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Adaptive Leadership Development at Nestlé

Nestlé UK & Ireland is highly progressive in leadership development and succession planning. Part of Nestlé S.A. – the world’s largest nutrition, health and wellness company – Nestlé UK&I has ambitious goals within highly competitive markets. Faced with a need to develop leaders capable of rising to these challenges, Nestlé UK&I has implemented an innovative talent strategy which includes clear focus on identifying, measuring and realising the potential of all employees.

A key feature of this strategy is the introduction of leading edge Talent Centres, known internally as Future Leader Development Programmes. These events have been designed to benchmark the potential of rising stars and support their development. This includes identifying their strengths and development needs, and facilitating the creation of tailored development plans to support their learning. After a competitive tender process Nestlé chose to partner with Wickland Westcott in the design and launch of these crucial events.

The Brief. Nestlé specified a number of key design principles (see diagram), prioritising the need to assess potential as accurately as possible whilst simultaneously engaging and inspiring participants to develop their careers within the business.future leader

Defining Potential. The first step in the design process was a review of the criteria against which participant’s potential would be evaluated. Wickland Westcott drew on Nestlé’s global model of potential and leadership framework, adding clarity around concepts such as Mental Agility and providing guidance on how participants’ aspirations could be objectively measured and interpreted. The importance of evaluating participant’s Commercial and Business Understanding was also reinforced to ensure that potential was considered in tandem with a) each individual’s passion for developing their career within a global FMCG business, and b) the experience they had gained to date. Wickland Westcott’s input at this stage ensured that the programme was consistent with Nestlé’s global frameworks whilst also including clear, practical behavioural definitions that all stakeholders could relate to.

Innovative Design. A progressive, innovative approach was taken to the design of the events within the programme, including the deployment of a combination of different exercises and activities not used within traditional Talent or Development events. For example a strong emphasis was placed on ensuring the events were ‘adaptive’ i.e. they included measures of the learning that participant’s achieved during the programme. This provides a useful indicator of mental agility, as participants are provided with short inputs on relevant topics such as leading change and building high performing teams, and then set exercises that test their ability to apply these concepts. The content of all of the inputs and exercises was fully tailored to Nestlé’s business to ensure optimal face validity.

Another important element of the programme was the inclusion of benchmark interviews run by Wickland Westcott Search and Assessment specialists, to provide market-wide comparative data on potential. This helped Nestlé to understand how their own high potentials compare with those of other organisations. Additionally, internal senior leaders were also involved in the assessment process, to provide an accurate reading on the participants’ business understanding and commercial drive.

Outputs. Each programme concludes with participants receiving one-to-one feedback/action planning sessions. These meetings were carefully designed to support the identification of clear development actions. Participants are provided with an individual development report that has been prepared during the event. Following this, they are supported in translating their learning back into the workplace (to address Kirkpatrick’s ‘behavioural’ level of evaluation). In addition to providing a platform for individual development the Future Leader Development Programmes have produced other valuable group-level data relating to themes and trends within the high potential cadre as a whole. This information is fed into Nestlé’s internal talent review systems, providing objective information that can be used to refine priorities within the talent strategy.

Handover. Having supported the development and launch of the Future Leader Development Programmes they are now managed internally by Nestlé’s Organisational Development Team. The sharing and handover of such expertise is a vital step in our consultancy model – mutual two-way learning between client and consultant is a cornerstone of the Wickland Westcott way. The programme has proved very successful for both individual participants and Nestlé, with the process now being rolled out into other areas of the business.

David Kennell, Head of Organisational Capability commented: “The Talent Centre approach has been a focal point for calibrating and accelerating our talent through the organisation. Wickland Westcott demonstrated a high level of understanding of our business and our talent challenges, and were both pragmatic and innovative in designing and delivering a programme that we are all proud of.”