Encouraging young potentials to broaden their horizons
Understanding, respect, an entirely fresh perspective and, last but not least friendship: that is what Umicore colleagues Casper Govaert, JongChan Lee, Juliana Mafra and DongWoo (James) Han gained from the Umicore Junior Management Program (JUMP) they took part in in 2018. Initiated in 2016, the program brings together young, talented employees from different regions to swap experiences and expertise. “A life-enriching adventure,” all four colleagues unanimously agree.
Fostering diversity: the young ones
How can we, as a company, weave diversity into the fabric of our DNA? Over the years, Umicore has made great progress in fostering a diverse and inclusive, respectful workplace around the world.
The Junior Management Program (JUMP) is one of the many initiatives launched. It aims at giving young potentials the opportunity to broaden their horizons and spread their wings.
The concept? Two Umicore colleagues – ‘twins’ – from totally different regions go and work at each other’s Umicore branch for an entire month, in order to learn and experience life there. Later, they repeat the process, switching locations.
There is no doubt there is a world of cultural difference between Belgium – or ‘Europe’, more in general – and South Korea, the Umicore countries where our ‘twins’ work. So, when JongChan Lee and DongWoo Han joined the JUMP kick-off week program in Belgium, they were pretty stressed. “The language barrier, the different culture and food, the new people: it was a very intensive week in Belgium,” says JongChan Lee. “But it was really energizing at the same time. When I flew home, I couldn’t wait for Casper to visit our site in South Korea.”
Helicopter view of business processes
Ordeg, the company that JongChan Lee has been working for since 2006, had just become a 100% Umicore business in 2017 and was harmonizing its processes when Casper visited. “There was no better way to integrate into the world of Umicore than meeting the teams in South Korea and in Europe,” JongChan Lee continues. “Both Casper and I were involved in finance at the time, and the exchange gave me a helicopter view of the different business processes in the different business units and corporate functions. Moreover, I was also involved in the new SAP implementation project in South Korea. Casper had a lot of experience in that field, which he was happy to share.”
“There was no better way to integrate into the world of Umicore than meeting the teams and getting an overview of all the business processes in South Korea and in Europe.”
JongChan Lee (South Korea)
Building a network
“JongChan Lee had thoroughly prepared for my visit. We traveled the country, visiting different Umicore sites. That was a great opportunity to learn how their activities are organized and understand their business model. Those insights, as well as the network that I built, both when visiting Umicore in South Korea and here in Europe, now help me in my role as an internal auditor” says Casper.
Juliana, who was in charge of sales of precious metals at Umicore Precious Metals Refining at the time of the exchange, and DongWoo Han, sales team lead in South Korea, agree that there’s no better way to broaden your network than the JUMP exchange program. “We met people from every department, which gave me a complete view of the business,” says DongWoo Han.
“One of our sites in South Korea is in the automotive catalyst (AC) business, which is a very specific market,” Juliana continues. “They are the major ‘customer’, so to say, of our precious metals business. Visiting the AC site in South Korea has helped me to better understand the entire automotive catalyst value chain.”
“Visiting the AC site in South Korea has helped me to better understand the entire automotive catalyst value chain.”
Juliana Mafra (Belgium)
Collective responsibility for company success
More than learning about each other’s business, the twin project was an eye-opening personal experience too, for all participants. “As the merge and acquisition of Ordeg was pretty new to the world of Umicore, traditional Korean culture was still very present. The differences with Belgium were huge. One of the things that struck me most is the ‘collective feeling’ in the workforce. In the evenings, colleagues join each other for dinner and leisure. That’s something that I’ve tried to introduce in Belgium as well, although not four times a week like they do,” Casper laughs.
Juliana agrees: “Indeed, here in Europe people work really hard but so do the South Koreans, although in another way. South Korean employees have more of a collective responsibility for success. That implies they also get together with their colleagues after work hours.”
“One of the things that struck me most is the collective feeling in the workforce. In the evenings, colleagues join each other for dinner and leisure.”
Casper Govaert (Belgium)
From pure hierarchy to respect
“A Brazilian by birth, I’ve lived in the United States for some time and came to Belgium to study at a Business School, so I’ve experienced many different cultures. Yet South Korea was a step-change difference from everything else indeed,” Juliana continues.
“What was most apparent to me is the enormous respect South Koreans have for hierarchy and seniority. I’m a quite open and direct person and it was challenging for me to have everything neatly scheduled in South Korea. I tried to be very respectful towards the management, without hesitating to share my views in a friendly manner, at times.”
“She did a great job in that respect,” DongWoo Han admits. “Juliana is so charming and smart that everyone appreciated her openness and input. She also urged me to approach the management in Europe directly and schedule meetings myself. That has really changed my way of working and maybe even the mentality in our team forever.”
Keep an open mind
In the meantime, the culture of our AC site in South Korea has become more westernized. The JUMP program has accelerated that process, says JongChan Lee: “We all tried to be very open to the other cultures, during the exchange. Casper’s visit has changed the way my colleagues viewed foreigners. By showing respect and introducing each other to all the departments and entities, we both broadened our networks and deepened our understanding of Umicore.”
“The main thing I learned from the program is how important it is to keep an open mind,” DongWoo Han concludes. “If people all got to know each other personally, like we did with our twins, it would be so much easier to work and live together.”
“If people all got to know each other personally, like we did with our twins, it would be so much easier to work and live together.”
DongWoo (James) Han (South Korea)
The covid-19 pandemic has put the JUMP program on hold, but we hope to send some new ‘twins’ to visit their colleagues abroad in 2022!