ONE of the spin-offs of an increasingly interconnected world is intense competition across virtually every industry, which forces firms to seize every opportunity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Besides the use of technology and great strategy, the best way to create that winning edge is to develop and invest in the most important asset any company holds — its people. Strategically identifying, nurturing and supporting talent at every stage is the only way to ensure continued viability, innovation and success. Having spent the entirety of my professional career at Red Stripe, part of the HEINEKEN Company, where I got the support I needed to move through the ranks from intern to finance director, I can attest to the effectiveness and impact of a robust talent development programme.
My journey at Red Stripe has been an incredible one. I started as one of the first finance interns at Red Stripe fresh out of university. We did our rotations over 20 months, after which I landed a role in supply chain finance. Over the last two decades, I have held several roles, including a position at Celebration Brands Limited (a joint Red Stripe/Pepsi distribution initiative), and an international assignment at the HEINEKEN headquarters in Amsterdam. Through the years, one thing remained constant — management supported my development as a key talent and facilitated my growth during each career phase.
Recruiting and retaining
All ambitious companies seek out the best talent, however, identifying talent can be challenging. It requires a trained eye to recognise people who can hit the ground running and are open to learning and developing even further. At Red Stripe, the people management function, formerly referred to as HR, is committed to recruiting the best talent and retaining top talent by putting in the necessary support systems. I was a young impressionable mind with no work experience. However, management saw something in me and helped me along that journey by creating a SMART plan centred around my goals and ambitions for upward mobility and implementing a structure to support that vision. Companies must make deliberate efforts to retain employees who will help drive growth.
Another factor to consider when recruiting top talent is that they may jump ship at the first sign of stagnation. It is, therefore, essential to provide ample opportunities for personal and professional development on the job. Throughout Red Stripe, there is a dedicated focus on training, coaching and mentoring to offer multiple channels for staff to acquire new technical and soft skills. Some of this learning occurs both in a physical or virtual classroom setting as well as on the job. Additionally, regardless of your level of seniority, the learning process continues. I am currently enrolled in a global leadership training programme to hone my coaching style.
At a time when talent movement is so common, Red Stripe's secret to retaining its people is ensuring they are satisfied. When you have a company that invests and believes in you and pushes you along your journey, that's a company where you want to stay. As the saying goes, 'encouragement sweetens labour', and at Red Stripe, you genuinely feel the love and energy as a part of the company. There are vital lessons to be taken from this approach.
'Learn, Share, Reapply'
One of the most impactful experiences while at Red Stripe was my international assignment in Amsterdam. The exposure I gained while working in a new environment with new stakeholders, cultures, and operating methods was invaluable. I had to quickly learn new skills to function fully in that market, and I gained a wealth of knowledge from the people around me. This experience helped me become more adaptable and a better collaborator. When I returned to Red Stripe, I brought that broadened scope of thinking with me to help enrich the business.
This knowledge exchange is crucial to the HEINEKEN behaviour of 'Learn, Share, Reapply'. While most Jamaican companies cannot offer overseas assignments, the underlying principles are applicable. Companies can look for creative ways to provide new learning opportunities for staff, even temporary rotations to different departments within the company.
Staff satisfaction is key to growth
Company growth largely depends on the team's quality. Making your company a place to which top talent gravitates and stays, is essential. You must spend time and money to make that possible. Companies often say they appreciate their staff, but their actions may not support that sentiment. Identify your talent, show them what they are worth to you as a company and don't take advantage of them. Understand what your people want and what they are looking for and invest in that where possible. Sometimes it starts with the basics, like ensuring suitable facilities are in place. Also, listen to your employees and act on their recommendations. Compensate your staff well; if you value a person and want to retain them, ensure the compensation aligns with how you see them. Finally, dedicate considerable thought, time and resources to supporting your team's professional and personal journey.
Yaniece Gentles, ACMA, is the financial director at Red Stripe, a HEINEKEN Company