Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University: Working Together to Tackle Talent Development - Jurgen Kluge

Developing leadership in-house has many advantages, but it can present a number of challenges. Haniel's Jürgen Kluge explains to CEO how his company has worked to build on its expertise in partnership with Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.

Recruiting and retaining talented management is vital for sustaining value creation in the long term and ensuring consistent performance. While managers can often grow in their role, certain periods of transition need a more targeted approach. A rigorous development programme, therefore, that can support their development as leaders.

For large companies with operations spread across the globe, ensuring that effective leaders occupy key positions can be a challenge. Operating group Haniel understands this and, while its divisions are managed independently, its HR development is run centrally at its head office in Duisburg, Germany.

Haniel turned over €24.5bn in 2009 and employs more than 50,000 people worldwide. The group's five business units cover industries such as medical products, textile services, business equipment distribution and recycling, trading raw materials for the steel industry, and international retailing.

As part of its strategy to continue the long-term sustainability of its businesses, Haniel has developed a talent management strategy that incorporates in-house training, career support and ongoing partnerships with business schools including Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

For managing board chairman Jürgen Kluge, who has direct responsibility for human resources, the fostering of internal talent is crucial to the group's success. "There is no concrete or objective indicator defined at the moment," he says, "but we have a strong track record of internal development and successful careers up to general management and board level across our business units."

Providing employees with a clear progression structure has a number of advantages, whatever stage of their career they are at. For graduates or those coming to the company from outside, it is an important reason to consider joining the business.

"Systematic development discussions, constructive feedback, training and career opportunities are attractive to candidates," Kluge says. "We hear that a lot in the recruiting interviews we conduct with external talent. Similarly, the responses to our international training programme indicate the appeal of thoughtful and concrete development opportunities. Our approach of continuous integrated learning is an important competitive advantage."

Unique combination

The risk in this era of high mobility is that an investment in leaders will be wasted as they leave to either found their own businesses or join a competitor. Kluge recognises this problem but believes the solution lies in effectively targeting development resources and mapping out ways to utilise talent internally to the benefit of the group and to the satisfaction of the individual manager.

"Our talent management process addresses this issue. We clarify the requirements and wishes of our employees in regular discussions," he explains. "We have talent on our radar screen and discuss the possibilities for promotion at yearly succession conferences for the different management teams. Development plans then prepare internal candidates for their next step."

"We train our target group to be role models who live our values and maintain a continuous dialogue with their employees to support their development."

This process is conducted at the highest levels of Haniel and Kluge considers it one of the board's most important tasks. "We talk about internal talent for upcoming vacancies in succession roundtables," he says, "and the meetings and dates are set in our board calendar."

While identifying talent is important, it also needs to be developed. Haniel's management academy has partnered with a number of business schools to deliver targeted executive education to managers at all stages of their career.

"We train our target group to be role models who live our values and maintain a continuous dialogue with their employees to support their development," Kluge explains. "As good leadership is a core competence in our group, we also provide an individual needs-orientated on-boarding process.

"The advantage of a business school is that they possess the unique combination of cross-industry experience and structured management concepts with a state-of-the-art learning approach."

This perspective is particularly important for specialists making the transition into their first management role, which requires a significant change of outlook and the taking on of new responsibilities.

To ensure the success of a transition, Haniel works in conjunction with RSM to deliver an emerging leaders programme called EXPLORE! The programme focuses on two core aspects of management: developing a personal leadership style and fulfilling the group's long-term value creation goals. RSM uses a 'double loop' approach in which newly acquired skills can be immediately applied in the classroom and the business environment through supervised project work, ensuring that the learning experience is an active and effective one.

"We start the programme with a development centre where we assess the personalities and competencies of our candidates and give them meaningful feedback on their personal strengths," Kluge explains. "Based on this learning plan, RSM's teachers can individually address the participants' personal needs with relevant leadership principles and instruments. Combining business aspects with leadership learning is critical to the success of the course."

Linking learning to business

For Josette de Goede, executive director of executive programmes at RSM, the focus is on the organisation the school is working with and on how it can bring the maximum benefit to its business. "Every aspect of our executive learning and development programmes is created with this in mind; from the faculty we select from our world-wide network to the content we develop and the chosen delivery method," he says.

"The core principles of our approach are co-creation and collaboration, which is why every programme at RSM is unique to the needs of each client.

"Participants are encouraged to learn from their peers and build their network of contacts across the group. We are particularly pleased at the high level of commitment Haniel pays the programme; several board members, including Jürgen Kluge and supervisory board chairman Franz M Haniel are actively involved as guest speakers on the programme. This helps make the programme a powerful and memorable experience for those involved".

Helping link learning to business practices is the identification of a project outside of participants' ordinary responsibilities, as is having them work in groups towards a solution over the duration of the programme with the aim of either contributing to the overall strategy of their business unit or directly to profit growth. The culmination of the course is the presentation of these projects' results to senior management in the company.

"RSM understood our culture as a family business and our underlying leadership principles," Kluge says. "On that basis, the school offered the modular programme. Our future leaders learn how they perform and to balance people development with value creation."

While partnerships like that between RSM and Haniel have great value, talent development is an ongoing process. Haniel has recognised the need to complement its internal processes with the deployment of external expertise, which RSM provides.

When it comes to training and nurturing employees, each business has its own goals and requirement. If it sets clear objectives and chooses wisely, working with a business school can offer significant benefits.