Mondelēz Thailand's HR strategy

Mondelēz Thailand took home two big awards at the inaugural HR Excellence Awards 2021, Thailand:

  • Bronze for 'Excellence in Talent Acquisition'
  • Bronze for 'Excellence in HR Innovation'

In this interview, Kaustubh Kulkarni, People Lead, Mondelēz Thailand, shares the importance of having passionate leaders, who live and reflect the values and bring the team together in service of the broader business agenda.  

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Mondelēz Thailand's HR strategy is anchored around three key focus areas: capacity, capability, and culture.

Firstly, capacity – ensuring that we truly have very passionate leaders, who live and reflect our values and bring the team together in service of the broader business agenda. There is an equal emphasis to secure broader organisational sufficiency.

The next pillar, capability – is what accelerates the growth of our talent and our business. We are investing in multiple areas, including building a growth mindset, resilience, agile competencies, and dialing up courage. We also have a very strong internal web-based learning platform called MIU (Mondelez International University) that houses thousands of functional and soft skills training.

Culture is what defines us. We have set out our leadership framework as the guiding principles for our values, commitment, and desired behaviours to shape our culture.  We are an achievement-oriented organisation with audacious goals, but we truly believe that we can make this happen when we have all colleagues leading with purpose, who care for each other, investing quality time to grow, and also making time for wellness, friends, and family.

We are a confectionery company after all.  For us, fun & play is just as important as work – and we really try to bring that element alive through some great programmes led by cross-functional teams.

We have seen great feedback on our engagement survey, improving this and last year. We are also on track to deliver our 2021 business commitments – so we feel good about that, but of course, it’s a journey and we will keep evolving. 

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

While HR leads the articulation of our broader people strategy, it’s not positioned as an HR agenda – but as an organisational priority, with all leaders equally invested behind it. We do believe that this really makes a felt impact on how the broader teams experience the culture, how we collectively own and shape our purpose, and drive our business priorities.

Also, this is not exclusive to senior leadership teams. We have a distributed model – and believe in empowering people such that each and every individual has the capacity for leadership.  That’s why many of our learning programmes and engagement activations are led by colleagues and teams who are embedded closer to where the action is.

This allows us to make programmes most relevant to the audience, course correct quickly when we need to make adjustments, grow and strengthen the succession bench – while also ensuring adequate senior support & sponsorship. We take great pride that our growth and success come from collective accountability & ownership. 

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

In 2020-21, like many organisations we were significantly impacted by the pandemic. We had some visible gaps to address in our business model, and at the same time, we had some fair churns at the leadership levels and wider organisation. Given the context at that time, one of the challenges was to attract the right talent to build the foundation for the journey ahead.

On this front, it was a high partnership exercise with the talent acquisition team working closely with local & regional leadership to reach out and build the proposition of 'Why MDLZ?'

Once we worked past this and staffed key lead roles, we needed to equally stabilise the rest of the organisation to ensure all hands were on deck to partner on a demanding turnaround agenda — all while simultaneously upskilling.

Another challenge was, given the work-from-home context, many colleagues were joining us virtually and this created a challenge on both their functional integration as well as cultural assimilation. We experienced some infancy attrition as talents felt unable to relate, learn, and excel in a demanding environment.

To address this, we worked on multiple fronts to revamp our onboarding programme for a virtual experience, invest more in check-ins by leaders and spot support needed early on, build moments of joy through some creative engagements, and equally important, build the capabilities of our line managers to lead effectively in a remote context. We continue to listen, learn, and adapt. 

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

Here are some of the people results and metrics we are proud of from this year.

Overall, we have very strong improvement on our engagement survey results. Our top three items are non-discrimination, empowerment, and action taking – indicating an inclusive & performance-oriented culture.

We have actively promoted and progressed in diversity, equity and inclusion not only in Thailand but in the whole SEA region. We benefit from strong female representation at both leadership and broader levels. Earlier this year, we appointed plant leads for our manufacturing facilities in Ladkrabang and Khon Kaen – both exceptional female leaders. This is helping further break myths and barriers esp, in a manufacturing context

We have a very active internal rewards programme – 'CourageouSTARS'. Through the year we have looked to amplify & celebrate those that rise above and beyond, and we have really built a strong culture around this, with more than 50% colleagues receiving an award for their exceptional contribution

There is fairly solid uptake on our capability and learning programmes. In fact, 100% of the organisation has been touched through different interventions, with more than 50% also leveraging MIU, with 1,277 course completions

We are also pleased with the progress towards our self-service culture, improving to more than 95%+, facilitated greatly by our significant investment in IT capabilities & platforms. 

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?

The CHRO while leading the overall strategic HR agenda, needs to demonstrate some very here-and-now skills on how they show up and help navigate towards desired culture and business outcomes. 

One that is close to my heart is the skill of active & patient listening before we get to solutioning. The role needs to make time to understand the nitty-gritty of business as much as understand the strategy to know what ails us, where are the opportunities, and what will help accelerate.

We also need to have channels to understand the pulse of the broader organisation on an ongoing & real-time basis, so that we can proactively partner & co-create the agenda in an empathetic and inclusive way. 

The CHRO also needs to be a challenger of sorts. They need to be a mirror to the CEO and the leaders, and surface opportunities. This is not always easy, it needs to be done with tact – and most importantly care. Ideally, we have to create a space for the leader to have their reflection and 'aha' moment on how they can show up stronger.

At an organisational level, it is equally important that the CHRO is the conscience keeper of the organisation, standing firmly by the values and making tough & unpopular choices when necessary - that may not be expedient, but with a view to the future we want to collectively shape.   

Another key attribute in a hyper-connected world, is the skill and attribute of being a savvy connector. Connecting the future to the present. The outside to the inside and vice versa. Connecting across diverse stakeholder groups, across cultures, and expectations. This can be a source of tremendous learning, inspiration, and raising the bar on what futures are possible and how we make them happen. 


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