If there is one issue that motivates CEOs at the forefront of the stakeholder capitalism movement, it is training and upskilling. They see the dangerous fissures that exist between the highly educated and the less so—a gap that widened during the pandemic. And they understand that technological change is driving that gap ever wider. While the pandemic, racial injustice and climate change may get more attention from society at large, it’s the reskilling challenge for which CEOs feel most directly responsible.
Deanna Mulligan, who is stepping down as CEO of Guardian Life Insurance at year’s end, is one of those CEOs, and she has put her passion into a new book out next week: Hire Purpose: How Smart Companies Can Close the Skills <em>Gap. I spoke with Mulligan earlier this week, and she told me about her evolution on the issue.
Mulligan joined Guardian in 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession. Guardian “wasn’t wildly impacted by the recession, but I was looking around and seeing so many of my friends losing jobs.” When she became CEO in 2011, she realized a combination of pervasive low interest rates and technological change was going to drive huge disruption for her company and her employees. “I said to myself, I don’t want to be one of those companies that has to turn all these people out on the streets.”
She started a program to teach people in the company’s call centers to write code, teamed with General Assembly to teach actuaries to be data analysts, and developed a program of “train in, train out”—providing two years tuition at a local community college for workers whose jobs were eliminated.
“Companies have an obligation to society to try and do this,” she said. “And it’s less expensive than firing people.” Like a number of her CEO colleagues, she is committed to extending such programs beyond her own employees. “It’s very important that we do this at scale.”
We’ll be talking about this topic more on Monday, at the annual meeting of the Fortune CEO Initiative. Mulligan will be there, along with a great group of CEOs. A partial list: Vas Narasimhan of Novartis, Mark Schneider of Nestle, Aneel Bhusri of Workday, Michelle Gass of Kohl’s, Francesco Starace of Enel, Tiger Tyagarajan of Genpact, Jim Fitterling of Dow, Julie Sweet of Accenture, Enrique Lores of HP, Antonio Neeri of HPE, Kevin Sneader of McKinsey, Joe Ucuzoglu of Deloitte, and Sonia Syngal of Gap. Ford Foundation President Darren Walker also will join, along with two U.S. governors who have been working on the retraining challenge: Maryland’s Larry Hogan and Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo.
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