Managing your talent
How to maintain one of the most valuable assets of your plant: your employees.
BakingBusiness.com, Sept. 1, 2012
by Lucy Sutton

In today’s ever-more-complex world, keeping employees happy and productive presents human resources challenges unlike any seen in the recent past. From hiring the right people to ensuring outgoing employees pass their knowledge on to those remaining with the company, talent management makes a big difference to a baking or snack manufacturing company’s success.

Alberto Hoyos started working on the cookie side of Grupo Nutresa, Medellín, Colombia, in 1993, and he is now president and international vice-president for the whole group’s North strategic region. Having supplemented his mechanical engineering degree with an MBA in international business, Mr. Hoyos is involved in different programs that support the quality of education in Medellín. He offered advice to Baking & Snack readers on maintaining a well-rounded workforce.

Baking & Snack: What should baking and snack manufacturing companies look for in a candidate

for employment?

Alberto Hoyos: Topping the list would be adjustment to the values ​​and philosophy of their company, a clearly defined life plan, a professional background with experience and knowledge, academic history and competencies, and technical skills and knowledge according to the role and position performed.

Our companies mainly seek candidates who adjust to our organizational values. They are full of integrity and are transparent human beings who are innovative and able to take challenges in a changing global environment. They will ensure the sustainability of our businesses.

We look for leaders distinguished by their self-management for being coherent and inspiring. They are visionary, humble, open and flexible to change, capable of developing others and recognizing and valuing diversity, and clearly focused on achieving results.

How do those requirements change based on the individual’s role with the company?

Some of these requirements — mainly related skills, knowledge and experience — change according to the position profile and the level of contribution to business strategy. This could be operational, tactical or managerial. Another factor is the potential the person shows to be placed in higher level positions.

Where can companies find good candidates?

Within the same company or in other companies of the same sector. Sometimes they are recommended by other employees. Recruitment websites and job search engines are also useful, as are head hunters. Scholars returning home and new graduates from universities are a good resource as well.

Usually, for management positions, head hunters or previously established contacts in the industry are a good place to start.

For other roles, we search through databases of résumés, temporary services companies, suppliers, universities, former students in practice, direct contact of prospects or potential candidates through the website of the company.

What’s the best interview question you’ve ever heard? What’s the worst and why?

The best question asked by a candidate in an interview that I heard was, “What do you expect about me in this company that will help it to grow, and also how can I grow with it?”

The worst: “Is it true that if you show in an interview what you really are, then you don’t get the job?”

This is the worst question heard from a candidate in an interview because it implies that he conceives the possibility that it is necessary not to be authentic and transparent and should hide his true personality to be hired by the company.

How do you ensure new employees get up to speed quickly? Have you found mentoring effective and why?

We speed up the learning curve by choosing the best candidates to fit the profile during selection. We inspire affection for the new company during the induction training and develop the basic knowledge necessary for the new employee to perform his or her new role without causing losses during training. It is important to define goals of performance management from the start. Afterwards, we monitor up to six months after the employee’s hiring and, from then on, each year.

We provide continuous training as well as sponsors who coach, teach and correct the employee. We identify experts who transfer knowledge to the new employees. Mentoring is effective because it facilitates and accompanies the process of adaptation by the person to the company more quickly and effectively. The boss should be the best mentor.

When a person leaves the company, he or she makes an official handover of information, learned lessons, key projects and contacts.

How can managers and supervisors tailor their management style to specific individuals and learning styles?

Our companies have a leadership model oriented to develop the skills of the leader: self-management, relationship with others and achieving results. Managers, supervisors and chiefs in general are given training and personalized support so they can lead their teams, bearing in mind the diversity and generational differences and, therefore, the needs, interests and motivations of their employees.

As part of the values ​​and organizational culture, we work based on respect, integrity and acceptance of differences. We measure management style and leadership of the bosses, and improvement plans are agreed with them.

How does a high rate of employee turnover affect the working environment in a baking or snack manufacturing facility?

We don’t have a dangerous turnover rate, but we know that such high rotation affects the productivity of companies, and, thus, we work to attract and retain talent through the following elements that may help us to improve the employees’ engagement.

We offer growth opportunities in the organization, challenges and professional development, internships and training. We emphasize the importance of balancing work and personal life as well as employment stability. Competitive compensation, a good reputation of the company and respect are important, as are health benefits, retirement benefits and vacation time.

How can you measure an employee’s engagement with the organization, whether he or she is new or has been with the company for years?

We use support tools for measuring the level of engagement of our people with the company such as Climate Survey and Organizational Commitment, which we contract to a provider who measures and interprets the results through an anonymous survey answered by our employees online or on paper.

Another tool we use is the management or performance talks, held annually with all employees, where the heads can explore and discuss the commitment that people have with the company.

In Grupo Nutresa companies, we developed a tool to measure 360-degree leadership style. This tool identifies the perception people have about the management style of our leaders, which includes qualitative and quantitative variables. This evaluation helps in many cases to identify issues related to the commitment of people within the organization.

What are the benefits of having engaged employees in the workforce?

Improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and accidents, increased innovation, and improvement in the production process. Engaged employees result in an improved working environment and improved quality of life for employees so we can retain the best employees, talent and knowledge.

What is your go-to tool as a manager? What have you found that works in almost any situation?

Conversations and active listening are important, and it’s crucial to support the conversation with information and real data. You must build trust and credibility in order to reach more robust and faster agreements, as well as create opportunities for participation with the unions and other worker guilds.