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Mike Mc Carthy, MasterCard
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Case study: MasterCard

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When MasterCard was looking to implement a new incentives programme for its salespersons globally, it made sure to bring each stakeholder on board, Mike McCarthy, the company’s group head of HR for APMEA, tells Aditi Sharma Kalra.

The proponent of the learning organisation, Peter Senge, once said: “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!”

So when MasterCard was looking to implement a new incentives programme last year for its salespersons, slated to impact about a quarter of the regional workforce, it made sure to bring each stakeholder on board along on every step of the way.

Mike McCarthy, group head of HR for MasterCard in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, explains the need for the new programme. “Our incentive programme for salespeople had been in place for a number of years. People were comfortable with it, and they could work out what was coming their way.”

But internal and external changes encouraged the organisation to re-look at the way it rewards performance.

Rewinding the clock, MasterCard was created by a group of banks to allow money transfers. For the largest part of its history, it was an association, with members, not customers. As a result, the eye was not necessarily on profits.

“Since we became publicly listed, there is much more focus on growing the business. Our customer base has become more diverse to include consumer groups, merchants, technology and telecom companies, and governments.

“We wanted the change in the customer base and focus to be reflected in how we were measuring people.

“For example, a lot of the work we do with the governments is about how we can drive financial inclusion. It’s not where we make money, but it’s a very important part of our business.”

As a result, there was a need for a new scheme – one that reflected not just “what” sales teams were achieving, but “how” they were achieving that, and the effort put in.

To give an example, McCarthy points to the environmental differences impacting performance across countries. A salesperson in one country may have an apple fall from the tree into their arms, while in another, someone may be working their fingers to their bone, and with no fault of their own, end up with very little to show for it.

There was a need for a new scheme – one that reflected not just “what” sales teams were achieving, but “how” they were achieving that, and the effort put in.

Countering resistance

As with all changes, the programme saw some initial pushback.

“But the way we did this project, which is quite typical of MasterCard, is that all key stakeholders were involved. Not every individual had a say, but every group, geography and business area was represented.”

Equally important was the training of line managers and country heads, he adds. After some resistance, they came on board once they understood the concept, which was key to the implementation.

“Another thing is our HR business partners in this region have very good relationships with the business heads and line managers, so they got them to sign up for it.”

And for the “hard core miscreants”? A little bit of motivation, strong arming, and a whole lot of communication.

“Once it was rolled out, it was communicated. Once people had to set their target, we had another round of training. We reviewed the objectives during the year,” chimes in Patricia Goh, APAC head of C&B for MasterCard International.

“Mid-year, we checked quality and had another round of training. So when we got to the end of the year, we had robust objectives in place.”

Adds McCarthy: “A lot of HR teams feel the need to introduce a programme as a surprise and that’s the absolute worst (thing) you can do. You need to have the business inputs from the start, go out and test those.

“We didn’t just pack our friends on board. We got some of the more vocal members who will ask questions about it.”

The feedback the team has received over the past year is the scheme now better reflects what the sales teams are doing out in the market.

A lot of HR teams feel the need to introduce a programme as a surprise and that’s the absolute worst (thing) you can do. You need to have the business inputs from the start, go out and test those.

“From an HR perspective, you want to have reward schemes that are recognised by people doing the job, as appropriate, and being an incentive that makes them want to do lots more of the stuff that makes money, that builds relationships and drives financial inclusion.

“In any function, if you are not adding to the bottom line, if you are not adding to profit, if you are not reducing risk, if you are not enhancing brand and reputation, then why are you doing what you are doing?”

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