Winning strategy gives staff a sporting chance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 November, 2008, 12:00am

The adidas Group motto 'Impossible is Nothing' may have been conceived with the sporting goods company's footwear, apparel and accessories in mind, but the catchphrase extends beyond helping athletes reach their potential; it reverberates across the cubicle trenches and regional offices, to outstanding individuals across the organisation.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the group's succession management - a strategy consistent across all of its brands, which include adidas, Reebok, TaylorMade-adidas Golf and Rockport - where high performers are identified and groomed for specific roles.

'As leaders, we are in the dreams business,' said Gregg Tate, adidas Group's vice-president for human resources and knowledge management. 'Our succession management strategy and HR [human resources] practices give people the opportunity to grow and progress and helps individuals to fulfil their ambitions.'

For motivated, driven employees, the group's succession strategy, part of its broader talent management efforts, is an ideal opportunity for high fliers.

Here's how it works: senior management and HR managers in Asia identify two successors for each 'key position' within the regional organisation. 'The positions considered 'key' in some countries may not be the same in other countries,' Mr Tate said. 'It depends on the market conditions of each location, though most are leadership type senior management roles.' He said besides CEO and CFO roles, others could include managers in marketing, strategic planning and distribution and logistics.

Once the appropriate individuals have been identified, a customised training and development programme is designed to help them develop the skills and know-how to step into these roles. Some of the training opportunities include the group's Advanced Management Training scheme, the Management Development Programme and its Leadership Academy, now in its second year.

The one-year academy programme was designed in conjunction with the INSEAD graduate business school, and brings together the institution's basic business education plan and the elements specific to the consumer goods business, resulting in a course which blends custom and standard business components.

'Everyone is different, which is why it is important for training and development to be individualised. Nobody can be 100 per cent in a new job on day one, but the idea of training and development is to help the person become closer to that 100 per cent. The objective is to enable them to become better prepared for the transition.'

These individuals are also given additional projects and responsibilities on an ongoing basis, to ensure they receive well-rounded and practical exposure that supplements what they are learning in the classroom. The immediate managers typically choose the top staff of tomorrow, with final decisions ironed out at the group's regional staff conferences twice a year.

Managing directors and senior managers from the 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region gather at these conferences to review and amend the talent list, a step that is critical to the successful implementation of a succession management approach.

Individuals on the list are as diverse in their job scope as they are in their abilities, though these employees typically share a few fundamental strengths. These include high emotional intelligence, a passion for their work, a commitment to their brand and superior performance with the potential to grow.

Getting on the list may be no small feat, but staying on it is even more challenging. 'We are a performance driven company, so the talent list fluctuates all the time. The list is a bit like sports. You may be a starter today, but it could be someone else who becomes a starter the next day,' Mr Tate said.

The company also recognises the fact that aspiring to a place on the list may not be for every person. 'Just because you are not identified as a successor for the managing director role does not mean you are not valuable to the organisation.'

In today's business environment, where the concept of one job for life has fallen by the wayside, and in an environment where the workforce is more knowledgeable and skilled than ever before - with advancement opportunities right at their fingertips - having a succession management strategy in place can make all the difference.

'If nothing else, it is a motivating factor because it recognises employees and shows people opportunities,' Mr Tate said. 'At another level, it helps with retention. People don't have to leave the organisation in order to grow. Talented and motivated individuals who want to grow and be the best are given the opportunities to do that right here.'

In training

At least two successors are identified for each key position

Customised training programme aimed at selected individuals

Talent pool reviewed twice a year

Succession management also motivates and retains