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P&G in Singapore hosts regional finals of its leadership development campaign



Asia’s most renowned regional HR Excellence Awards is back in October in Singapore and Malaysia to sieve out HR’s finest gems. Are you a diamond in the rough? View the categories and find out more.

[Edit: This story has been updated with an exclusive interview with Shirley Zhai, Talent Practice Leader, P&G, where she talks about the business impact of this initiative, her message for young talent, and more.]

Procter & Gamble (P&G) in Singapore played host to 31 university students for the regional finals of its leadership development programme, P&G CEO Challenge, in its capacity as Asia Pacific headquarters.

Held on 13 February, the P&G CEO Challenge is a global competition designed to test students’ aptitude for business strategy and problem solving. In this edition, students from Singapore, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea and Malaysia showcased their ability to address business challenges of one of P&G’s brands, Gillette.

Teo Xin Yee and Winnie Tan Wei Ni from the National University of Singapore together with Wong Hong Qiang from Nanyang Technological University were awarded as the Winners of the APAC Finals. They will go on to compete in the Global Finals in Dubai on May 20-24, 2019, where they will make decisions as a CEO in a business simulator.

Jamal Berradia, Vice President, Human Resources, P&G APAC and Indian Sub-Continent, Middle East and Africa (IMEA) said: “At P&G, leadership development is a key business strategy. As a ‘build from within’ company, we invest in developing our people from day one and throughout their career.”

In its third year, the P&G CEO Challenge includes three rounds: local, regional and global. This year, over 7,000 students across the region applied. Over two days in P&G’s APAC headquarters, the finalists learned from P&G leaders as well as met student leaders from around the world. They worked on a real business challenge and presented their ideas to P&G leaders.

The winners of the global challenge will get an all-expenses paid trip to P&G’s global headquarters in Cincinnati where they will meet David Taylor, P&G Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer. They will also attend the P&G SIGNAL Accelerator Summit 2019.


Human Resources exclusively interviewed Shirley Zhai, Talent Practice Leader, P&G to find out more about how this initiative works, and the impact it has had. Check out the excerpts below:

Q P&G’s Build from Within strategy is certainly delivering returns – how many past winners of the APAC CEO Challenge have been hired back in, and could you highlight the benefits in terms of onboarding, training time, etc.?

Since the inception of the CEO Challenge three years ago,it has been a great platform for P&G to recruit top talent from across the region. Following the CEO Challenge in 2015, 19 participants successfully became our full-time employees. The following year, five students became our interns after the P&G CEO Challenge and in 2017, a total of 20 students received offers from P&G.

During this year’s challenge, we have identified even more students with exceptional talent for business. To date, over 80 CEO Challengers have received a job offer from P&G.

The CEO Challenge uniquely condenses a P&G career over two days. It demonstrates how we develop young students into world-class leaders. From day one, our approach is to develop leaders to retain the best talent, and by doing so, build future leaders from within.

We consider leadership development a key business strategy, building leaders for the long-term success of our business.

Q How do you ensure that all line managers continue to own and buy-into this strategy, in order to lend their time and support to grooming this talent?

As leadership development is a key business strategy, the importance of continuously training and promoting the next generation of business leaders is deeply ingrained in our culture. Everyone is invested in building the next generation of leaders even before they join P&G.

During the CEO Challenge, for example, functional experts come to train and guide the students through the business challenge, business and brand leaders participate as judges and provide constructive feedback. This year, leaders from our APAC Shave Care business –JooYoun Kim, Vice President, and Rajeev Sudapesh, Brand Director –joined the challenge as judges to share their knowledge and experience with the ambitious young students.

As a ‘Build from Within’ Company, the long-term health of our business depends on the sustained quality of our organisation. Our line managers demonstrate their commitment to develop future leaders every day as they encourage their teams to mentor, coach and train young talent. Motivated to grow themselves and the business, our line managers adhere to P&G’s philosophy of training the next generation into their even better replacements.

Q We’re sure you have progressed up the levels just as you’re encouraging the young talent during the CEO Challenge– share with us your advice that you want to pass on to these youngsters from your experience?

I am delighted to see the same enthusiasm and curiosity in the students who participate in the P&G CEO Challenge. Just like them, I was likewise motivated to learn new things. Looking back at my career, the one piece of advice that we would like to give to this new generation is to never turn down an opportunity to learn, no matter how intimidating it may seem.

During the CEO Challenge, the students demonstrated courage and passion as they faced real business challenges. They were eager to grow further as they asked questions and requested feedback from the judges and learn from P&G experts who themselves started off just like them.

Another important piece of advice that we would like to share with the leaders of tomorrow is to prioritise their development. As they look to start their careers, they need to grow with a company that will maximise their current skills as well as continue to develop them as leaders; a company that will empower them to make decisions, make mistakes and learn from these mistakes; a company that will not only offer a job, but a long-term career.

Q CEOs have a tough job on their hands. What is the one skill that you think CEOs today cannot do without, and how will you learn this skill?

As you go higher up the ladder, you are increasingly measured by the results you deliver through your team.  The success of any CEO – or any team leader for that matter – lies in their ability to empower and motivate their teams. At times, this requires CEOs to step back from execution and take on the role of a strategic advisor, guiding teams to identify and execute solutions on their own.

This requires that CEOs envision the future with long-term goals and strategies, engage employees to commit to this vision, and empower employees to execute. Through this approach, CEOs are also able to nurture the next generation of leaders and ensure the long-term success of their companies.

Photo / P&G



Asia’s most renowned regional HR Excellence Awards is back in October in Singapore and Malaysia to sieve out HR’s finest gems. Are you a diamond in the rough? View the categories and find out more.

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