Nestle India: Building Strong Leaders Across All Levels

by | Future Readiness

 Building Strong Leadership from the Ground Up 

At Nestle India, effective shaping, grooming and preparation for leadership are key traits that have enabled the company to emerge as one of the leaders in the FMCG sector. 

From the initial interview to the junior management training to global exposure, the emphasis is on developing strong and capable leadership across all levels. 

The many strategies that Nestle has put in place for this are complemented by a culture that is supportive and oriented towards future development. The coming years will bring many challenges, both in terms of the changing market environment as well as changes in the mindset of the workforce. Nestle India is equipped for this as well, with a focus on collaboration and joint development. 

Leadership throughout the hierarchy 

Junior management personnel taking up team management roles for the first time attend development centers for assessments and feedback of their capabilities. Plans are drawn up and then implanted to address any gaps. 

Moving up the ladder, the leadership talent is exposed to Nestle’s vast scope of operations in India as well as best global practices. This is an invaluable training ground. Leaders attend training programs at development centers administered from the Nestlé Headquarters in Switzerland. A network of coaches and mentors are also leveraged for their rich experience. 

Furthermore, potential leaders are also sent on assignments worldwide to experience varied business realities, work cultures and demographics at first-hand. It is through these policies that leadership development occurs across all levels. 

Developing Effective Internal Leadership 

One of the key features of leadership planning at Nestle is that leadership positions are filled internally through a planned succession pipeline. External hiring takes place only when absolutely necessary. 

How does the organization ensure internal succession? Firstlythrough the return of local talent earmarked for leadership positions that have been sent overseas for relevant exposure.  And secondlyfrom a pool of talent available across Nestle’s domestic markets. This robust talent network enables a majority of slots to be filled from within. 

A great advantage of this system is that it provides motivation for those within the system who can see a career path upwards. 

Leading the Millennial Workforce 

As a new generation of millennials is getting ready to assume leadership, Nestle is taking steps to inculcate a distinctive leadership culture to motivate and develop the new teams. 

There is a focus on mentoring and coaching in a collaborative atmosphere. Leaders engage openly with talent and give them a transparent vision of what is in store for them in the organization. 

Teams across verticals are also urged to collaborate. The intention is always to develop trust and dependability. Such actions are already being performed daily, and over the course of the next few years, it is going to be scaled up to reap future benefits. 

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Nestle’s Powerful Leadership Equation 

At Nestle, there is a simple and powerful leadership equation. Dependability = Confidence + Trust. 

This means that when a team member says that they will get a job done, there is complete assurance of it being delivered on time with the expectation of quality, and without unnecessary follow-ups. 

This dependability is the aim across the organization, from top to bottom. There is trust and reliability, be it from team members or from other stakeholders. To deepen this culture, Nestle has been conducting dependability studies in areas of work to identify the pain points. Dependability scores are assigned with the expectation that they will go up with the right feedback. In the coming years, the intent is to scale it up across the organization with a wider understanding of its many facets.  

Keeping an Eye on Diversity 

At Nestle, a diverse leadership team is seen as a key attribute to the success of the organization. With such diversity comes the strength of outlook and the ability to cope with changing circumstances.  

Some actions taken to mould this are: 

  1. Attract: Attention is paid right from the start, with the recruitment and selection of diverse talent. Interviewers are trained in techniques to be aware of the biases that people often fall prey to. 
  2. Retain & Develop:Once the talent is on board, there are retention and development initiatives. Regular performance conversations apart, there are career conversations conducted by the Line Manager with key talent. There are also trained coaches who join these conversations and give feedback to the Line Managers on how to handle sessions in an effective way.  

As a future strategy to nurture diverse teams, 57% of all key positions in India have women talent in their succession pipeline across a time span ranging from the present to 5 years. 

These initiatives are supported by a set of metrics that have been identified in line with the diversity vision of Nestlé. These are reviewed at a leadership level every month. 

Planning the Leadership Roles of Tomorrow 

With dynamic changes in the environment, Nestle’s leadership strategy is firmly focused on its strong philosophy with an eye on the future. 

For a start, there is an attempt to create a flat organizational structure, with its many collaborative benefits.  

While the global network of training programs, mentors, coaches and access to global assignments will continue, plans are afoot to also inculcate the right behavioral traits. 

It could be seen as a Socratic method, in which the effort is to engage in a directed dialogue so that the strengths or shortcomings of an approach become apparent. The task of a leader here will be to preside over the birthing of effective new ideas and insights, no matter which level they come from.  

In the years to come, the role of leaders will be to foster a culture where employees are willing to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from asking the right questions. Thus, dependability and trust continue to build up.

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