Changing
times in talent
management

In a rapidly changing globalized world, it is getting harder and harder for companies to find, train and retain the right employees. Dr. Iñigo Natzel, Corporate Vice President Group Human Resources, explains how Symrise is approaching this development with a computer- aided talent management process.

Dr. Natzel, the world is changing quickly. What does that mean for human resource development at Symrise?

More than ever before, we have to take a close look at the needs of the company as well as the needs of our current and future employees. And we have to do so as a global company that operates in different regions with vastly different job market conditions.

Can you give an example?

People from Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1995, often bring different expectations for a job to a company. They are now also entering leadership positions, and they want to work for companies that they can be proud of – especially in terms of sustainability. Work-life balance is also important to them, which sets them apart from older colleagues.

How have the requirements shifted?

People increasingly want social or environmental issues to play a role in their jobs. Symrise has long made sustainability an important strategic goal. That makes us attractive. We offer extended parental leave and even daycare and after-school care for older children at some locations. We try to make it possible to align work with the various phases of life. This applies equally to parents who want to focus on their careers again after having children. We are also working toward our goal of having 40 % female senior executives. Many colleagues would like to work part-time or occasionally from home. According to studies, 69 % of millennials think that being in the office at fixed times is outdated. In 15 years, 75 % of our employees will be from this generation and we have to take this into account in our human resources strategy. Another topic is decreasing employee loyalty to the company.

„People from Gene­ration Y are now also entering leadership positions, and they want to work for companies that they can be proud of – especially in terms of sustainability.“

Dr. Iñigo Natzel,
Corporate Vice President Group Human Resources Symrise

Does that apply only to Generation Y?

Yes, 43 % of them expect to change jobs within the company within two years. Similar figures have been around for years in Asian countries across all generations. Employees are often looking for new challenges after a fairly short period of time, and they change companies often to get ahead in their careers. They also want to work in innovative teams.

Do you offer all of that?

We are quite happy with how we have managed it so far. The turnover rate – a key figure that we use to assess employee satisfaction – is at just 7 to 9 % in Asia, which is better than the industry average. But we also do a lot to achieve that. We are globally recognized as an “Employer of Choice” that is attractive for talented workers.

Earlier you also mentioned the needs of the company. How do these influence your work?

First, we have to know what our company needs. To do that, we create employee profiles to assist our global customers in sourcing raw materials or filling jobs in emerging markets. We also align the development of the company with the requirements of the employees. To combine the two, we’ve started a global, standardized talent management process, supported by a company-wide IT platform. We opted to use one universal digital platform. The technology isn’t an end in itself but serves to ensure efficiency and sustainability. The key is the process we use to find the best possible colleagues for each job for our internal customers or to develop current employees to be able to meet the latest challenges.

450

employees were promoted at Symrise in 2019.

How do you ensure that employees are able to meet the requirements?

One important first step happens during training. We are continually preparing approximately 145 apprentices for their jobs and supporting 25 young people in work-study programs. There is also a focus on learning on the job. We do this by expanding the activities of many colleagues so that they can gain experience in other areas, and we send about 125 colleagues to locations around the world. Learning doesn’t just take place in classic continued education training sessions; over 70 % of the time, it takes place during actual projects. And finally, we give a lot of employees more responsibility. In 2019, for example, we promoted roughly 450 workers. 47 % of them were women. Considering that women make up 39 % of our workforce, this shows our commitment to increasing diversity across all levels of the company.

With about 10,000 employees, are you able to keep up with how each individual is doing in their job?

We analyze our employees’ skill sets regularly and realign these if needed. At the same time, we support our colleagues in a number of ways in fulfilling their career goals. Our senior executives provide regular feedback on results as well as on how colleagues are doing at their job. The past, unfortunately, doesn’t tell us how someone’s career will develop in the future. Which is why we have to ascertain potential based on things like how willing our employees are to learn.

Which means?

We look at various skills where learning agility is at the forefront – for example flexibility to change or to deal with people. It’s always about finding out what a person can achieve, not what they already have. For this, we cluster our workforce in our annual talent review process. All of the groups are important in this and are advanced according to their specific development needs. Because one thing is clear: We need a high level of diversity among our employees. From young people at the start of their careers to experienced senior executives, from colleagues who do a solid job to those who are known as “high potentials.” We’re on the right path, but there’s still a way to go.