PMI: ‘Companies need to develop for the future’

Kristin Holter, Director of Global HR Capability Building for Philip Morris International

Kristin Holter, Director of Global HR Capability Building for Philip Morris International

Technology disruptions; multiple generations working side by side; re-imagining recruitment to better prepare for the new competencies, roles and capabilities needed in the ever-changing workplace. These are just a few of the challenges faced by organisations when preparing for the future of work.


Kristin Holter, the Director of Global HR Capability Building for Philip Morris International, a global company that employs more than 91,000 people in manufacturing and sales facilities throughout the world, says that in light of such challenges, “HR and our business leaders are working hand-in-hand to develop and execute talent, organisation and business strategy, and we’re now putting a specific focus on developing HR to go deeper into business strategy at a far earlier stage in the process.”


Holter spoke with OEB News Editor Annika Burgess to discuss how Philip Morris International (PMI) is embracing change – a glimpse of what to expect when she joins a panel of corporate learning practitioners, and fellow 2020 Workplace Network members, at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN.


What recent technology trends / developments have had the strongest impact on the workplace?


By ‘workplace’, do you mean the office, my house, the airport or a coffee shop – the mobility debate is not yet resolved.  The arguments continue to revolve around flexible working resulting in greater employee engagement and productivity, and office working allowing for greater collaboration and innovation.  I admire the companies who are seeing that this is not binary.  For example, some companies maintain core working hours in order to cultivate the face-to-face, and at the same time provide employees and line managers a framework of flexible options like home working or compressed work weeks.  Allowing employees and line managers the discretion to opt-in to a mutually agreed working pattern increases trust on both sides.


Companies that don’t offer any flexible work arrangements are making a conscious choice not to do so; it’s no longer just the default.  That would be like not owning a mobile phone and claiming that isn’t a choice.


What are the main challenges organisations face when trying to keep up?


You can’t just ‘bolt-on’ a new approach or way of working. Doing something new or different requires new skills, different management styles, changed work practices, probably even different attitudes and behaviours. It’s easy to underestimate the systemic and far-reaching nature of a single change.


Phillip Morris International is a large company with a strong entrepreneurial and results-driven culture, so we see innovative and modern approaches growing organically in all corners of the organisation. Therefore, when one part of the company has been successful in implementing something new, it’s not uncommon that another part of the company wants to ‘drag & drop’ the new approach into their area and it’s critical that they fully appreciate the breadth of the impact and the scale of the preparation required to be successful.


At PMI we want to cultivate the ability to import and export ideas, insights and efficiencies, so in HR we develop a ‘White Paper’ on initiatives that have been created in a more distributed way – for example driven from a region rather than from the global team. It’s like a DIY guide for other parts of the business to embark on the same journey.


In regard to HR, how are hiring processes being affected – both in relation to what competences organisations look out for, as well as the tools they use for hiring and on-boarding?


Companies now have the opportunity to establish their own internal direct sourcing organisations. I think for some companies the driver to establish this may be decreased cost and increased speed-to-hire, with increased candidate quality a result.  However, the benefits are much greater and are better described as ‘talent risk management’.


For example, because you are engaging with talents ahead of demand you have a period of time to get to know them, and for them to get to know the company.  So the candidate develops a much deeper appreciation of the company culture, and likewise the company comes to a truer assessment of the candidate. This results in increased new-hire retention rates.


A benefit that is even less understood is that direct sourcing provides insights to make better strategic decisions; for example, how to attract and where to find specific or niche talent, the ability to benchmark internal succession against external talent, and even insight into competitor talent acquisition strategies.


What do you predict are going to be the next major trends workplaces need to prepare for?


Development. Of course how we develop talent is being massively disrupted, but I’m referring more to its importance, and the amount of focus and investment that companies will make in the development space. We talk a lot about scarcity of talent, and the focus in recent years has been on recruitment and attraction. Companies need to develop talent as urgently as they need to hire talent. It is no longer the case that universities develop skills that are used for the rest of your life – people will shift the focus of their careers and each shift will require them to become a master of a new domain. Companies need to develop for the future, not just look for external ready-made hires.


Hear more from Kristin Holter at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN on December 4, in the session: ‘From Imagination to Innovation: Prepare Now for the 2020 Workplace’


For a more in-depth approach, join the pre-conference workshop on the 2020 learning organisation, hosted by organisations such as the adidas Group, McKinsey & Company and the Future Workplace on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

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