How (and why) large companies around the world are increasing their investment in job creation
“We stand at a crossroads today — with all eyes on the U.S. economy — facing choices about how to propel ourselves into a prosperous future,” says David Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna Corp. (NYSE: CI), calling on Corporate America and large global businesses to do what they can to create jobs. Cigna is one of a growing number of corporations that recognize it is in their best interest to spur employment. Rather than simply funding projects, they — and thousands of employee volunteers — are wielding their core skills in the fight. Cigna says its call to action involves a new program to mentor and provide health and wellness education and affordable access to U.S. startups. Others are leveraging education to boost the availability of qualified applicants, using smart technologies to reach disadvantaged youth, women, people with disabilities and other disenfranchised groups.
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“The leaders in the field don’t view job creation as a philanthropic issue so much as risk management, a lens through which they can improve their organizations and help stakeholders,” says Richard Crespin, executive director of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association.
The Mission at ManpowerGroup
When a devastating tsunami hit the coast of India in 2004, Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup, recalls an overwhelming reaction from employees. “People wondered what we would do, how much we would give,” he recalls. “Then I said: ‘We’re not going to do anything — not now. First response is not what we’re good at.’”
Instead, ManpowerGroup made a commitment: In partnership with HOPE Worldwide, the company would build two vocational training centers in the state of Tamil Nadu and endow the project for 10 years. With traditional livelihoods such as fishing decimated by the tsunami, the centers offer instruction in tailoring, electrical repair, masonry, data processing, mobile telephone servicing and commercial driving, preparing graduates for careers with greater earning potential and increasing the workforce of women — many of whom were left widowed and desperate for a living wage in the wake of the tsunami. As of 2011, ManpowerGroup reports, nearly 9,000 graduates have completed training, exceeding initial expectations by almost 50 percent.
BY THE NUMBERS
11,297: Startups eligible for Cigna’s new program offering affordable health and dental insurance
9,000: Number of graduates of two vocational training centers in Tamil Nadu, India, founded by ManpowerGroup, as of 2011
13,500: Number of students the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation aims to educate in three years via the schools it helps run
ManpowerGroup’s effort in India is one of many that center around education tailored to fit geographic and demographic needs. For example, through its Ready.Set.Work! program, the company joins forces with community organizations to empower women, and through Project Ability it partners with organizations to offer companies the high-quality talent of people with disabilities.
Globally, Joerres sees education as a means to full employment and a way for disadvantaged groups to aspire to meaningful work. He points to ManpowerGroup’s 2012 Talent Shortage Survey, which found that one-third of companies globally report difficulty filling open positions. “There is a clear mismatch between available workers...and the needs of employers,” he says, adding, “ManpowerGroup was founded with a mission almost 65 years ago — to connect people with meaningful work.” Especially through the company’s education efforts, “that mission is very much alive today.”