Succession planning at Baxters Food Group

The company aims to futureproof itself by assessing its talent profile as it continues to expand internationally

Understanding your talent profile is the key to successful succession planning, according to Clyde Marwick, group HRD of Baxters Food Group.

Marwick told HR magazine that a review of the family-owned global business has provided key talent insights that are now driving robust succession planning.

Baxters is in a major growth phase and has a presence in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. It is this growth, said Marwick, that prompted the business to examine itself and its employees through its 2020 Vision review that sets out a five-year plan.

“There are interesting political and socio-economic issues, particularly in the UK and the US but also in Europe, and we have to look at what that means for us going forward,” he said.

“We are looking at future-proofing the business by assessing our current talent profile, doing a temperature check, looking at our strengths and weaknesses, and what we need it to look like as we move forward in relation to where we see ourselves being in the future.”

Marwick, who will be presenting a session on rethinking succession planning at the 2018 HRD Summit in February, explained that the business had developed a robust set of leadership competencies and benchmarked those, through Mercer, against a set of global standards.

Baxters’ leadership teams have then been assessed against three sets of competencies: authentic leadership, strategic leadership and commercial leadership.

“That gives us one part of the picture and the other thing we’ve done is appropriate psychometrics and for me that is about emotional and social competence. We’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at that,” said Marwick. “It’s what drives a big chunk of leadership effectiveness and the standards are the blueprint of what you expect your people to meet. Emotional and social competence and self-awareness are critical for us as a business in terms of how we manage ourselves and the people around us.”

Marwick explained that nine leadership teams had gone through a 360-degree feedback process based on the new competency standards. As part of that 65 managers were assessed as leaders leading a business, leaders leading managers and then as managers themselves.

He said that the feedback process allowed employees to be completely honest and had helped the business gain far greater insight into what made them tick and a more holistic picture of what people have to offer.

“Through this we found that people’s experience pre-Baxters is really important and we can find ways to use that. We tend to forget about what people bring with them to the business,” Marwick said.

A key area highlighted by the review was Baxters’ need to provide more support, mentoring and coaching to employees working internationally. “It’s about knowing your talent and making sure you set them up for success. You can’t just tick a box and send them out there on their own,” he said.

He believes that such a process should not just be limited to large or international businesses, but is applicable across any size of company. Key is that the process is transparent and doesn’t make people feel “exposed”.

“It’s about understanding your talent profile and their skillsets,” he said. “These insights drive proper succession planning conversations and inform development initiatives, help plan international assignments, and help shape recruitment strategies moving forward.”