LS International speaks with Joanna Allen, Global Vice President for Hellmann’s at Unilever on the importance of a diverse workforce for successful employee attraction and retention. Joanna discusses diversity and recruitment, exploring ‘gender and sexuality, but also diversity in terms of mental processing styles, kind of different strengths and different experiences from geographies.’
During the podcast, we speak with Joanna on the following points:
Working with diverse groups of people.
The effect diversity has had on recruitment.
Unilver promoting female leadership.
The biggest challenges for business over the next 5 years.
Lauren: Hi I'm Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the career success podcast. Today we'll be joined by Joanna Allen, the global vice president for Hellmann’s at Unilever. Joanna is an instinctive marketer who relishes a challenge and who performs best under pressure to deliver transformational impact. She has a high capacity to learn which provides her with a foundation for crafting a compelling vision for the future. With a breadth of experience and food and beverages as a global and local marketer, Joanna thrives in environments that foster diversity of perspective and demand high levels of productivity. Welcome Joanna.Joanna: Thanks Lauren, great to be speaking with you today.Lauren: Thank you for joining us. So basically, having worked across multiple markets globally, working with diverse groups of people is something that you must know very well. What are some of the benefits that this has had on your career?Joanna: Yeah, so certainly in roles that I've had both at Coke and Unilever, I've had the opportunity to work in roles with global scope and through this have got the privilege of partnering with an incredibly quite diverse group of marketers from developed and emerging markets, addressing quite distinct challenges and that diversity of perspective is something I've realized that I've appreciated as far back in fact when I was studying my degree at London School of Economics. That's one of the UK's geographically most diverse Universities. So, I certainly had an appreciation for it for a long time. I think from my personal career it's really made me appreciate more I would say matrix style career paths rather than kind of hierarchical ones. And so for each role I've considered as I've developed through my Career, I've always ask the question what new learning experience does this present and then what kind of unique experiences or capabilities do I bring that will add a kind a differentiated value to the role versus potentially the other candidates.Lauren: And has this had any effect on your recruitment strategy at all?Joanna: For sure. Earlier this week actually I was reading Wendy Clark’s article in campaign ahead of her chairing the Glass Lions jury at Cannes and she talked about nurturing mosaic teams and that was something that really resonated with me; with my own approach. And as I think about the team's I’ve lead, I've had the opportunity to recruit and work with talented marketers who represent diversity across so many dimensions. And of course gender and sexuality but also diversity in terms of mental processing styles, kind of different strengths and different experiences from geographies. I think it's easy to recruit people based on kind of natural affinity.Lauren: Sure Joanna: But I think I would challenge a team that all kind of thinks the same way or operates the same way to really deliver transformational business ideas as they kind of say “you need a bit of grit to form a pile”. I'm a big believer in terms of actually some of that diversity can really challenge a team and make it operate at a high level.Lauren: Sure and I know Unilever is the company that highly promotes female leaders. How do you think other companies can continue to bring diverse initiate to the forefront?Joanna: Yeah! It certainly is and I think under Aline Santos’ leadership there’s a really strong diversity and inclusion agenda at Unilever. I think two things stand out for me when I think about the actions that other companies can take to drive the diversity agenda. I think the first is around ensuring an active mentoring program. It doesn't have to be a formal program but I think somewhere that is encouraged. If you think about the role that you can play in an organization of helping somebody reach greater heights. I think I'd say that's one of the most powerful contributions a leader can make. The second thing that I think is really important is shining a spotlight on the role models. I think there's enormous value if you can identify with someone who's forged a path similar to one that you want to take. And whilst we all aspire to be pioneers sometimes is easier if you've seen someone tread that path in front of you. I think that's easier for some organizations or even within organization, some functions more than others but I think if you don't have the opportunity to showcase great female talent internally, there is always the opportunity to show that talent outside of your organization. I think that the time now is for action rather than just talking and so I would encourage organizations to take those first even small steps today rather than considering you know talking and acting less.Lauren: Sure. I know as well you know even from managers or mentors you know more senior people that you're working with it's always good to get some feedback. I wanted to ask is well what is the best feedback you ever been give?Joanna: Interestingly as I think about the best piece of feedback I've received it's not coming from a colleague or a boss in the work environment. It actually came from a medical professional Lauren: OkayJoanna: So, if you'll indulge me a little, when my son was born, he was born with a limb deficiency essentially he’s missing a hand on one of his arms and that was discovered quite early on in my pregnancy and so obviously we sort out a team to make sure that we have the right support for James once he was born. There was an amazing professional called Dr. Colleen Coulter who shared with me that I would be amazed at how adaptable James would be with what we felt was a quite a significant challenge. So I think, I mean, it certainly helps he's a very determined little boy, but as I went through that experience actually it challenged my leadership style at work as well. I really try to coach more rather than direct my teams. I’m an absolute advocate of teams asking for forgiveness rather than permission, and then, from a personal perspective, I think in the face of constraint or challenge I think about how I can be adaptable to a situation, rather than just get frustrated so we can always learn a ton of things from our kids and sometimes the teams that support them as well.Lauren: Yeah, that's great. Well, as well let’s shift a bit just to discuss the FMCG food industry. I wanted to ask as well, what are the biggest challenges that your business will face in the next five years.Joanna: Yeah, I think it's a challenge that is not unique to foods but in many respects food because food culture as in so much at the forefront of culture I think it's a challenge that is facing foods as much as anybody else.Lauren: Okay.Joanna: I think it's the opportunity and the challenge that comes from mass segmentation. And so whether that's about how we reach out and engage with our consumers, or say that the fragmentation of channels that consumers can purchase our products or even kind of the opportunities as we understand more about DNA for micro personalization. I think this is demanding a massive transformation of how people do business. And arguably that's tougher, it’s a tougher challenge on the more largest established companies I think, than sometimes it is of the small local businesses.As I said it's a challenge but I think it's also an opportunity and I think the benefit of working with a very sort of future facing organization like Unilever is that everyone recognizes the need for change.Lauren: Sure Joanna: And so, you know, just a couple of examples I think of how we are already kind of responding to that challenge, you know, because I look at How come we’re challenging ourselves to make sure our brands a fit for purpose within the eComm channel.Lauren: Okay Joanna: Adopting platforms like Celtra or Google's Vogon platform which are now enabling you know mass customization of relatively simple pieces of content that can then be deployed from a programmatic media perspective. So, I think it's certainly a challenge. I think that they were taking some of the steps to make sure as a business that we’re fit for the future but certainly one that will transform what our organization looks like and many organizations over the next five years.Lauren: Sure. And, I mean, there's a lot of discussion as well around the political state at this moment globally we've entered into a new age of political extremism. Do you think businesses can be a bigger force for good in society?Joanna: Absolutely. And frankly, it's one of the many reasons I joined Unilever, it’s one of the many reasons many people join Unilever. From its very foundation Unilever is a business that talks about value and values, so the perspective that we can have this kind of compounding growth model that benefits all stakeholders not just investors. I think in the context of political extremism, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with the Edelman team who led the trust barometer and there some great information about that online even if you don't what with the Edelman team directly and I think it was really interesting to see that, you know, in the context of the political situation that we're all operating in you know in business actually is secondary to NGO’s in terms of levels of trust. While government continues to kind of be really significantly challenged, it’s exacerbated.I think that the new context that were operating in, certainly something that people have been a lot of dialogue over and that in the last year is this sort a notion of the echo chamber where some would argue that facts matter less, that opinions become self-reinforcing. And there was an interesting piece within the trust barometer that talked about search engines. Arguably, even with their own biases, they are better at curating news than human editors. And so I think, you know, the challenge particularly for Brand marketers in that kind of new phenomenon of an echo chamber: actually, how do you connect with consumers? How do you penetrate that echo chamber?Lauren: Sure!Joanna: I think we’re just at the beginning of understanding the role that Influencers can play because often, actually, if you have shared values they can be a better forum for sharing your point of view than necessarily even hearing it directly from a brand. And I think you see that in food as much as you see that in any other category where the role of the micro blogger, the food blogger, the role of mum’s forums can be, actually, an incredibly powerful asset within your marketing campaigns beyond kind of the more traditional routes to engage in with consumers.Lauren: Sure! Joanna all your input has been very insightful and I'm sure our listeners have really enjoyed it so thank you so much.Joanna: It's been a pleasure, thanks for the time.Lauren : And thanks to all of our listeners for joining us on this episode of the Career Success Podcast.
Always – the ideas, thoughts and words below are mine and reflect my viewpoints, not those of my employers or anyone else.
As the year comes to an end, it is genuinely a time to reflect on what has passed by, what we learned, and how best to apply this to the upcoming year that beckons us. First, before everything else, make sure to relax, recharge, enjoy time with your loved ones, and come back ready for 2019!
Much has been said of eCommerce and digital in our CPG world, and we’re all still in the middle of understanding, determining and landing scaled successes that both please and make us feel like we have command of this subject. Sales results often don’t look like what we anticipated, and innovation launches no longer seem like a blueprint can be followed. I’m not really telling you what you don’t know, but perhaps put into a simple article here, it helps – so, what to focus on in 2019? Let’s get to it.
Artificial intelligence: a much loved but misunderstood word. 2019 is the time to truly learn the impact this is having socially on consumers. Listening devices, the change in privacy anchored by opt in, the ability to vocally interact with technology, and experimentation across the board means it will become more real next year. Learn the basics, apply it to your products, and focus on the famous Alexa device as your opportunity. This simple yet bold article helps decompose the tech buzz around AI for CPG.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: AI continues to evolve but doesn’t really land impact at scale (yet).
The role of retail in your eCommerce / digital strategy: continues to evolve every single day. The questions come up routinely – where to focus? Omni, Omni, Omni – omnichannel has truly arrived and virtually every retailer of scale is adapting for it. If you’re not talking to, developing a strat plan, and not leading the way with your retail customer – you are genuinely missing the point. Take time to understand concierge shopping services – Instacart, Postmates and Shipt.
BOLD 2019 PREDICITION: massive attention shift towards omnichannel retail.
The role of Direct to consumer (D2C): if you are part of a large, scaled CPG universe, let’s admit it, this feels like a must have, we are still learning it, and we haven’t been able to figure out how to truly adopt it. Does the consumer truly want it directly, what value are we providing, can we create an aura of surprise and delight, does CRM truly anchor with you, and the value of data – these are on your mind and you’ve been trying…
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: it gets real! M&A becomes the true, tested, tried way to play this out at scale, other ways are finally understood as learning experiments, and played out for those reasons only.
1P vs 3P (where to sell): lately the word ‘CRAP’ has been in the news every day. You’re in this space you know what it means. This phenomenon started in several categories in January and will dominate 2019. Everyone should make a fair profit and this action is only to be expected. Your future as a 1P on pureplay will henceforth be welcome only with direct investments.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: the industry embraces 3P as its primary vehicle on pureplays. Yikes (this means you’re learning the art of being a retailer).
Areas impacted by digital reach: this is the year cross functional teams truly embrace and deliver support for this space. This means packaging, relevant SKU rationalization, artwork, innovation launch mechanisms, SEO anchored content, SEM paid search strategies all become the ‘NORM’.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: the launch of eCommerce specific SKU’s at scale across the industry for omnichannel rollout and scale.
Advertising shifts: far too long the industry has relied on amplified and scaled mass communication platforms that were expensive. LIVE TV was one of the most successful and influential platforms of its time. Streaming is the new TV period, short of a few LIVE events. Ask yourself if your ad strategy on streaming is focused on 1:1 consumer relationship development. You’ve exclusively depended on the retail outlet to build loyalty, this is a shared responsibility now. Custom and boutique work focused on 1:1 consumer relationship management is a reality. Are you in the middle of shaping it?
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: the rise of boutique and small agencies for scaled media buying on new platforms and relationship building, streaming TV is fully understood as a real must do platform.
The role of marketing mix: WOW! Have we seen changes in the mix model or what over the last 5 years? Wait, have you adapted and made the necessary adjustments, or is the well know mass channel data (easy to measure) your primary vehicle for developing your mix? Is your equity building platform inclusive of retail outlets and a well-diversified SEM mix? Think about this – audience attention span is diverse and if you’re not including these platforms in your mix up front – you’re not driving scaled equity in 2018 but merely driving it in easily measurable channels (50 % of reach approx..). Let’s reach the consumer where they are.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: MMX models become inclusive of SEM and paid media on retail platforms as a norm. (PS- the keyword here is retail platforms) PS – invest in media on Alibaba and don’t use the ROI excuse (this is the year Alibaba’s reach becomes global – are you ready for it? Yes, it will also reach Europe and US in 2019).
CES, Shoptalk, Groceryshop: this is your digital playground. See the future of devices and products in one, learn to market it at the next and how to sell it at the third. They are in chronological order. If you’ve never heard of these 3 – we have work to do, it’s a good day to ‘google’ them and get started.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: you will find a way to be part of one of these and lead by example.
The unprecedented availability of data: no longer are you constrained by the availability of POS aggregated projected data. Yet you are choosing to anchor your success on it even though it measures 50 % of what you do. This is the year, a serious effort needs to be put to understand what you already have, buy into, which vendors can help you, and how you can understand consumer preferences in a truly qualified way. Tech is way cheap compared to when you started this journey, leverage it.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: The industry acknowledges the availability of digitally influenced data sets and makes it habitual in every day analytics.
Your personal digital journey: by now, you are nodding your head in acknowledgement of the above, or I’ve provided you some good end of year humor, perhaps you will call out my bias for being an industry change agent. Whatever it may turn out to be, in 2019, you don’t have a choice as a CPG leader. You must lead by example. No more depending on individual heroes to lead the path for you. You are empowered and owe this to the industry. So, read up, ask questions, and lead this revolution from the front.
BOLD 2019 PREDICITION: YOU will author, create, co-create content, speak or motivate others in the digital revolution in 2019!
HAPPY HOLDIAYS YOU’LL…
This article was written by Sri Rajagopalan, Vice President of New Digital Business Models at Johnson & Johnson.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with others”. Combine the wisdom of this old African proverb with the pithy saying that “Your network is your net worth” and you will get the essence of this article: Networking is vital to personal and professional success. And yet, so many of us just don’t realize how important this skill is, or worse, make no attempt to build our networks.
Rambo is only in the movies!
Human beings are socially interdependent creatures. This applies in the context of the families we are a part of, the communities we live in, the organizations we work in and ultimately, even across the planet as a whole. An organization’s success ultimately depends on how well different departments, teams and individuals perform their respective roles. In any field it is simply not possible to be a Rambo and realistically expect to consistently accomplish missions successfully. Networking helps to build an informal ecosystem that we as individuals can rely on for advice, assistance and support.
Networking is not just exchanging business cards
Networking starts with introductions and an exchange of business cards, but it certainly does not end there, as some people mistakenly believe. Their thinking is that “once people know who I am, what I do and how to reach me, they will contact me when they need my services”. This is an erroneous assumption because yours is only one among many cards that people will collect.
And unless you have been able to stand out from the crowd because of your gregariousness, credibility or knowledge, chances are your business card may not get a second glance.
Networking is about engaging with people who do not know you and building in them the desire to keep in touch with you. This happens only after you build rapport and mutual trust. In fact, real networking is about staying in touch after the initial interaction. During the initial networking interactions, you may not even know if- and how- the other person can help you; all you are doing is creating goodwill and trust that you can draw on as needed. Networking works on the principle of reciprocity, i.e. give-and-take. You may be called upon for assistance by others. If you are in a position to help, you should, as long as what is being asked of you does not violate company policies, your personal code of ethics and morals or the laws of the land.
You must network both inside and outside the organization you work in. Each provides different benefits.
Strong networks within the organization- both within our own departments and outside- can be valuable resources. For example, they can help us access people we may not directly know, but need information from. A quick “Hi John, Susan from HR wants some info about the Executive Search firm we use in Europe. She and I used to go to the same gym. I have asked her to write to you with what she needs. Appreciate your help” kind of voicemail/ email is likely to work much faster than you writing to John introducing yourself and then stating what you need.
More effective collaboration is another benefit of networking. Let’s say you’ve volunteered (or been volunteered!) to be part of a cross-functional team that has been formed for a specific project. If some of the other members are people with whom you have networked in the past, you need much less time to break the ice. Also, you can be more confident that your ideas will get a fair hearing (and even support, if they are good) during meetings.
In global organizations, mobility across regions is common, as companies seek to deploy their best people in key markets or divisions. As an expatriate who has to relocate in a couple of months, imagine how much easier your life (and job) could get if you reached out to colleagues from the new region and networked with them.
The key to successful networking is to identify possible common areas that can help forge a bond. Other than working for the same company (albeit different departments), maybe some of you live in the same community, or have kids attending the same school or playing in the same little league. Or perhaps you go to the same gym or place of worship. Such neutral meeting grounds are great to get early conversations flowing.
If you think you are not a “natural networker”, start honing your skills by building networks within the organization; the experience will make you more adept at external networking.
Networking outside the organization is just as relevant. You could meet people at industry events or professional conferences, in airport lounges, on flights or even while on vacation. The people you meet could be functional experts, motivational speakers, leadership gurus or even potential customers/clients or employers. By networking with them, you could learn about industry developments-information that you can use in your own jobs. Or you could gather insights about self-development that will help you be more effective in your job. Or you could learn tips to manage your people better. There really are no boundaries to how networking can benefit an individual.
Knowledge apart, networking can enhance your personal brand. For example, at an event if you are a speaker or panelist or ask great questions, you will be noticed. Use coffee/lunch breaks to network, and you could discover potential hires for your team or even meet potential employers. You could even meet executive search consultants who could help you with that next career move or hire the kind of people you are looking to hire for your team/organization.
Even networking with competitors can be useful. You could gain insights into how your organization is perceived in the marketplace. Such information is very valuable as it can help shape strategic or tactical responses. Networking can also help make it easier to work with peers across companies to brainstorm collective responses to issues impacting the community or industry.
As you can imagine, a good networker can use his skill to gain significantly. But remember that those who are good at this craft are givers and sharers too. Sustainable networking is about giving others the confidence that you are approachable and willing to provide reasonable help- and then living up to the perception you have created.
The importance of networking is perhaps best summed up by Success Coach Dennis Waitley’s observation that “If you are not networking, you are not working”.
Here’s a list of conferences which I have gathered from my network that you may find useful, depending on what industry you are from or what functional role you play. These conferences are mainly around specific industries; however, most of them include sessions on HR topics, Leadership, Technology etc.
I have often been asked by family, friends, former colleagues and of course, clients why I chose to become an executive search professional. A few days ago, on a flight back to Barcelona, I gave the question deeper thought and even made some notes. As I reviewed the notes, I realized that I could actually identify and categorize the reasons and drivers into three distinct but inter-related buckets:
Who I am
What the job requires
How I benefit
The “Who I am” is essentially about the kind of person I believe I am. I see myself as a caring human being who likes to build relationships with other human beings. I genuinely like interacting with new people and getting to understand their experiences, aspirations- and often times, even fears. I enjoy change and keeping in touch with how industries are evolving under the influence of technology, regulations, customer expectations, business models etc.
Because of who I am as a person and the strengths I bring to the table, it perhaps becomes easier for me to be and do all that being a good executive search professional needs to be and do:
A good listener- to be able to understand people and assess their strengths and weaknesses
A clear communicator- to act as an effective bridge between the client organization and candidates so that information about the role, culture, compensation etc. is clearly shared.
Avid reader- to be aware of the many ways in which industries and organizations are evolving, and consequently, appreciate what skills and competencies are key.
Possess high emotional intelligence- in order to be able to separate person from issue, objectively evaluate people’s reactions and responses and remain calm through a process that can take many months and involve a series of emotional ebbs and flows.
Have a global perspective- because more and more businesses operate globally, and are willing to hire the best talent irrespective of nationality or ethnicity. Just as true is the willingness of talent to live and work in new locations far away from their home countries.
Digital savvy able to use a combination of resources to research candidates and thereafter, connect and engage with them. This also requires the ability to function effectively in an omni-channel environment, to choose the most appropriate channel to connect.
An innovator with the ability to connect even faint dots so as to identify talent for cross-industry roles.
A persuasive person who can convince organizations to give them the search mandate and then, persuade candidates that they are the best fit for a certain role.
For me, the how I benefit bucket goes far beyond the monetary rewards of successful placement. I derive immense satisfaction from helping people succeed and grow as professionals. There is also great joy from helping organizations succeed by helping them attract the right talent. This gives me the pleasure of knowing that I have contributed more directly to the client organization’s transformation than just helping them hire good talent.
There is also the fact that in the course of a day or week, one gets to wear so many hats and play so many roles. Being part of a boutique firm also means I share responsibilities for formulating the firm’s strategy, managing financial and human resources, driving expansion into new geographies or industry sectors and so much more. Each day is different because one gets to interact with different people and organizations. Each such interaction for me is an opportunity to learn. Sometimes, I learn to improve, and sometimes I learn how not to be. For an executive search professional, every engagement and every candidate is a unique story, although there are some similarities. So hey, what’s not to love about a job that enriches me in so many ways?!
Aristotle is believed to have said “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”. I would be lying if I claim to be perfect. But I can honestly say that I take pleasure in my job. With each passing day I strive to become a better head-hunter- and human being- than I was the day before.
October 29, 2018
LS International Global Compensation Survey
Check out the 2018 compensation survey from executives across the consumer goods industry.