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Talent-spotting gets creative

Creativity is the order of the day on the mainland, as far as HR managers are concerned. In a lively panel discussion that elicited plenty of fiery audience feedback, moderator Anthony Liu, commercial director for Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East at SHL, was able to coax HR managers from local and multinational companies to share their adventures in China’s labyrinths of talent.

“Leaders must really love their employees,” Amanda Oldridge, head of HR for Asia-Pacific at pharmaceutical giant Novartis Vaccines (Development) and Diagnostics, made sure to emphasise.

She said that it was her company’s standard operating procedure to monitor new hires for 12 months, instead of the usual three months practised by other firms. This way, aside from the traditional onboarding and acculturation process, the new hires are given the chance to connect with their peers and senior management. It also allows the company to identify high-potential employees, who are then put on a special career track.

Of course, it might not always be as straightforward as that. “There’s constant pressure from management to speed up the development of our high-potential staff,” Oldridge said. “Sometimes, we have to educate our US and Swiss headquarters about the uniqueness of China, such as the fact that some high-potential staff may be lured to move to another company for a US$10 salary increase.”

But once firmly on board, high-potential employees are matched with mentors – and not just locally. “Mentoring is closely tracked, as Novartis is very matrixed,” Oldridge said. “So we reach out among mentors, on a global scale.”

Such structured and extensive mentoring is offered to rising talent, high-potential employees and staff in critical roles.

To maximise the mentoring and learning process, the chosen employees are rotated across projects. “This gives them enough time to learn, develop and grow,” Oldridge explained. “There’s a big push in Asia to have high-potential teams, so we realised that this process encouraged our teams to stay together for years.” 

Over at Kimberly-Clark China, HR director Naomi Monteiro and her team have turned the traditional mentoring process on its head. “The usual problem with a management-trainee [MT] programme is retention,” she said. “We see great development initially with MTs, but then we don’t see anybody again after the programme.”

To counter this problem and boost engagement in the process, Kimberly-Clark China has instituted a reverse-mentoring programme, where young talent “mentor” the older or more senior managers, usually about what the members of the younger generation think, feel and enjoy.

“Ours is a voluntary programme,” Monteiro said. “By matching leaders with high-potential employees, reverse-mentoring has helped us sustain staff retention. Now the biggest challenge is to tell the older mentees to be humble, shut up and listen.”