Lessons from a Leader: HQ Asia Speaks with Mastercard CHRO

HQ Asia sat down with Michael Fraccaro to gain insights into what advice for emerging leaders, capabilities for HR leaders to upskill and how Mastercard uses customer-driven HR.

What capabilities do you see that HR professionals need to upskill in?

According to a Deloitte University Press study, 40% of newly appointed CHROs actually come from business. This finding suggests two things: (1) that CEO’s are getting frustrated with traditional HR and (2) that if HR is to remain relevant, it needs to continue to improve its knowledge of business.

So for me, the two key capabilities that HR professionals need to upskill include:

  • Business acumen. If you speak to business leaders, doing something new or cool in HR is not at the forefront of their minds. They always start with a focus on business issues. Whilst it is a cliché that HR should be business-minded, it is still not where it should be today. The link to business should never feel forced but what HR does should flow naturally from it.
  • Designing organisations for the future. Given the pace of change in the world driven by forces like technological change and globalisation, HR professionals will need to think differently about the implications for their organisation and their workforce. This will have implications for how we think about learning, leadership, career development, performance management, reward etc. If you think about innovations like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the implications that can have for certain jobs and tasks, it’s happening right now and HR needs to get in front of it to help leaders navigate. I believe this presents a great opportunity for HR to step-up and influence the future of our workplaces.

How do you define customer-driven HR? How is Mastercard adapting customer-driven HR practices?

There are two dimensions to customer-driven HR: 

  • Have a mind-set and set of behaviours instilled in the HR function which reflects how customers are treated. For instance: if your company has a set of values and beliefs externally that puts the customer first, yet internally your HR processes and practices are bureaucratic, response times to your people-services help desk are long and external candidates have an underwhelming experience, there is a problem.
  • Use customer insights in design and development. We now conduct user groups with a select group of individuals across the company to test and learn new programs or enhancements to existing processes & experiences. For instance, last year our year-end performance management system required 12 separate screens for managers to complete an employee review. It was a very unfriendly user experience. With user groups, we found a way to simplify the data input to a single screen without compromising on quality and significantly improving the experience.

Whilst we are still on this journey, I recently received an email from a former employee positively commenting on one of my team members and their experience dealing with them. It is examples like this that remind us that we need to keep the “human” in human resources. And that ultimately, it is the experiences that our managers and employees have before, during and after working with you that can reinforce the culture of your company.

What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring global leader?

  1. Take on a task and/or job that no one else wants because it is too difficult. It is an opportunity to demonstrate agility and willingness to take on risk.
  2. Find someone who you respect that you can learn from. This does not need to be a formal mentor.
  3. Live and work in at least one different regions and/or markets. Given the shifts in globalisation, having had a different experience will only strengthen your ability to think broadly in how you apply your skills in HR.

You learn so much about people and cultures but more importantly, through taking stints abroad and stretch assignments, you learn a tremendous amount about yourself. This helps shape your worldview, which is a series of assumptions and beliefs that you hold about yourself, others and the world based on your experiences.

I’ve had the privilege to work in different regions like Australia, Asia Pacific (Hong Kong), Middle East (Saudi Arabia) and now in North America (USA) and each time I take on such an experience, I realise how different --but also how similar-- issues are. It then comes down to an ability to adapt and build relationships in cross-cultural setting which really becomes key.

What is a book – business-focused or otherwise – that you recommend often?

Give and Take by Adam Grant.  It is a terrific tale for anyone looking to find meaning and purpose at work. It categorises people at work into three groups: most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

In today’s world, sustainable success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others and how we collaborate. I just think it is such a refreshing way to view success through a different lens.

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