I am definitely not a morning person. So when the alarm went off at 0430 the other Monday morning it was a real shock to the system!
The reason for this rude awakening was a very early flight to Rome for our EMEA Talent Acquisition Leadership Team meeting. This was my third trip to this beautiful city but this time the location was a lot less inspiring. There would be no views of the majestic Coliseum, the beautiful fountains or the traditional piazzas, instead we would be in the uninspiring but functional surroundings of a nearby airport hotel where the meeting would take place. On the plus side it was only a short commute from the terminal.
At the beginning of 2016 we moved from a quarterly meeting approach to a “Flash” leadership team meeting on a monthly basis in order to stay on track with the ambitious targets that we have set for ourselves in the region this year. With representation from the UK, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Russia, Germany and Netherlands, it is always a lively and culturally diverse conversation! Even the greetings can be complex – is it a hug, a handshake, one kiss, two or even three?!
A conference call of course avoids this dilemma and we have all become very used to operating in a “virtual” environment with great technologies available to help us to do that (even my mother has finally mastered the skills of Facetime on her first iPad, even if the picture at my end is mostly the top of her head) and of course it is a skill that we look for in our MBA’s.
How do you ensure smooth management of complex cross-country projects, cultural nuances and technological hiccups with gravitas and impact and importantly, bring everyone along with you? It can of course be challenging, but more and more the ‘modus operandi’ in our global working world. That doesn’t mean that getting together face-to-face when you can is not welcomed and sometimes critical if we are to all drive the force of change. I digress.
Back to the meeting… We have a formal agenda, but we also start with a round table of “hot topics” – what do we need to know more about from the broader HR and business community? What are the specific challenges that need broader input from the team? What are the global inputs that might require us to think differently? It started with about 10 items but rapidly got longer – it was going to be a packed agenda. Each Talent Acquisition Manager is leading a different project that contributes to our EMEA Goals and Objectives (G&Os) that we set ourselves back in February for completion by December and a key part of the meeting is to give an update on the project status, the hurdles that need to be overcome and the help required from the team.
One colleague began “This shouldn’t take long…..” – Famous last words! As well as challenging ourselves we get to challenge each other; to move beyond the constraints of each country perspective and think from a regional approach; to generate new ideas and thoughts that improve the debate and ultimately produce better outcomes. Of course that sometimes means shifting the agenda to allow for the rich discussion!
After a very nice pasta lunch (“when in Rome….!”) I was next up. Early Talent is a key area of focus for J&J. Last year I was fortunate to be part of a team that spent a week in the US defining the global strategy for early talent, in terms of the way we go to market, how we select schools, the channels that we use and the story that we tell. The next step is to develop regional strategies that align to this great approach, taking into account all of the country complexities, legal constraints, processes and technologies and create something that meets the talent needs of the business allowing for regional flexibility and market nuances.
The message that was reinforced was very much that one size in EMEA most definitely does not fit all and that despite moving in the right direction, we will need strong collaboration and input from across the team and all our stakeholders to move the needle even further. Since that meeting I have run brain storming sessions with the local recruiting teams and am ready to present the next phase to the regional leadership later in June.
And that was it – my time was up. By the time we had covered all the critical topics some of us had been up 14 hours already and were very ready to check in to our rooms and grab some much needed fresh air. Rome was waiting! We jumped into cabs and were whisked into the city to a beautiful roof top venue for a pre-dinner drink (apparently it had been opened especially for us as it is usually too cold for Italians – for the British it was positively balmy!) where we got to continue the conversations of the day and relax with good company, excellent food and the sound of distant bells…..
…Or was that just the sound of my alarm clock? All too soon it was time to get up again and start day 2. I told you. I am definitely not a morning person.
By Blair Beavis, EMEA Early Talent Recruitment Manager, Johnson & Johnson, and Board Member, MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance
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