (usually Western ex-pats) to set up and manage branch offices around the world.

But you decided to use a different approach. Tell us about the leadership development program you created to meet the needs of IATA globally.
We developed a program we call I-Lead. Each year, our top management selects twenty high-potential individuals from our workforce to be in a six-month program focused upon developing their global leadership and cultural intelligence. Half the group is from traditional markets like Western Europe and North America and the other half is from emerging markets like China, Nigeria, and India.

What does this six-month program look like?
At the beginning of the program we bring the 20 I-Lead participants together for a week in one of our emerging markets. We pair each of them up to co-lead a team of junior, high-potential employees and for the next six months, they work together on a real-life business project that is relevant to IATA. So every year we have ten teams being co-led by one Western and one non-Western leader. They work extensively on a set of deliverables in addition to their regular job responsibilities. At the end of the six-month period, the teams present their project results and cross-cultural lessons learned to IATA’s top executive team.

And what are the results?
This has been one of our most profitable leadership development programs. From a business perspective, the projects developed by the teams have been some of our most profitable initiatives. And the program is improving our leaders cultural intelligence. We recently completed an empirical study on the more than 200 participants who have been through this program and found that the program significantly improved their CQ in all four areas (Drive, Knowledge, Strategy, and Action).

The I-Lead program has helped us build bridges across different cultures and has played a direct role in the growth of our business in emerging markets. As a result, we’re developing global leaders from within and simultaneously improving our effectiveness in effective cross-border management.

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No train, no gain

Skilled personnel are integral to the aviation industry's sustainable future. And accomplished managers will be every bit as important as competent pilots and engineers.

Airlines are no different from any other business. In times of economic difficulty, effective management is crucial. Good decision making can mean the difference between profit and loss.

Globally, there is no shortage of general management courses on offer. But many airline CEOs have pointed to the unique demands of aviation, with its constraining regulatory framework and idiosyncratic operating environment. Courses specifically aimed at aviation managers have, until recently, mainly been offered by three institutions: Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, United States, and l’Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC) in Toulouse, France.

While all three have excellent reputations, there are limitations. Most notably, the courses are rooted in Western culture. The rapid growth of aviation in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East—each with its distinctive culture—means these regions clearly need dedicated management training programs for their aviation professionals, not least to bridge a potential skills gap.

The need for leadership

“In 2009, I realized we were supporting training in many specialist areas, but human resources development had been almost completely absent,” says Guido Gianasso, Vice President Human Capital at IATA and Director of the IATA Training and Development Institute (ITDI). “Leadership was not part of our external offering, and there had been nothing relating to best practice in this area.”

This has now changed. In the past three years, the ITDI has developed three separate aviation management training programs in partnership with three separate universities—each aimed at a different level of management (see table overleaf).

“Through these three programs we are ensuring that we cover all levels of management training,” says Gianasso. “The response to the Stanford University distance learning course has been beyond our expectation and we are very happy with the middle management course at the University of Geneva. The top level course has a slightly lower response but that is only to be expected because it’s a smaller market.”

PMDA initiative

The focus on aviation management is a welcome step forward. But in such a dynamic sector, training also needs to address the constant change forced upon airlines by economic circumstances and regulation.

The People Management and Development for Airlines (PMDA) training program focuses on enhancing the performance of an airline’s workforce, particularly during change management and restructuring. PMDA is designed to help airlines to redevelop and align their human resources procedures and structures.

This allows airline management to use their Human Resources Department as a change agent in the organization, ensuring that they have the right people with the right skills in the right places at the right time. (...)

Human capital council

Human Resources (HR) best practice also needs to extend its reach to optimize the aviation value chain. IATA has set up the Global Aviation Human Capital Summit to allow the Heads of Human Resources from the various parties, including airports and civil aviation authorities, to share experiences of driving change and cost cutting. The first summit was held in Singapore in November 2011 with some 150 participants.

The next step in this initiative is a permanent council or committee to discuss human resources issues among member airlines—an Aviation Human Capital Council, spearheaded by IATA and consisting of the Heads of HR of member airlines. Shannon Brown, the Head of HR at FedEx, is leading a small steering group, and the official launch of the council is due during the next Global Aviation Human Capital Summit, which will be held on 13-15 November in Sri Lanka.

“In terms of airlines joining the new council, we are looking for those Heads of HR that are committed to participating,” says Guido Gianasso, Vice President Human Capital at IATA and Director of the IATA Training and Development Institute (ITDI). “We’d rather have an active group of, say, 30-40 airline Heads of HR rather than a larger group of 100, many of whom do not actively participate.”

It is intended that the council will meet each year during the summit meetings, and the main objective is to help the industry in general—especially those airlines where HR is less well developed. It is likely that working taskforces will be set up to deal with specific projects in areas such as sharing best practice, leading change, innovation, and talent development.

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Comment les banques procèdent aux licenciements massifs

Cela ressemble à de la boulimie. «Les banques ingurgitent, puis vomissent, puis se gavent à nouveau, puis revomissent», métaphorise Susan Schneider, professeur en gestion des ressources humaines (GRH) à l’Université de Genève. 2001, 2008, 2011: à chaque crise, les grands instituts financiers internationaux licencient massivement pour réengager tout aussi massivement lorsque l’orage est passé. Mais cette fois, les chiffres annoncés fin juillet donnent le tournis: 30000 licenciements chez HSBC, 15000 chez Lloyds Banking Group, 3000 chez Barclays. Les grands établissements helvétiques ne sont pas en reste. Le Credit Suisse prévoit de rayer 2000 emplois, dont 500 en Suisse, et l’UBS plusieurs milliers, même si le chiffre exact n’a pas encore été dévoilé. A l’origine de cette débandade, des résultats médiocres et des bénéfices en baisse. De 50% chez UBS et au Credit Suisse par exemple. Et, par ricochet, la nécessité de réaliser des économies substantielles. «Nous allons procéder à une élimination de coûts fixes de l’ordre de 1,5 à 2 milliards de francs d’ici à 2013», confirme le porte-parole de l’UBS, Jean-Raphaël Fontannaz. Au-delà des chiffres et des calculs, il y a la réalité du terrain. Comment met-on en œuvre des licenciements de cette ampleur? Qui est en ligne de mire? Comment gérer les «survivants»? Paroles d’experts.

Une procédure en cascade. La décision initiale de procéder à des suppressions d’emploi massives se prend à l’échelon le plus élevé de la banque. «Il y a d’abord des négociations au niveau du CEO et du conseil d’administration, qui se mettent d’accord sur le nombre de postes touchés», explique Maury Peiperl, professeur à l’IMD. Durant cette première étape, on calcule rapidement la réduction de coûts nécessaire pour maintenir la profitabilité. Ensuite, le processus descend en cascade aux échelons inférieurs. «Du fait que les grandes banques internationales possèdent une organisation matricielle, la mise en œuvre concrète des licenciements est déléguée aux directions des pays et des secteurs, relève Guido Gianasso, vice-président en charge du capital humain d’une importante organisation internationale basée à Genève. Chacun reçoit un cahier des charges qu’il a la responsabilité de réaliser.»

Le respect de la loi et de l’éthique. A ce stade, l’implémentation dépend de la législation du pays concerné. Un licenciement massif sera beaucoup plus compliqué (et cher) à réaliser en France ou en Italie, où les lois de protection des travailleurs sont très sévères, qu’en Suisse, réputée plus libérale. «En Suisse, dès que l’on dépasse le nombre de dix postes supprimés ou 10% du personnel licencié en même temps, la loi oblige la direction à consulter la commission du personnel (art. 335 CO) et à passer en revue, avec elle, les autres solutions comme le chômage partiel, le temps partiel ou les congés sabbatiques, souligne Anton Bolliger, chef du domaine marché du travail du canton de Berne. Et si ce n’est pas possible, la direction a le droit de décider elle-même des mesures à prendre.» Pour atténuer le choc, elle a de nombreux outils à sa disposition, comme le reclassement des licenciés, les plans sociaux, la mise à la retraite anticipée. «Les bons établissements et les banques privées ont généralement l’élégance de soutenir leurs collaborateurs licenciés, ajoute Guido Gianasso, et de repositionner le maximum de personnes à l’interne.» Ce qu’a promis de faire l’UBS, selon son porte-parole: «Dans le cadre de notre plan social, l’objectif reste d’éviter autant que possible les licenciements et de continuer à employer les collaborateurs concernés.»

Par milliers Recourir à des licenciements massifs est décidé à l’échelon le plus élevé de la banque.

L’Occident en ligne de mire. «Les régions les plus menacées sont l’Europe et les Etats-Unis, où la banque voit ses affaires souffrir, poursuit Guido Gianasso. Alors que dans le même temps, elles s’étoffent en Asie.» A l’exemple de HSBC qui prévoit en ce moment même de recruter 15000 nouveaux collaborateurs dans les pays émergents. Au niveau des secteurs, la banque d’investissement, qui plombe les résultats, semble particulièrement menacée.(….) 

Dans l’entreprise

Les cinq règles pour conserver des forces vives, motivées et productives

1 Se montrer transparent. En période de crise, une bonne communication, aussi bien à l’interne qu’à l’externe, est le nerf de la guerre. «C’est un tort de prendre ses employés pour des imbéciles, dit Steeves Emmenegger, fondateur d’Emmenegger-Compétences-Conseils. Au moment de l’annonce, il faut préparer à leur intention un message clair, cohérent et chiffré.» Un message qu’il ne faut pas hésiter à répéter. D’autant qu’aujourd’hui, avec les médias sociaux, tout ce qui se dit à l’interne se répercute instantanément partout ailleurs. «Ne jamais oublier que derrière le collaborateur, il y a le client.»

2. Répartir les sacrifices sur toute la hiérarchie. «Il faut commencer par s’attaquer aux très hauts salaires et aux bonus élevés, lance Denise Chervet, secrétaire générale de l’Association suisse des employés de banque. Et ce afin de ne pas créer un sentiment d’inéquité et d’injustice, dévastateur en termes de motivation.» Dans le même esprit, il faut éviter de se séparer des cas humanitaires, des plus faibles, des salaires modestes, sous peine de «créer chez ceux qui restent un sentiment d’amertume contre la banque. Car ils s’en souviennent longtemps», affirme Guido Gianasso, vice-président en charge du capital humain d’une importante organisation internationale basée à Genève.

3. Compenser les emplois perdus. Alors que des centaines de postes disparaissent, le travail, lui, reste le même. «Autrefois, illustre Guido Gianasso, il y avait un gérant et une assistante pour 200 clients. Aujourd’hui, il y a un gérant et une assistante d’équipe pour 400 clients. Alors même que les clients sont de plus en plus compétents et exigeants.» Beaucoup de banques réagissent en compensant les postes disparus par des profils plus pointus et des procédures qui augmentent la productivité.

4. Respecter la dignité des partants. Il s’agit de les accompagner durant la phase de transition. «Cela passe par une logistique très pratique, relève Jean-Luc Jolliet, fondateur de Jolliet-Advice, cabinet de conseil en gouvernance de carrière. Par exemple, on ne laisse pas seul avec son désarroi un collaborateur qui vient d’apprendre la mauvaise nouvelle.» Ou en montrant aux «survivants» que l’on a essayé de reclasser les collaborateurs à l’interne ou à l’externe. «Le soutien aux partants doit être visible et actif.»

5. Mettre rapidement en œuvre le plan décidé. «Une fois que la décision est prise, il faut aller vite, déclare Guido Gianasso. Car il n’y a rien de pire qu’une situation qu’on laisse pourrir.» L’attente génère angoisses, méfiance, querelles, et… perte de motivation.

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New techniques in training

Training techniques are evolving away from the strict rules of the classroom, into evidence- and competency-based solutions.

The economic crisis has temporarily allayed recruitment concerns, but the training revisions planned by potential staff shortages remain. The changes promise airlines a motivated, highly skilled workforce in the years ahead.

“The industry now has a window of opportunity to implement a new training strategy so we’re ready for future growth and any recruitment issues,” says Guido Gianasso, Vice President, Human Capital at IATA. “It is a different market now, but it’s a different strategy too. We’re convinced aviation will reap the benefits in the years ahead.”

There are two main innovations, which are applicable across all sectors of the industry. First is the move towards competency-based training and away from a bottom-up, classroom approach. This entails teaching a candidate until they are deemed competent, rather than relying on prescriptive rules such as counting the number of hours trained.

Pilot training provides the clearest example. “The new strategy has been developed to ensure recruits are equipped to deal with modern aircraft in a 21st-century operating environment,” says Guenther Matschnigg, Senior Vice President of IATA’s Safety, Operations and Infrastructure department. “So we don’t delay a talented person from progressing quickly, and we don’t jeopardize safety by passing somebody when they’re not ready.”

The Multi-crew Pilot Licence—a symbol of this brave new world—has already produced about 50 graduates in different countries and some 400 are currently in training.

The other crucial training development is utilizing industry data. This means using all available information in a training program. “For example, there was nothing that trained pilots for a high-altitude stall, even though we have clear evidence that this can be a real risk,” says Matschnigg. “We have exhaustive data, and we must exploit that in our training methodologies. Evidence-based training is vital.”

Other improvements will supplement the fresh outlook. Instructors will need to be schooled to the same high standard throughout the world, and training exercises and simulators will need to be aligned with the new methodology.

The costof learning. One challenge in improving training is maintaining a tight control on costs. While the new industry strategy is about providing quality training rather than managing cost, budgets are necessarily limited.

The knife is cutting deepest in general management courses. “This is where the money has disappeared,” confirms Gianasso, noting that IATA’s own experiences as a training provider are reflecting universal industry trends.

Education in technical skills is largely continuing unaffected. Cargo, for example, requires a very specific and technical skill set, and IATA reports no change in course attendance.

Meanwhile, organizational training has benefited from increased interest. “All airline CEOs understand the need for restructuring from board level down, so any training relating to organizational change has been given a high priority,” he says. “This has become an active area.”

Higher priority is also being given to more cost-effective measures such as distance and e-learning. Gianasso says IATA will re-engineer its distance learning program in response to market demand. “We have a network of about 160 partners around the world and we’re looking to strengthen that,” he notes. “We want to improve our leverage of the brand to encourage new partners.” The association will more than double e-learning in 2010.

Costs will also be driven down by the big increase in the number of training companies. Strong competition is also forcing an improvement in quality, although regional differences in standards still need to be monitored. IATA aims to develop and influence quality levels through its own programs.

IATA Training

As part of the move into competency-based training, IATA will continue developing its classroom courses. This will not only make them more relevant but also ensure they are offered in the regions where they are needed most.

Aside from general courses, IATA will further enhance its bespoke service. Providing training for companies in-house grew 16% in 2009 and will increase further in 2010. This is an offshoot of the competency approach as companies are realizing the benefits of defining training according to their own needs and structure.

Clients for IATA training range from airlines to airports and civil aviation authorities. For example, IATA recently signed an agreement with the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation to provide a series of management courses.

“IATA is a strong brand,” says Guido Gianasso, Vice President, Human Capital at IATA. “Moreover, we provide totally unbiased support. It’s understood that our products have some advantages over the offerings of a commercial outfit.”

In all IATA trains approximately 35,000 people every year, in courses ranging from Cargo Dangerous Good Regulations to International Strategy and Communication, and in locations as far apart as Miami and Beijing.

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Corporate Learning Network Executive Spotlight -
IATA's Guido Gianasso

As Vice President of Human Capital for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Italian native Guido Gianasso is playing a significant role in the human resource management of an organization that represents, leads and serves the airline industry. IATA’s members comprise some 230 airlines - the world’s leading passenger and cargo airlines among them - representing 93 percent of scheduled international air traffic. Gianasso, who previously served in senior human resource positions for the United Nations, the World Bank and several leading multi-national corporations, heads a unit that strives to provide IATA employees with a great working and learning environment. IATA creates this learning atmosphere in part by utilizing the IMD Corporate Learning Network, which offers members lifelong learning and world-class networking.

The airline industry is facing numerous challenges. In this first installment of the IMD Corporate Learning Network Executive Spotlight, Gianasso addresses some of these challenges as well as how learning takes place within IATA.

What are the greatest challenges in your industry over the next five years?

Aviation, the world's most global industry, is also the most fragmented, with over a thousand airlines competing for rare profits. The industry average profit margin is just 0.3%! The list of challenges is long, ranging from fuel prices averaging over $100 a barrel to the US credit crunch slowing traffic growth. Just imagine that for every dollar the price of oil goes up, costs for airlines go up by 1.6 billion. Another major challenge that will accompany us over the next five years is how the concern for climate change will drive the need to deliver results to reduce emissions. Monopoly suppliers (airport authorities first of all) charging extravagant fees and the uncoordinated mess in airport security measures are additional issues making life very difficult for airlines.

What are the essential skills that every great business leader must bring to an organization?

A great business leader must be able to articulate a vision and align people to it. The vision is essential to give the company a sense of direction in a rapidly changing business environment. At the same time, a business leader must be able to inspire and mobilize internal and external stakeholders.

In your estimation, what is the most common mistake business leaders make today?

Leading a business in these turbulent times of change is not easy. Balancing strategy and execution, short-term against long-term and detecting indicators of mega trends early enough are some of the important challenges we are all facing.

Do you have an example of this?

A common mistake that I often see is grossly underestimating the importance of cultural differences. I find this very interesting. We all talk about growing markets such as China and India, and still there is very little interest in understanding Asian cultures and values. Statistically 70% of all foreign investments in China end up in heavy losses for the western partner. And the cause is not Chinese political or legal systems, nor is it language. It is the cultural divide. And still, many western leaders decide business acquisitions, mergers and outsourcing without realizing that these initiatives can be successful only if based on a good understanding of how our Asian business partners, clients and employees think. Western business schools, even the best ones, still devote very little attention to Asian cultures and their impact on business.

How does learning take place within your organization?

At IATA learning takes place in many ways. We put our focus on leadership development with a variety of programs, the most important being the Intercultural Leadership Engagement and Development Program (I-Lead). This program aims to develop - through action learning - a new generation of leaders able to work across cultures. We also believe that a good way to develop our employees is offering them international development assignments, swaps and shadowing programs. I recently met a young Chinese employee. Three years ago she started as an international intern in Geneva in the Chief Economist Office and then moved to Montreal and was promoted to Product Manager. I believe this is a nice example of the possibilities that exist for young and committed individuals in our organization. But I also remind newcomers that the key to their success is continuous learning; and continuous learning is based on their intellectual curiosity and determination to take every opportunity they have to learn and broaden their horizons.

What are the main benefits and takeaways that your organization experiences as the result of being a part of the IMD Corporate Learning Network? What are the main benefits of this membership for you personally?

IATA has been a part of the IMD Corporate Learning Network since 2007. We are an organization whose workforce is distributed among 74 offices around the world. Many of these offices are relatively small and our local employees have limited access to traditional learning opportunities. The learning network offers all our employees, in their offices in Lima or Auckland, a window of the world and an opportunity to hear and learn from the best. For me personally the Advisory Council is an opportunity to be in touch with my peers and discuss with them and with IMD Faculty topics of common interest.

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