Developing strong leaders
Vital Stats: In 2010, Jarrod Patterson assumed the position of human resources director to oversee Henkel’s HR function in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. In conjunction with the ramp up of Henkel’s global supply chain hub in Singapore, since the end of 2016, he took on the additional role of HR business partner for operations and purchasing for Asia Pacific. Now based in Singapore, he first joined Henkel in 2007 as the HR business partner for the adhesive technologies business in Australia.
Q I understand you have been at Henkel nearly 11 years now. What has made you stay so long?
Working in human resources for Henkel has given me many great opportunities and has enabled me to work in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, while covering the broader region of Asia Pacific. This has given me great professional exposure to different parts of HR, but also great experiences across countries and regions.
I think one of the things Henkel has been very good at is providing opportunities if people are mobile and if their performance and potential justify it.
That has definitely been one of the key reasons why I have been able to progress and why I continue to enjoy my role.
Q With more than 50,000 employees worldwide and more than 3,500 under your remit, what are the current HR priorities and challenges you have?
As an international company with a highly diversified global team, along with a fast changing environment, our HR members need to be agile in their thinking, have an international perspective and possess a strong business-orientated focus. Our HR priorities are to continuously drive performance and develop our people; deliver best in class support for our business units and functions; foster a value-based leadership; and be an employer of choice.
Securing the right talent is always one of HR’s biggest challenges. We have talked about talent wars ever since I’ve been in HR and this will continue in the future. At the same time, we must be more and more prepared to deal with a greater level of volatility and the rapid growth in digitalisation. Both trends present challenges and opportunities, and it is critical to align these with how we attract talent, how we move talent around the world and how we retain talent.
Q How do you overcome the challenge of attracting and retaining talent?
For our global supply chain hub in Singapore, during the start-up phase, we established a core team by bringing together existing expertise from different countries within the company. As we ramp up activities and with a view of the long term, our focus is on hiring locals, owing to the strong pool of world-class supply chain talent that Singapore offers.
Furthermore, the country’s universities are among the top in Asia, producing the region’s experts in the fields of supply chain management, logistics and digital.
Through our collaboration with the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, we have been able to hire local interns, new graduates and experienced managers to fill various roles. At the same time, as a global company, Henkel is keen to contribute to the upskilling of talent in Singapore, such as providing talented students with an immersive learning experience.
Last year, eight masters and final-year undergraduate students participated in two research projects at our global supply chain hub pertaining to purchasing, logistics and regional processes.
Q Henkel’s overarching purpose is “creating sustainable value”. How does that link to the way you manage talent?
One of our strategic priorities is to increase the agility of the organisation which means having energised and empowered teams.
We promote an entrepreneurial culture by enlarging employees’ decision-making power and encouraging an openness to change. Our goal is to develop strong leaders and managers for every level of the organisation.
We also support our digital transformation by strengthening the digital forms of learning to give employees fast and flexible access to training. From a content perspective, a key initiative is to develop their digital capabilities through digital learning and digital upskilling.
This includes making online video-based training sessions on current digital topics (such as digital marketing opportunities and security issues) accessible to all employees and having predefined learning paths for specific roles and responsibilities. We want our employees to take full advantage of the opportunities of digitalisation to better engage with customers, collaborate with colleagues and manage teams across sites.
Our goal is to develop strong leaders and managers for every level of the organisation.
Q I understand Henkel has various leadership development initiatives. What are some of the programmes you’ve implemented in the past few years?
As part of our focus to develop strong leaders, Henkel has introduced five leadership principles which describe the attributes expected of our managers: lead myself, lead team, lead performance, lead stakeholders and lead change. They relate to the ability to adapt and innovate, manage changes and complex relationships, make decisions and inspire teams. Based on these principles, the performance and potential of every manager as a leader is assessed annually in a series of reviews called “development round tables”.
Employees receive what we refer to as a management review score which allows us to identify employees whom we want to nominate for leadership development programmes depending on their level in the organisation. After that, supervisors discuss the results with the managers during the “development dialogue” to facilitate personal and professional development.
For our top talent, Henkel offers a leadership development concept called “triple two”, which is based on job rotation to two different roles, two countries and two business units.
Sending them to different countries provides them exposure to a variety of cultural experiences, ways of doing things and nationalities. This also helps them gain an in-depth understanding about international business and balancing cultural sensitivities with meeting job demands.
By utilising a triple two approach when it comes to our top talent, when they get to a senior leadership position, they have a much broader perspective as well as a deeper understanding of the business.
Q What were the challenges involved in implementing these programmes?
The primary challenges are around time and ensuring we focus on our top performers, while also reaching our total employee population with relevant training.
To overcome the challenge of reaching the total employee population, and in line with our 2020+ strategic priority of digitalisation, we are focusing on the continuous improvement of our digital training and development programmes.
An additional approach to increasing our reach has been to include our non-managerial high potential talent into our global talent management cycles so as to increase visibility for emerging talent.
At the same time, at Henkel, we use the philosophy of 70:20:10 – 70% on-the- job experiences and learning by doing; 20% networking, mentoring and coaching; and 10% formal training. We then make sure we have learning opportunities for them – whether it is increased jobs or online and digital programmes. We want to make sure they are ready for the rapidly changing work environment.
By having that philosophy, we are able to ensure employees have enough time to constantly upskill themselves. The digitalisation and online programmes makes it easier for them to manage time. We also try to empower their managers to drive the employees’ development.
As for the triple two philosophy the main challenge is it requires employees to have a flexible mindset on their career. They need to be able to take risks and change into another position. They also need to be mobile – sometimes people may not be interested in doing that and we respect their decision. To overcome this, it’s a lot about having conversations with the individual, which ties back to our development round tables and development dialogues. This process helps us identify the people who are suitable to move into different regions or countries as well as for promotion.
Q What would you say are the benefits of such L&D programmes in terms of people as well as the business aspect? And what advice do you have for organisations in this field?
It’s always difficult to link L&D back to return of investment, sales and things like that. But if you look at the statistics, globally within Henkel, in 2016 there were 1,181 promotions and 428 employees were on international job rotations. I believe a lot of that wouldn’t have occurred if we weren’t providing the right type of training and opportunities. At the same time, the share of women in management has increased from 26% in 2008 to around 34% in 2016.
In the emerging markets, the share of managers has also increased from 29% in 2012 to 34% in 2016. In Asia Pacific, more than 15% of employees were managers. Of these, 32% were female managers. In Southeast Asia, women accounted for 35% of our managerial population. In Singapore, where we operate a global supply chain hub and a sub-regional office, with 16 different nationalities among our managers, we have a 33% female representation.
Again, I think all of this is only possible because we were able to provide good learning and development opportunities and the right type of training.
I would recommend organisations foster an international mindset early for employees – especially for the younger generation as getting exposure early in their career is extremely beneficial. These young employees are often also more portable. If a company hasn’t already had something set up, then I would look at that area first.
Q I notice there is a lot of diversity in Henkel’s workforce. Is this diversity a conscious effort?
Diversity and inclusion is deeply embedded in our corporate culture. It has been a key driver of our business success, enabling us to cast the widest net for talent within any market. Having an international team that reflects the diversity of a market and its target groups helps us excel in a highly competitive environment.
Globally, Henkel employs more than 50,000 employees from 123 nations. In Asia Pacific, we have around 10,000 employees from about 40 nations and in Singapore we have 115 employees of more than 16 nationalities.
Within Henkel, diversity and inclusion is actively promoted particularly along three dimensions: cultural backgrounds, gender and different generations. We place great importance on all employees behaving inclusively and making every personal effort to promote an inclusive work environment. Annually, Henkel organises “diversity weeks”, where employees attend talks, come to work dressed in their ethnic costumes and experience cuisines from different cultures.
In terms of gender diversity, women have definitely been a major contributor to economic growth as consumers and employees; hence, it is very important that as an employer, we are able to provide suitable opportunities for them. Career development for female managers is an important component that Henkel tracks.
Having said that, Henkel is against a fixed female quota. Irrespective of gender, everyone is assessed and promoted based exclusively on their performance and their potential. The important thing for us is we try to do everything based on merit.
Having diversity and inclusion programmes reinforces that the end goal is still to hire the best person. If you’ve got people going in with an open mindset and without any unconscious bias that they are not going to hire a certain profile, then you can increase diversity and reduce discrimination based on race, gender or age.
Q What is the secret to combating unconscious bias?
I think the key is to make employees conscious and to enable them to reflect and adjust their potential bias. Combating unconscious bias is very difficult because if it’s an unconscious bias, the individual is mostly unaware of it.
So it’s about increasing awareness which is why diversity and inclusion is promoted so often.
We share different examples and expose them to different groups of people in the hope that over time they will become more aware about the different ways of thinking which will hopefully reduce the potential biases they have which were previously unconscious.
Having diversity and inclusion programmes reinforces that the end goal is still to hire the best person.
Q What advice do you have for organisations to get started on having more diversity and inclusion?
It needs to be a clear message from top management about the importance of diversity and inclusion. It should be taken seriously and that needs to be a consistent message that is delivered over time. It is also about creating an environment where people think inclusively. Employees need to be evaluated solely based on merit and in time you will increase your diversity just by having those factors.
Q What do you perceive as the future of HR in 2027?
It is difficult to predict exactly, except that volatility and change will be constant. But from my perspective there are some key themes that are taking place in the world such as automation, digitalisation and artificial intelligence.
These trends are set to change many industries dramatically, impacting our employees, customers and their behaviour.
Hence, it is critical organisations focus on increasing employee agility, focus on lifelong learning/employability and promote digitalisation topics and learning to help employees and the organisation prepare for what’s to come.
For HR directors in 2027, many of the trends are already well in place and will continue. They will need to ensure an international mindset and an ability to operate across borders while being increasingly agile in dealing with rapid changes. Being digitally savvy and open to lifelong learning in this area will be critical.
And, of course, they will need to keep close with their business stakeholders and understand the business needs as they change and evolve.
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