There is also the business side of who we are. We’ve gone through incredible and aggressive growth through acquisitions, which also allows for new opportunities across different channels, whether it’s professional or eCommerce or others.
Then there’s technology and what it means to the consumer. So we’re investing in startups and testing new technologies that will allow us to better engage with consumers in totally unique ways whether it’s virtual reality or connective devices. An MBA – a future leader at L’Oréal – will have a real opportunity to impact the transformation of the business and the way we do business.
We’re an incredibly dynamic culture. We really embrace leaders who have that capability of knowing when you drive strategy from a higher level and when to step in and get involved deeply in the day-to-day operation of the business.
Employee entrepreneurship is also a big part of our DNA. We have an internal innovation competition called Beauty Shakers and that’s something where employees are encouraged to submit new business ideas. They get a chance to not only win up to $20,000, but also present to senior management, an external expert, and possibly see their project come to life. It has been more than seven years since that program began and we’ve had more than 9,000 employees who’ve submitted more than 5,000 ideas. The numbers are staggering. This is just another example of the entrepreneurial, innovative culture that we have that’s grounded in anti-complacency. We want to do more. We want to do better. And we want to give more to the consumer.
What kinds of skills does L’Oréal anticipate needing in the coming years that the company may not possess now?
There are certain skills that are needed to embrace this new speed of change and the speed of doing business. Therefore, flexibility, agility and real consumer centricity – knowing a consumer deeply to be able to best innovate and best anticipate.
The skills are also in the relationships. Going back to consumers: What relationships do we have with consumers? Are we able to know their habits? Are we able to anticipate their needs? Also, having the right diversity of background and skills is critical. I’ll take it back to our global CEO, who talks about achieving a billion new consumers by the year 2020 all over the world. The U.S. commitment to that billion is a 70-100 million consumers. How are we going to get there? The way we’ll do that is by identifying new technologies and consumer need gaps; coming up with new ways of working; and finding a new formula or even a new category where we should be doing business. Therefore, we’re looking for people who have that diversity of backgrounds and profiles so they can bring that difference here.
That’s diversity in all of our roles. We’re not only hiring from beauty. We’re not only hiring from specific XYZ backgrounds, profiles and universities. We believe that the best talents come from everywhere: That’s liberal arts, engineering, and the sciences – it’s across all of those areas. Of course, it’s also about having a diversity of leadership experiences as well to complement work experience. What’s interesting is that if you had a look across our U.S. leadership team, you’d find there is no one cookie cutter profile for what a leader looks like in terms of specific roles, education, and experience. There really is a wide diversity of backgrounds and ethnic and gender diversity that represents the consumer.
What advice would you give to students who have their hearts set on working for you? How can they enhance their job prospects?
I want to refer back to your earlier question on culture. The short answer is that they should distinguish themselves. Get to know our business. Learn more about the culture and understand it. Show us your entrepreneurial spirit. Show us what makes you innovative. What are the kinds of leadership experiences you have that will make you a great leader here?
Do your homework. It’s interesting because we find in MBA candidates, for example, that they’re persistent and have a great drive; their passion will also serve them well here. We want to see them share that with us. That’s how they can distinguish themselves.
Also, we want to know who they are. We are an incredible company made up of so many unique and diverse individuals who can really bring themselves to work. For example, I’m a Zumba teacher. We want employees to be able to share their interests, highlight what they love, to be passionate – not only outward but also outside of work. We want to see that passion in the applicants as well.
Recruiting can be a two-way street. What has L’Oréal done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates?
One of the really cool things that we have is the L’Oréal School of Excellence – which we call Marketing U. It has great appeal, but it’s grounded in getting the expertise and immersion and understanding of modern marketing. This gives our people the right skills in order to be able to not only contribute to the business, but also have the training to be able to develop and grow as a leader.
There are three parts to this. First, there is an immersion into category expertise. For example, there is a training program where they can understand a specific category, consumer behavior, market dynamic, competitive landscape, product formulation, and insight generation. So that experience includes everything from trend safaris to consumer shop-alongs in retail to even home visits with consumers. When we talk about consumer centricity and immersion into a category, we’ve got this because we also understand that not everyone is coming with that expertise to the organization. When we are championing a diversity of profiles and backgrounds, we have to enable people with the right skills and training to be able to contribute and grow.
Another pillar in this marketing milieu is what we call being able to understand and learn a more modern marketing strategy. That’s all about shifting from traditional marketing to digital marketing in an incredibly challenging and changing dynamic marketing landscape. So we’re going from traditional to digital marketing and learning how to develop a more modern marketing strategy there.
The third part of this is to ensure that our employees have the skills that are critical for that modern marketing. We have this tool called DM1. Our Learning team has partnered with a company called General Assembly. Together, we’ve put together a new curriculum of online and in-person classes. This allows us to create a customized digital upscaling plan for employees. That means that in taking DM1, our employees can be upscaled in social media, eCommerce, search, and even U.S. boot camps.
Along with marketing, we have quite a comprehensive set of leadership development programs that apply to all functions in the organization. They accompany the employees from junior to senior executive levels. I’ve been very fortunate to have gone through many of these training programs myself, which has also involved international training. It covers everything from that first management experience of leading a team or function to issues faced by the senior-most levels with programs that target our country managers or zone general managers.
Also, I think the fact that we have a more individualized approach to career development really gives us an edge. We like to talk about the L’Oréal career as both an individual and collective adventure. This individualized approach to an MBA’s career is important to us. For example, in our luxury division, we’ve developed a program where MBAs are assigned to a chief of staff role reporting to a brand general manager and that’s really unique. This one year experience provides them with a real unique opportunity to understand our business and all of its complexities from a strategic level collaborating on cross-functional projects and also being a right hand to a GM. That’s a model that we are looking at across the organization and we really believe it sets us apart. We value the MBAs’ experience and their maturity, business mindset, and diversity of backgrounds that they bring. We want to be able to give them the right kind of exposure, roles, and business impact that we know they are ready for.