Earlier this month The Chapman Consulting Group co-hosted one of our series of networking sessions with Novartis in Basel, Switzerland. The group consisted of Global HR Leaders representing a wide variety of companies and industries including: ABB, Abbott Laboratories, Actelion, Bloomberg, Cargill, Credit Suisse, DSM, Ecolab, Holcim, Merck, Nestle, Oerlikon OC, Panalpina, Procter & Gamble, Swiss Re, Syngenta, UBS, Unilever and VF Corporation. As these international companies continue to grapple with deploying HR strategies that work across both mature and emerging markets, the group shared some of their thoughts, challenges and predictions for the future on this topic.
Systems That Span Mature and Emerging Markets
Attendees agreed that HR and Talent Systems need to be designed so that they work across geographic boundaries, but are flexible enough to support different business models. Just as there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to gaining market share in these markets, the same is true for acquiring, retaining and developing the right talent. It depends on the capability you are trying to build and the talent supply available to meet that need. In striving to understand the quality and the availability of talent in each region, it was agreed that effectively leveraging workforce analytics and local market intelligence is critical.
Developing HR for HR
Our co-host, Christelle Ravez, Head of HR for HR with Novartis, shared some of the benefits of working at the prestigious Novartis Campus, which is the company’s Global Headquarters in Basel. It is described as a place of knowledge and innovation where more than 2,500 scientists and over 7,500 employees from more than 100 countries are working on the vision of a long and healthy life. The Campus welcomes more than 175,000 guests every year. The architecture and design of rooms on the Campus are not only a symbol and expression of forward-looking innovation, but also underlying elements of the diverse and creative work and knowledge culture of Novartis. It is also a family friendly environment where employees can enjoy time with their families during their breaks.
Christelle also shared some of the initiatives the company is employing to develop HR for HR. Four key objectives of the programme are outlined below:
- Developing broader business acumen and knowledge within the HR team;
- Leveraging technology available to the HR teams;
- Developing and deploying HR tools that will be used internationally;
- Empowering regions to use these centrally developed HR tools;
Use of data analytics. We discussed how external research predicts that approximately 50% of all HR Business Partners will eventually come from the business. Therefore, the company plans to develop a program whereby HRBP’s are given assignments within the business, where they report to the business.
Recruit Talent to Match Vision
Hari Abburi, Global Head of Organisation Design and Talentfrom Hoerbiger, shared his hypothesis that when moving from Mature and Emerging markets to ‘One World’, it is necessary to make a choice about what type of company we are. His opening statement, ‘Will to prepare is more important than the will to lead,’ led to a discussion around the fact that the journey is far more important than the destination. Abburi also focussed on aspiration as an internal driver, which needs to be followed by preparation, an extrinsic factor. How many times have we seen critical and expensive projects being deployed for important initiatives without assigning the right team or effort to ensure it is successful? This is likely down to a lack of internal aspiration or external preparation, or some combinatino of the two.
Aburri’s model segmented organisations into the following categories, proposing that each category ensure they pursue a complementary HR solution to enable its choice of strategy:
- Culture: For companies that use culture as a driver of business decisions, they need to become culture specialists and employ great marketing minds. Examples of companies doing this well include Unilever, Alibaba and Google.
- Scale: For companies which use scale as a key driver and grow geographically, they need to understand the mobility of ideas, geo-political influences and employ scale and rapid growth experts who can build strong global supply chains. Examples of companies employing this strategy include Walmart, Toyota and Starbucks.
- Diversify and integrate: For companies who diversify and integrate around a business model and occupy areas of adjacency, they need business model specialists who can connect the dots and take advantage of existing programmes across seemingly dissimilar environments. Examples of companies thriving with this strategy include GE, Tata and Makerbot.
- Drive Innovation: Finally, he proposed that organisations which drive innovation through their behaviours and culture, and disrupt and dominate markets by building core technologies, should hire idea specialists who transplant an idea or technology into other unrelated areas. Examples of companies which have had success in this area would be Apple, Air Asia and Tesla.
Paradigm Shift: Capital, Brains and Hands
According to Dirk Verburg, Global Head HR Policy, Administration & Systems with Credit Suisse, there has been a shift from an era when there was limited supply of capital and knowledge in the developed world to a new era where knowledge and capital are cheaper and (geographically) more distributed than ever.
At the same time, the role of the developing world on the global labour market has changed completely: from a source of competitive advantage (cost leadership due to low labour costs) to net exporters of talent. The talent pool is now bigger, but also more heterogenous than ever. This development coincides with the fact that companies are faced with decreasing loyalty, as both employees and employers become less interested in longevity.
These shifts have implications on how companies should identify, select, develop, reward and organise talen. The ability to master Diversity and Inclusiveness will become an essential condition for long term survival, rather than a ‘nice to have’ project for HR.
Bearing in mind that diversity is not just about differences in race and gender, but also includes different upbringings and socio economic backgrounds, it is clear that this is a complex topic to handle. There is still a lot of scepticism regarding how – or even whether it is possible – to link diversity with business results.
As much as D&I can foster innovation and more open minded thinking, it is not easy, for instance, to manage diverse teams. More often than not, the whole (team) becomes smaller than the sum of its parts (members).
Many thanks go to our host, Novartis, as well as the attendees for an illuminating discussion around a topical issue for most organisations today. We look forward to bringing this group together again in 2015 for next years’ series of networking sessions.
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