Procter & Gamble’s Vinitaa Jayson, Vice President, Human Resources – Asia, tells us how the world’s biggest consumer goods company continues to attract and retain talent in today’s complex labour market.
If you buy diapers, you would probably be familiar with the Pampers brand. If you are a big user of skincare, chances are you may have seen or even tried SK-II products. And if you shaved this morning, you likely know Gillette well. These are some of the most valuable brands in the industry and they belong to Procter & Gamble (P&G).
The multinational company is one of the world’s largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies in the world and has a global footprint in over 180 countries. It is also a big investor in Singapore, having established its regional headquarters here with its Global Innovation Centre located at the Biopolis in Buona Vista.
At the heart of the company’s success is a deep commitment to building and growing strong talent within the company, says Vinitaa Jayson, the Vice President of Human Resources at P&G Asia. A big part of the company’s DNA is the strong belief that talent comes from everywhere, regardless of race, language or background.
We recently caught up with Vinitaa, who has been with the company for 22 years, to talk about P&G’s approach to talent - how they recruit people, and their take on the latest trends in the labour market.
Q: What are the main principles that guide talent acquisition in P&G?
Our talent strategy is to ‘build from within’, and we hire most of our employees at entry-level. We also hire experienced people selectively, to bring in a skillset or competency we do not have in the company. When we bring in people, we are trying to grow a career; we want to see a person be successful in the long-term – someone we can visualize as a peer in the future. All of our CEOs are grown from within, so any of our employees could be a future CEO of the company. That is the opportunity we give to anyone joining us, and this is why P&G is a Company of Leaders.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to join P&G?
We look for people with leadership qualities, and these can come in different forms. We look for people who are innovative, have strong ideas and can execute them. We look for people who are collaborative and work well in teams. We look for integrity, someone who will do the right thing, even in tough situations. And we look for people who bring their passion to work, someone who will fight for what they believe in. A lot of our hires come through our internship program, which allows for two to three months for the individual to get to know us, and vice versa. Through our internship program and programs like CEO Challenge – a case study competition designed for students in the penultimate year – we give recruits the opportunity to experience life in P&G.
Ultimately, we look for and continually develop Leaders. We give the best talent meaningful and challenging responsibilities from Day One and throughout their career.
Q: I noticed that the criteria did not include having a good university degree. Are qualifications not as important?
We build strong partnerships with the best schools in each of our markets, and we count on these institutions to provide a good university education. Having said that, we know that great talent can come from anywhere – regardless of educational background or degree. We have a number of PhD holders in R&D because we need them to do pure science and innovation. However, paper qualifications are of no use unless they can be applied to the business.
Q: But many people still place a lot of emphasis on paper degrees, especially in Asian countries such as China, Taiwan and Singapore. Singapore is trying to tackle this by putting a stronger focus on skills. What is your view on that?
I love this drive for growing skills in Singapore, at all ages and across industries. If people can’t adapt and grow, they will become irrelevant very quickly and lose competitiveness. This is true for brands and technologies too.
We have a 70-20-10 philosophy at P&G. We believe that 70 percent of people’s capabilities are developed through experiences, so we send our employees for development opportunities abroad. Twenty percent is based on mentorship and coaching, where people shadow a senior person, or get 1:1 feedback and development from managers, and learn from others. The remaining 10 percent is imparted through classroom training or virtual learning modules.
Q: Let’s talk about diversity. How does diversity contribute to P&G’s success?
We are a global company, serving millions of customers across different continents. Our diverse workforce reflects our consumers, and allows us to understand our markets better. We are diverse in gender, race, religion, ethnicity, experiences and qualifications. For example, compared to several other companies, we are balanced in terms of gender representation. We have reached the 50-50 mark for the men-to-women ratio across managers. A third of our senior leadership and board of directors are women. Most importantly, we continually strive to do better – to empower all our employees, regardless of gender, race, and background, to lead and contribute to the business.
Having people from different backgrounds makes our workplace more dynamic and interesting. Many of the challenges we face today are complex, and require people with different perspectives, approaches and backgrounds to work together to develop solutions.
Q: In the movie ‘The Intern’, Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old senior intern at a tech startup. If a 60-year-old came and signed up as an intern at P&G, would you give the person a shot?
I don’t think we have had anyone applying for an internship at age 60… yet!
Internships are a way for us to evaluate talent for long-term employment, and they are competitive. Having said that, we do not discriminate against age. Any applicant willing to compete with others and is looking for an ambitious career, can go through the tests and interviews to get selected, and is welcome on-board.
For us, it is critical to mirror our consumers and have all generations of employees in the workforce. We are proud to have employees who are in their 60s and passionate about building our business.
In several countries where people can work well past the official retirement age, we have employees working for as long as they want. When I was based in Boston, I was responsible for celebrating the 50th work anniversary of two employees - who were in their 70s and amazing at their jobs!