Lene Thomsen, Direktør, Cand.psych., HR7

Unleash potential! – If you want to keep your talent, set them free…

Retaining and engaging talent is a challenge across industries. Millennials are extremely volatile while others might stay in their jobs but severely lack motivation. In collaboration with the global engineering company FLSmidth, HR7 has effectively been able to inspire employees and accelerate their careers. This article tells the story of a development program that has shown how people will stay in the organisation when they are given the framework for proactively focusing inward, outward, and forward.

Retaining talent, and particularly specialist talent, is one of the most important challenges in today’s organisations. FLSmidth has built its business on specialist engineering resources and they are dependent on retaining and attracting highly skilled engineers to safeguard competitive advantages. Since the late 90s PCDP (Professional Career Development Program) has successfully helped hundreds of FLSmidth employees develop their careers and make visible professional and personal growth within the organisation.

In Denmark the program is customized and conducted by HR7 with Partner Lene Thomsen at the helm.

“The program offers a shared structure for individual career development in close collaboration with the organisation and the organisation’s needs”, she says. PCDP stretches over 18 months combining seminars, coaching, mentor team meetings, and networking events with a personal development plan that keeps track throughout the talent program.

The genesis of PCDP

PCDP was established in the mid-1990s at the request of line management who was concerned with the retention of high value engineering talent. The program was further developed in 1999, in response to the needs of the organisation and to the generation of talent that was most at risk. This customization was done in collaboration between FLSmidth’s HR department and Marla Mosser, at the time an external consultant and coach who later joined the organisation as head of people and organisation development for North America.

“FLSmidth saw the need to expand the program to develop and engage high value talent across functions and to evolve their capability to proactively plan and manage their careers within the context of the organization. We wanted to ensure that these employees were equipped to assume primary responsibility for their own career management and could partner with managment in forging careerdevelopment and career paths that concurrently addressed individual and organisational needs”, she recalls.

FLSmidth is a leading supplier of equipment and services to the global cement and minerals industries. FLSmidth supplies everything from single machinery to complete cement plants and minerals processing facilities including services before, during and after the construction. With around 13,000 employees and local presence in over 50 countries, FLSmidth is a leading engineering company listed on NASDAQ OMX Exchange Copenhagen.

Assessments and epiphanies

In the PCDP the career assessment Decision Dynamics CareerView is conducted along with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality assessment. While receiving assessment feedback can be challenging to make sense of, it might also provide epiphanies.

Michael Schreder says about his experience with the assessment: “The focus on the personality profile was the first time I had done that. As somebody with an engineering background that seems a little bit like black magic, you know, when they are analysing somebody’s personality and you look at it and go ‘wow, that’s right on!’”

Kasper Skriver also gained tremendous benefits from the self-awareness part of the program: “Today, I often think of my personal traits and what strengths I have, so that I can benefit from certain situations. The PCDP also defined a range of capabilities that needed to be improved, which I am doing by taking different courses and thereby I am continuously developing my knowledge and gaining a broader foundation.”

Networking that works

The program structure offers an opportunity to meet employees from the entire organisation as classes are composed of employees across business units.

“I got to know people from other parts of the company and thereby became aware of how they work on a daily basis. FLSmidth is a big organisation and there is not one single culture, not even in FLSmidth Denmark. There is definitely a corporate culture, however there are many subcultures, which I, as a consequence of the PCDP learned a lot about”, Anders Josefsen explains.

Michael Schreder expands: “The program creates a good platform for networking across the company. I think, for a company our size and distributed as it is, that is even a challenge up in the management levels. So networking really helps.”

Growing employees will grow the organisation

Looking at the broader picture, how can organisations benefit from a program such as the PCDP? Over the years FLSmidth has

tracked retention rates in the US organisation and has found that the PCDP population historically has higher retention. The program also helps attracted young, high value talent, including recent university graduates. Marla Mosser notes: “The PCDP is a program that appeals to those of all generations, especially the Millennials. It is definitely a factor in attracting new talent”.

For Kasper Skriver the PCDP was offered tohim at a time when he was in a rigid position and wanted to change his tasks or try to figure out which way he wanted to go. If the PCDP had not been presented to him, he is not sure whether he would have stayed in FLSmidth. “I would have a more stressful workday had I stayed in my old role. I would have run out of steam and most likely I would be looking for something else to do.”

“I’ve nominated a lot of people for the program. I do it because I think it is a great way to recognize somebody who is showing potential”, says Michael Schreder. He continues: “In today’s down market, where business conditions might discourage employees, you can recognize someone and say: ‘Look, the market is going to turn, there is no discussion there. It is about how we keep you engaged until then and make you feel that you are a part of the long-term plan of the company’. I think the Millennial generation needs more hands-on attention and also visibility in the company so that they know that they are not forgotten or just a number”.

In essence, the PCDP is very much about being able to provide your talent a platform for exploring and getting to know themselves, the organisation and the business much better. The employee gains focus and momentum by knowing the business and how to navigate in the organisation in order to match own personal strengths and potential with the needs of the organisation – for the mutual good.