McKinsey helps strengthen Generation, a nonprofit placing people in jobs worldwide

Generation’s impact has been remarkable since its 2014 inception. A global nonprofit, it provides high-quality job training and placement for people of all ages. What began as a small organization has now grown to operate in 17 countries, including Mexico, Italy, India, Kenya, the United States, and Brazil. To date it has trained more than 77,000 learners and placed 81 percent in jobs within three months of graduation with more than 11,000 employers. Together, Generation graduates have earned more than $630 million in salaries that can support them and their families.

McKinsey helped found the organization and has since supported it with funding and people, including staff members who have joined Generation as short-term fellows and pro bono engagements to develop and strengthen the nonprofit. As May marks the beginning of graduation season in many countries, we take a moment to highlight this important work. 

“Generation is a model for tackling the global unemployment crisis,” says Lucy Pérez, McKinsey senior partner. “McKinsey is thrilled to partner with them to continue to expand their impact.”

A people-centered approach

McKinsey helps transform global youth employment nonprofit
Alma Angela Merino Cedeno (L) and Goldie Chow (R) of Generation
McKinsey helps transform global youth employment nonprofit

To reach and engage so many, Generation relies on its digital ecosystem, a set of tools, platforms and user experiences, and the backend system that supports it. Candidate applications, volunteer recruitment, the learner portal, and mechanisms for learners to interface with teachers and employers, all hinge on the functionality of this operation. To be effective, it must be thoughtfully designed.

Generation had been on a multiyear journey to embed human-centered design and improve its digital ecosystem so it can better serve the needs of learners, staff, and employers and fulfill its mission: to transform the way the education to employment system works around the world.

“Automation and a well-designed user experience is critical to scale the country teams’ ability to reach more learners”, says Sergio Gutiérrez, McKinsey engagement manager. “Their processes were reliant on manual work and not standardized across geographies. This led to inefficiencies like the lack of consistent data collection and a huge burden on staff when engaging learners and employers.”

McKinsey worked with Generation to accelerate its improvement, digitize more of its operation and overhaul its data architecture and user experiences—focused on learner and staff modules—with tangible results. For example, mentors now spend roughly 50 percent less time reviewing documentation ahead of mentorship sessions because of streamlined user experience and information and data consolidation about learner status.

Revamping digital, data, and cloud systems is complex. Beyond the technical work, it required a deep study of the organization’s and stakeholders’ needs to successfully develop tools like the learner portal, the mentorship experience, and the employability platform that helps match learners with jobs.

“We don’t have researchers on staff,” says Alma Angela Merino Cedeño, global director of digital at Generation. “McKinsey took the time for robust user-experience research across our channels, which had to be done before any line of code could be written. This also trained our team to do that job.”

Where McKinsey was incredibly helpful was in defining our broader strategy and methodology and in working with us —it fundamentally changed how we operate as a team.

Alma Angela Merino Cedeño, global director of digital at Generation

Uniting a global organization

A key element of this approach was building user profiles. With Generation’s operation spread out over 17 countries, its digital needs are not one size fits all. McKinsey gathered feedback from country stakeholders and uncovered distinct pain points, which included data access, data quality, and not having tools to share analysis.

To address these, we took information from the profiles and business use cases, broke them up into technical capabilities and used these to assemble a cloud native architecture that could meet the needs of the global team.

“We made sure that the new data architecture was designed for people first, for everyone in the ecosystem to come and use,” says Prasoon Sharma, a McKinsey partner.

Generation had relied on manual surveys to refine its programs, which offer limited insights. McKinsey built feedback mechanisms into the learner platform for automatic seamless data collection.

“Our program and impact data is not only more in-depth now, but we are able to gather it more often,” says Goldie Chow, global director of data & impact at Generation. “This is a game-changer for our ability to improve learner experience, learner support, and job placement.”

The portal also included features for teachers, such as automating attendance tracking and communicating with students.

McKinsey helps transform global youth employment nonprofit
A Generation learner in Mexico in a technology class.
McKinsey helps transform global youth employment nonprofit

Building enduring capabilities

A central goal of the engagement was to embed these change methodologies throughout Generation to ensure they would last. Creating technological changes rippled to functions such as contracting, implementation teams, communications, finance, and operations.

“Where McKinsey was incredibly helpful was in defining our broader strategy and methodology and in working with us—it fundamentally changed how we operate as a team,” says Alma.

Besides working along with the McKinsey team, Generation’s digital team went through several McKinsey Academy programs to help embed their new practices. This has resulted in Generation moving to a full agile methodology and process, which, in addition to a new design system— has increased the speed of product development by 70 percent.

All these elements make Generation’s operation more efficient, bringing them closer to their goal of transforming the lives of young people.

“We’re all about connecting people to dignified work and a living wage, so the better we can understand how to operate, how to serve our learners, the better we're achieving our mission,” says Goldie. “In McKinsey, we’ve had a partner who took this to heart as much as we do.”

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