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L\'Oréal: Putting Your Best Face Forward

Targeted development, international assignments and a collaborative recruiting experience help the international beauty company create a culturally savvy makeup of talent.

April 4, 2010
Related Topics: Strategy and Management
KEYWORDS measurement
Targeted development, international assignments and a collaborative recruiting experience help the international beauty company create a culturally savvy makeup of talent.

Some say beauty is only skin deep, but adding the right products can make all the difference.

L’Oréal’s consistent policy of promoting internal talent holds a similar philosophy. By grooming employees with targeted development options, strong campus-based recruiting activities and varied international mobility opportunities, the global cosmetics and beauty organization can shape the face of talent.
Sarah Hibberson, senior vice president of human resources for L’Oréal USA, spoke with Talent Management magazine.

TM: What is L’Oréal’s approach to talent management?

Hibberson: The focus for talent management at L’Oréal in the U.S. is to promote from within. We spend a huge amount of time focused on our management and performance appraisal process, which is called MAP. Part of that process is working on employee development and career development. When we talk about development with employees, we focus on their career aspirations, development priorities, formal job training, management training and on-the-job training. When we focus on career development, we talk about objectives for the year but also what the future career opportunities [are]. We’ve spent a lot of time making [that] clear, especially in a challenging economy like this where there aren’t necessarily as many new jobs coming to the company. We also talk about how you can transform to a different function, a different brand. It’s not just about talent management and career development. It’s also about cross-divisional, cross-functional opportunities.

TM: How do performance management processes link to L’Oréal’s strategic goals?

Hibberson: When we look at the process of performance review and talent management, two things happen. On the performance management side, everyone has key objectives and accountabilities. Those objectives change every year and are tied into the overall business or function objectives where that person works. There should be a trickle-down effect — the senior people set the business objectives [and] the people that work on the team, their objectives are directly tied into that. That part is unique every year based on the objectives for that business or function.

TM: What challenges impact talent management at L’Oréal?

The biggest challenge we have here in the U.S. is we’re a global company, and there is a great desire to have more American talent working internationally, not only at headquarters in Paris but in other countries. Historically, we have not been very successful at moving talent internationally. People are comfortable staying in the U.S. and moving around, certainly in getting promoted, but it’s not always their first choice to go international. It’s probably our No. 1 priority.

The way HR was organized in the past, both internal and external recruitment was one job, and because we have such a big focus on external recruitment and on internal movement, I felt it was too much under one umbrella. So I created a separate job for a VP of internal talent, and the top priority of that position will be to put programs together with other countries, including headquarters in Paris, where we can have more of an exchange program. We can have more of a pool versus one person going to Paris, one person going to Spain. Their priority will be to create a path for people to move internationally, so we can rotate people around constantly, keep it simple to explain and make the transition much easier.

TM: Why is it valuable for L’Oréal to have globally savvy employees?

We’re in the world of beauty, and it’s absolutely crucial that people don’t have one idea of what beauty is. If you’ve only worked in the U.S., you understand, live and work with the American icon of beauty, and similarly if you work in another country. But honestly, there are no boundaries to beauty, and it only enriches how you view beauty by having worked in other countries. Experiencing other countries strengthens our ability to understand the consumer. That’s where the real difference comes in.

TM: How does L’Oréal use learning and development to manage its talent?

We have the learning and development organization in different hubs all over the world. It’s based here in New York for the U.S. population. We take all the programs you would expect to see for management, managing teams, how to present, etc., but we design them for success at L’Oréal. We put [in] the culture of what it means to be successful at L’Oréal. For example, presentations are a huge piece of working at L’Oréal. It’s not just about how to present well; it’s how to present your idea in a way that will be accepted by the L’Oréal management team. It’s about how to present in an international meeting [and] how to decode the feedback you’re getting from the international team. In the last couple of years we’ve introduced programs that didn’t exist before, such as Global Leadership for Growth for our vice presidents, [where] you spend time internationally in a management training program. At our junior and midlevel we have a program called Insight, which is based in Paris. We take people who have been with the company four to five years and give them insight into L’Oréal’s worldwide organization, culture and values. They go to Paris to attend the program, enabling them to network with international teams. We also have what we call métier training: training just on cosmetics or skin care, so people in their jobs can appreciate exactly what the métier is in our marketing functions.

TM: What processes or programs have you established to attract, recruit and retain top talent?

Hibberson: The majority of our focus has been at the campus level. To fill the pipeline, the most important thing is to bring people in at an early stage in their career and really develop them. We have a very healthy intern program, which we were able to maintain even given these tough times. We have two big programs that we’ve done in the past, one for the undergrads and one for the MBAs. For example, the program for the undergrads is called Brandstorm, where virtual teams at different universities come together and compete and come to New York to present their idea on a product we’ve asked them to work on. It gives us a chance to evaluate them — more than just an interview on campus experience. The MBAs we bring in for an entire weekend in January for A Taste of L’Oréal MBA, where again they experience L’Oréal and work in groups, but it gives us a chance to watch them and vice versa, so we get a much better feel for talent that we want to bring into the company. We have a similar thing in manufacturing; we also have one in research and development.

TM: How do you measure workforce performance?

Hibberson: First of all, when we do performance reviews for the management team, their bonuses are directly tied into their business objectives and their people leadership behaviors. That’s number one. Number two, at the end of the year when we look at all the ratings for talent management, and we look at compensation and how our people are paid, we try to make adjustments based on our metrics.

TM: How do you handle succession planning?

Hibberson: We’ve always had talent management meetings every year, but we have formal succession planning meetings twice a year now in May and in September. There’s a very specific format that has to do with succession, career development, international mobility and next career moves. Each division and management committee meets and prepares their plan, [and] then there is a meeting with myself, the CEO, the VP of diversity and inclusion and the VP of talent and learning. We review all the plans, come up with action plans for internal movement and finalize succession plans not only within the brands but across the brands and functions. Also, if we identify that someone’s going to be a general manager in two to three years, part of that meeting is to say, “What do they need to do between now and two years from now in order to be prepared?”

TM: What’s next for talent management at L’Oréal?

At the beginning of January, we launched a companywide program in the U.S. called L’Oréal and Me, which is a Web site that identifies specific practices and policies on everything to do with working at L’Oréal. It has a piece on recruitment, integration, performance appraisal, learning for development, career development and total rewards. This is the first time there is a concrete philosophy, program and tool where literally any employee — there’s a separate part for the management team — can go in and know exactly how we view career development here, what is the process, what do you do if you’re interested in another area. There are videos from many of our top people. What’s new is transparency, clarity, consistent language. Historically, talent management’s been a little quiet [here]. People weren’t exactly sure how you get promoted here. It’s a brand-new evolution on career development.

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