Thursday, December 22, 2011


                                      By Preetinder Kaur*

Companies are waking up to the importance of succession management strategy and are liberally offering mid-management professionals opportunities to enter the next phase of their careers.

When a marketing manager at Proctor and Gamble  was enrolled in the company’s first middle-management training programme last year, she didn’t reckon that she would soon become adept at walking the tight rope fit for a higher functional-role.

The manager was in her 30s and had joined P and G seven –eight years back. The big win was how the programme allowed functional managers like her to step into the shoes of a general manager.

Professional companies are increasingly adopting succession management to retain the talent and also to fill the top slots when vacancy arises. Middle management across organizations aspire for higher posts and even leadership roles. But, what confuses them is whether they would be capable of handling the challenges that come along. To deal with such issues many companies like P& G have initiated a middle management training programmes to ‘ build our future’ (BOF), which develops and trains the mid career professionals for their next big career leap. P and G is not the only one. To address the complex issue of leadership building and even succession planning, several others such as HUL and Godrej are also adopting programmes to add on an edge to their talent pipeline.

Building leaders

The emphasis on middle management is a thought that even management experts now propagate vigorously. They believe that a one shot approach to educating managers is going to be inadequate. A process of refreshing, unlearning and re-learning at regular intervals is what they recommend for the corporate world to target the issue of leadership building. One of the biggest bottlenecks in India’s growth is the availability of high quality human capital at all skill levels. Indian companies have to take proactive steps before this becomes a hindrance.

Different takes

P and India’s human resources head feels that most companies don’t focus on it. At P and G

they are built from within and realize the importance of developing the leadership pipeline not just at the senior level but at the middle management level as well.

The company designed the BOF programme around 4-5 unique capabilities for its entire middle management, which consisted of 150 people.  It involved a week long process where people included were not only from within the organization in India but also included those based abroad.

To bring in thought leadership, some of the best minds within the P&G world also have a session with the employees.

It is an intensive training programme which ends with an experiential one-day session for business simulation where managers get to understand what business can look like. It is a case study but on a much larger life scale.

P and G realized that since the organization was growing at a fast pace (the business has grown 10 times over the past eight years) it needed to keep the talent pipeline running. With an attrition of five per cent and other P and G regions looking at India for souring talent, BOF gave P and G a much broader pool to choose from to meet any future requirement.

Arch rival Hindustan Unilever (HUL), however, does it differently. The FMCG major, with a 900-strong middle management pool, has a mentoring programme called alchemy, for all high potential middle management employees wherein they are assigned a senior manager who guides and supports them through their leadership journey in the organization.

“Middle management talent serves as a robust talent pipeline for senior leadership. We strongly believe in leadership development and in the philosophy of leaders developing leaders. In a market of acute talent shortage it is important to nurture and develop home grown leaders”, says HUL’s HR head.

HUL, however, prefers to have learning intervention at all levels. It follows the 70:20:10 under which 70 per cent  of learning is expected to come from experience in the current job and business projects, 20 per cent from relationships and 10 percent through formal programmes like classroom training and e-learning. It also measures the effectiveness and business returns from such programmes.

Similarly, Godrej Industries has also put in place a leadership development programe for select middle management employees based on their performance and potential. They select 25 per cent of middle management employees and invest disproportionately on their learning so as to help them become successful future leaders.

So, with more and more organizations beginning to recognize the value of mid-career development and training these managers are on the threshold to take up senior leadership roles.

-         The writer is Project Coordinatore at IIT, Ropar (Punjab- India)

Source: Jobs & Careers, The Tribune, December 21, 2011.

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