Human revolution first
Let’s look at the survey on the language and mathematics problem-solving capacity for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by age groups. Koreans under age 15 have been consistently ranked high, alongside youngsters in Finland and Sweden. Korean students get high marks on math and science Olympiads every year.
But considering other age groups, the overall picture is not so rosy. Compare to other top-ranked countries, Koreans’ competency declines drastically and reaches below the OECD average in the 35-45 age group. The rate of human capital decline in the group aged between 20 and 39 is one of the most serious. These indicators suggest concerns for Korea’s national competitiveness.
The report reminded me of an article on Korean corporate culture on the Economist in 2015. When a company is growing, having “fast followers” who faithfully follow experiences and knowledge of the superior helps.
But in the stalled business environment like Korea with stagnant growth, it takes creativity and an innovative mind to become a new leader in any industry. For enhanced competitiveness in the global market, changes for flexible employment and corporate culture are desperately needed.
Let’s look into the corporate culture of Volvo Group, where I work. The company is influenced by overall system and atmosphere of Sweden, which is very socialistic. So all members participate in discussion equally, and outcomes reached through transparent process are valued. The process of selecting executives within the group is based on internal recruitment notices. Anyone who qualifies for the stated requirements can apply for executive positions.
Talented people are the biggest asset of Korea, and declining competitiveness is a serious challenge not comparable to the fluctuating economic indicators. Companies need to consider changes for creative corporate culture. For enhanced national competitiveness with a long-term perspective, a “workforce revolution” based on creative corporate culture and fair competition is urgently needed before the fourth industrial revolution.
*Vice president of Volvo Construction Equipment