January 18, 2021

How Mastercard is creating career opportunities for its employees

  • Mastercard pivoted its business strategy at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Chief People Officer Michael Fraccaro said Mastercard asked for 50 volunteers on new, pandemic-related projects. Four hundred people responded.
  • It’s a way for Mastercard employees to tackle new career challenges, and to stay engaged with the company.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The pandemic recession has pushed many companies to put their hiring plans on pause. And the decision could open up career opportunities for existing employees.

Mastercard is a prime example of how that can work.

At Mastercard, which vowed not to conduct any COVID-19-related layoffs, about 20,000 staffers around the world had the chance to expand their skill sets and get noticed by leadership through a new initiative called Project Possible.

Shortly after the onset of the pandemic, Mastercard announced a revised set of organizational objectives. Executives then asked for employee volunteers to work on assignments related to those goals. Some assignments, for example, involved working with governments that are looking to increase daily limits on contactless transactions in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, Mastercard’s chief people officer Michael Fraccaro told Business Insider, leadership requested just 50 volunteers from across the company. Fraccaro said that Mastercard heard from about 400 employees “saying, ‘I’ve got some capacity.'”

In other words: The project was a win-win for Mastercard and its staff. Mastercard was able to quickly double down on its new goals, and employees looking for a new challenge were able to try a plum new assignment from management.

It’s a strategy any company can emulate.

Millennials at Mastercard seem most eager for new career challenges

Taking on an assignment outside your typical purview can help you build a network across your organization. As workplace strategist Erica Keswin previously told Business Insider, a solid way to earn a promotion is to garner support from colleagues across departments. You might consider volunteering for projects outside your current role and responsibilities, Keswin said.

Project Possible gives employees the opportunity to build their network by taking on new challenges at the company. It focuses on six business areas:

  1. Small business and gig economy
  2. Governments and social welfare
  3. Data and global supply chains
  4. Community access to services (which includes contactless payments)
  5. Access to capital
  6. Tools for disadvantaged consumers

And while the initiative isn’t targeting any one group of employees in particular, Fraccaro said, requests to participate have come mostly from millennials.

Fraccaro added, “They’re the ones who have been putting their hand up and saying, ‘Wow, this is a tremendous opportunity this company is giving me. I believe I’ve got the skills and the interest in learning something new and different and building up my profile and getting greater exposure.'”

Mastercard hasn’t looked into why millennials have been most eager to join the initiative. One possibility is that early-career employees, as a general matter at least, have more time on their hands right now. Project Possible volunteers are unpaid and take on the new assignments on top of their current workload, although Mastercard said each volunteer’s manager helps them balance their responsibilities.

Meanwhile, employees with kids, parents, or other family members to care for may be overburdened. In a survey run by people-analytics platform Werk Labs, parents of one child were 10% more likely than non-parents (and parents with two or more kids) to say they plan to leave their employers within a year.

That said, any organization that launches their own version of Project Possible needs to be careful not to exclude employees who are caretakers. Some may very well be interested in stepping up to a new challenge, and discounting that could mean overlooking a huge chunk of talent. (Parents are in fact more adept at time-management than non-parents, research suggests.)

Mastercard wants to continue creating internal career opportunities for employees

In September, a Mastercard spokesperson wrote in a follow-up email that Project Possible had inspired the company to think more broadly about creating an “internal talent marketplace.” That way, when new and urgent projects arise, Mastercard will be able to recruit talent internally.

Among the biggest benefits of Project Possible is that it’s created a sense of community at Mastercard — which could translate to better performance. It’s “getting people even more engaged with the company,” Fraccaro said.

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