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Paris-based HR Leaders Discuss Attracting & Retaining Talent

Hosted by: Johnson & Johnson

On 5th April, ChapmanCG gathered an animated group of HR Leaders at Johnson & Johnson’s offices in Paris for an excellent discussion around the topic of ‘Attracting and Retaining Key Talent for Future Growth’. Our co-hosts Daniele Raugi dos Santos, Head of HR EMEA, Medical Devices, and Anna Heinry, Head of HR, France, joined us in welcoming Global and Regional HR Leaders representing a wide variety of companies including Atos, L’Oreal, Medtronic, Pernod Ricard, PSA Citroen, Sanofi and Rio Tinto. Attendees shared the key issues and challenges currently on their HR agendas, and it was interesting to note some common themes across the diverse industries represented in the room.

The session kicked off with a very interesting presentation from Johnson & Johnson, who talked us through the company’s underlying value drivers of Transparency and Innovation, and the challenges that come with a major global transformation. This is clearly no simple feat for an organisation with a history of 130 years, consisting of 250 companies in 60 countries! With a number of accolades including ‘World’s most admired pharmaceutical company’ (Fortune), ‘Top 5 world’s most well respected company’ (Barrons) and #10 in ‘Top 50 Companies for Diversity’ (Diversity Inc.), it’s not difficult to understand why the company is an attractive brand for talent. Nevertheless, those in the room agreed that no organisation can afford to be complacent when it comes to retaining top talent.

Some of the key observations from the discussions around creating a robust, diverse and global talent pool are summarised below:


When your brand is lesser known or your product is more practical than prestigious, how do you make sure you are still able to attract top talent? Some of the HR Leaders present said their organisations work closely with top universities and graduate programmes, creating internships that give high potentials the opportunity to partner with ExCom members on projects. Other ideas included offering international placements or rotational assignments.

Diversity Management was also a hot topic, and the discussion centred on how to help managers recognise the importance of having a diverse and intellectually capable leadership team, by focusing more on experience than profile. The contribution that a diverse group of candidates can offer was highlighted, along with the importance of ensuring that managers do not simply recruit clones of themselves. In the past, senior leaders have been known to look at CVs for the same education, companies and career paths that they have followed themselves. This can create an issue down the line when trying to deliver on development path promises, with too many similar profiles vying for limited available positions. There was a great deal of support in the room for encouraging the emerging and developed market aspect in talent pools, and looking at potential as well as experience. One Head of Talent Acquisition raised the significance of measuring the level of diversity being presented to hiring managers in the talent pool versus who is actually being hired — both to ensure a diverse workforce, and so that the blame doesn’t fall on HR when those metrics are not found to be in balance later.

Develop/ Advance

A Global VP of People & Development wanted to know how other companies were looking at developing talent, particularly across different generations. For example, there is a question around how to engage and retain millennials, who are typically not interested in clocking up longevity (retiring with the same firm joined as a graduate), but are still looking for growth and development, and are not necessarily motivated by money. This multinational has large operations in France and the U.S. where the average age is 46/47 years. However, their faster growing LATAM and Asia market employees have an average age of 32 years, so obviously different strategies are required for talent development for these two diverse populations. It was agreed that understanding the different drivers for each age group is important, and perhaps offering internal job rotation and mobility can be options.

It was also noted that showing employees that it is possible to move from HR to operations and back again is a good option, and can increase the credibility of HR when companies have senior operations leaders in the CHRO role. The group discussed making senior leaders accountable for the future leaders they deliver into the organisation, and measuring the impact this talent has, in order to ensure development is a genuine focus for all. One Global SVP HR said they have been raising manager buy-in to developing talent by talking about the impact that developing talent has on the performance of their team and the business, as opposed to focusing on processes and criteria.


Which employees may be at risk of leaving? What actions/decisions need to be taken to reduce that risk? Who needs to be involved? Most organisations are keenly aware that retention of top talent is hugely important, and these were some of the questions raised. There is obviously no simple solution here, however some suggestions were to build leaders with a more inclusive mind-set, to look at where key talent can bring more value within the organization, and to align the business around the areas of talent development. There seems to be an increasing need to shift the focus to people and engagement scores, not just the company revenue. It was also noted that it is important to be able to deliver on talent development promises in order to avoid losing top talent that companies work so hard to nurture.

One senior HR VP pointed out the company likes to keep in touch with ‘regrettable losses’ and would potentially welcome them back into the organisation. She indicated that her company has learned to see the value that can be gained from someone taking what they now wryly refer to as an ‘external assignment’!

Many thanks to Johnson & Johnson for hosting us (and for the complimentary beauty products to help us retain our youth!), and to all the attendees who contributed to the lively discussion. Our next Paris HR Leaders session will be held towards the end of Q2. Anna Taylor is a Director at ChapmanCG, focused on the French and wider EMEA markets.

Here’s What People are Saying:

“It was a positive and fruitful half-day spent discussing the challenges we have in attracting and managing our people across different organisations and industries. Good content, good professionals in the room, warm welcome from the Host. Difficult to ask for more.” — Giovanni de Francesco, ATOS

“I was delighted to participate in the Global HR Leaders’ meeting. It was an excellent opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices with the top professionals in the HR sphere, and also to expand my network.” Isabelle Adam-Swales, Global Head of Talent Strategy & HR Development, Banking sector

“A great opportunity to network in an informal setting while learning and exchanging valuable insights on critical topics. Great value!” — Chris Gattegno, Global Talent Development, FMCG sector


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Key Contributors:

Anna Taylor
Anna Taylor

Senior Director

Consulting Team
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Anna Taylor
Consulting Team

Anna Taylor

Senior Director

Anna is a Senior Director with ChapmanCG, responsible for senior HR searches in the United States. She has been with ChapmanCG since 2015 in various roles around the world.

Originally from New Zealand, Anna has over 15 years of US and international search experience. In her current position, she leads regional and global HR searches across a variety of industries and HR specializations. She is most often called upon to lead heavily nuanced VP, SVP, EVP, and CHRO searches which require a creative approach and hard-to-find HR skillsets. A super-user of ChapmanCG’s technologies, processes and methodologies, Anna acts as a mentor to the global consulting team on best search practices.

Prior to joining ChapmanCG, Anna worked for a boutique technology search firm specialized in assisting both public and private organizations scale and build an international footprint throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Anna has an MSc in Psychology from Canterbury University. She enjoys travel, yoga, and the odd half marathon in her spare time—although she can be easily convinced to postpone a training session for good wine with friends instead.