How to Manage and Develop Talent in an Agile Environment with Dietmar Knoess

LS International

Dietmar:      And agile is being on your toes, constantly seeing what’s happening. What are developments trying to be faster than your competitors and to get to the people up and running is communicating which direction you go and why you going there? And that’s why key

Lauren:        From LS international. This is the career success podcast. I’m Lauren Stiebing and on today’s show how Dietmar Knoess sees the retail industry changing and what leaders can do to make sure they’re developing their teams with skillsets fit for the future. Well, Dietmar, thanks for coming on the podcast today. I wanted to discuss with you about how to manage and develop talent in an agile environment, just because things are too changing so quickly today, wanted to get your insights as the global director, people and organization at Puma. A bit around your thoughts there, but first, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Dietmar:      Yeah, well, I’m Dietmar. So I’m overseeing people and organization here in Puma, which actually means people and buildings, uh, globally. It’s, uh, quite interesting role. All I have to say and always saying, that’s the best job I ever got in my life. Quite happy to be here because of this unique culture we have in Puma. Right? And, uh, we live it from the very top from the board and then everyone who has ever been in touch with Puma will notice. So we are wonderful people here. And that’s the difference. I think we have to work equally hard in these difficult times, like any other one else, but way how we interact with each other, I think is, is quite unique. So well from my background point of view, I’m, uh, started originally 1984 as a store manager. Yeah. So it’s quite interesting. So I worked in sales for a few years. I spent the first 15 years in retail, then I moved into IT for three years and then consumer goods for a couple of years. And then I moved into fashion. So I was overseeing global human resources for HUGO BOSS before, since I ended up here at Puma, 12 years back, I came here as, as usual for three, four years. I’m now 12 years with the brand. So obviously I still love the brand and still have the feeling that I’m not finished with my work here.

Lauren:        Great. So yeah, I, I wanted to first discuss, you know, as I mentioned, things are changing so quickly today. How do you think managers can make sure that they’re developing their teams in the right way or with the right skillsets for the future?

Dietmar:      Yeah. Agile environment, things are changing. It’s getting pretty hard to predict things. In, in the past, we have been thinking in three, seven year cycles. For me, it’s quite hard to say how the world will been for years. And, uh, just the reason developments actually shows how difficult it’s actually to make a prediction. We thought we overcame one crisis with Corona and now ending up another one. And everyone’s believing that there is a, a war coming up a bigger one. So, and that means actually at the end, it comes down to two things. It’s always communication to the people, because if you make changes in, in decisions, then you need to communicate quite well and taking decisions. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so that these key things in crisis, uh, and agile is being on your toes, constantly seeing what’s happening. What are developments trying to be faster than your competitors and to get to the people up and running is communicating which direction you go and why you’re going there.

Dietmar:      And that’s quite key. And the second thing is that you set up an organization, I think, which is open for that. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, uh, they need to get used to these quick changes. Same here. You need to, uh, explain to people why it’s important to be on your toes why it’s important to constantly learn and develop yourself further. And at the same time, being in an agile organization means as well that you give responsibility to the lowest possible level so that people can take decisions. And they’re also allowed to fail and, and think this is the most important thing. And that’s where the most companies are struggling with because they don’t give to admission for people to fail. Or if somebody’s failed, they’re putting blame on the person and the way we should look at it, if people are fail and learn, that’s the best thing could actually happen to you as an organization.

Lauren:        Yeah. I think that depending on the company that may have been their way of working or may not have been their way of working. So I think there’s been a bigger change in some companies than in others.

Dietmar:      Oh, for sure. Uh, for sure. And again, it’s a way to get there, right? When you look at kids, you know, how, how do kids learn? Right. Kids starts walking, you know, they get up the fall, they get up the fall, you know, and every time they get a bit better, right. Until they walk, that’s typically how it works. So, and we adults actually try to be better because if we need to learn new skills, we only believe that we are perfect in that. And if we have a plan in place that it, it works out perfectly. Yeah. But that’s not how life is. And as I mentioned earlier, you know, you can’t predict what’s actually happening the next week. I mean, the plan you’re putting in place, maybe we be obsolete actually quite soon. And that’s the thing. So therefore is yes, try out things, take risks.

Dietmar:      And if you discover that things are going the wrong direction, make adjustments communicate well to your people, why you’re doing it, mm-hmm <affirmative> cause then they understand and they still follow you admitting mistakes sometimes as a leader, I think it’s also quite important to get credibility. And that’s where I also see in the business base opportunities as well, because often business leaders not openly share with them that they also do mistakes. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> but believe me, you can’t treat your people. They know exactly, you know, what you do well and what you don’t. Yeah. So again, it’s a cultural thing back to your point. I think it’s a cultural thing. You need to work hard as an organization and again, and the more authority and autonomy you give to your people, the better is.

Lauren:        And do you think from an education and training perspective, if you look at MBAs or master’s programs, how do you think these will change in the future? In the sense of things are changing so quickly. So maybe what you learned a year ago isn’t relevant today? Or how do you see that?

Dietmar:      Well, again, I have a background, you know, in retail. That’s how I started my career. Of course I was studying on my way. I did all an MBA, but so what is the MBA worth? I did 20 years back. Yes. It gave a good base. Actually you start to your career mm-hmm <affirmative>, but you need to be constantly on your toes because skills are expected actually. And especially in the next 10 years, you know, the business requires certain skills where no one is prepared for mm-hmm <affirmative> especially in a digital space. So it will come up with new jobs actually, which haven’t been there and there’s no education program, the moment in place which supports it. That means we need to constantly learn and adapt. And I think that’s the thing. And again, MBA, bachelor. Nice, good, good pace to start with. But then you need to keep on being on your toes and constantly things changing and the way how Puma looks at it is so we have a lot of on the job learning.

Dietmar:      So we have this 70, 20 10 rule, um, you may be following with and because the steepest learning curve is actually with the job, with the tasks of the projects you have to manage. And, and yes, 20% is learning from others. So peer learning is quite key as well. So we have quite a few platforms where people can learn from others. And the 10% is actually the traditional learning, you know, past or presence, trainings with trainers. But also a lot of training is now transferred to digital space so that you can learn on demand so that you have access to a lot of learning program where you can decide when’s the best time for you to learn. Mm-hmm <affirmative> because it’s also different. And that’s my answer to that. But constant learning is an attitude, right? So whether you want to do that, and I still discover a few people who reach either a certain age, or as, as you said, they have a certain degree. And then they think, well, I achieved now something my life and they lean back, but that’s the worst thing could happen to you that you have the feeling that you finished with learning now, right?

Lauren:        Yeah. And which leadership skills do you believe are the most relevant within the retail industry today?

Dietmar:      I’m not the youngest anymore. I think, although I developed the requirements to leadership today are so different to probably 20 years back. We need to see that, especially with the internet, I mean, access to know how is available and can be distributed quite well. While 20, 25 years back, it was not as easily. That means everyone who had academic background, people were looking up to and they were believing that you have all the wisdom and you as a leader, you had one taking decision and you always right. So today everyone can check whether you are right with your skill, they just Google it and they get an answer in seconds. And so the role of a leader has changed. We can’t be the ones with all the wisdom, this fast moving world. We becoming more facilitator now. Yeah, mm-hmm <affirmative> so we are the one, maybe have a bit more life experience.

Dietmar:      Uh, we manage quite a few things. Uh, we can help them to people point people in the right direction. It’s more, uh, looking after the team, the team spirit, the skills so that we show a bit direction, which direction we want go. I truly believe in leading by examples. You say maybe that’s a bit old fashioned, but I think this will never green that whatever you pray, you should do yourself. You want your people to do that. You also do it yourself from point again, it’s more facilitation it’s coaching is, is directing the right direction is making sure that the team is not eating each other up alive. So the team dynamics managing and sharing, of course, the wisdom, you know, of your experience and sharing your wisdom and, and letting go. I think that’s also quite important. Leadership skill is go with the flow, like a shepherd because the herd of sheeps is going in a Maning direction. But the shepherds just wanna say, okay, this is the direction I wanna go. And sometimes they go to left. It’s okay. Sometimes they go to the right. It’s also okay. As long as they go in the right direction. Right. And that’s more or less, what’s here as well. You need to be flexible as well. So you need to allow people to move directions sometimes as long as they generally go in direction, you want them to go

Lauren:        Mm-hmm <affirmative> and you know, data and analytics are more and more present. I would say more than ever today. Which analytics have [00:09:30] you found to be the most helpful when it comes to talent development?

Dietmar:      Yeah, I mean, using system, which allows us to have access to data, but I have to say it’s sometimes a bit overwhelming because, uh, it is nice that people have data. Now, first of all, you have to make sure that data is accurate. Yeah. So that you can rely on the data. And secondly, the most people have difficulties to interpret it, right. The data in right way. Sure. And the way you need to look at it is more or less that you come up with the question you wanna get answered, and then you need to see what are the data, which supports an answer to, to your question. And then I truly believe that this good old Gut feeling is quite important still. So the feeling, uh, you gain over years, so intuition is also key and then getting the data to confirm whether your intuition is right or wrong.

Dietmar:      And what are the datas, uh, nowadays is that you have a good overview what’s happening in your organization is for us, for example, is always to measure, do we have our talent pipeline filled? So what is the skills we have in our organization? Are we sufficiently supplied with the right skills we need moving forward? Are we promoting from within, we have a promote for within strategy. So last year we filled 81% of our open leadership positions from within to see, do we follow that philosophy then is the question, do we have on every level, actually enough people in the pipeline since we wanna grow 50% and average, that means also that we need to hire people from junior positions. We need to develop them. We need to see where they stand. And, uh, whether we on track again, we don’t wanna hire too many people at senior level, actually from outside the organization. <affirmative> our strategy then also about when people leave us, uh, to understand why talents are leaving us, getting here a certain pattern. And so what’s the time they typically stay with you? What are the patterns why they leave you? Is it because they haven’t seen a pay raise? Maybe we paid them badly. Are there some departments where we have a higher frequency of people leaving and that’s where data can help us getting, uh, good overview about what’s happening?

Lauren:        Well, Dietmar, you know, Puma’s such an admired company and thank you for sharing all of your insights there. I know that leaders are looking for support, looking for ways to also educate themselves and understand, you know, how they can keep developing in an agile environment. So thank you for joining me today.

Dietmar:      Thanks so much Lauren, for this opportunity. Thank you.