How Lion is rethinking talent management

Talent director, Alicia Purtell, and people and culture director, Bob Barbour from Lion, believe that an authentic approach to leadership has been pivotal to the long-term success of the company

Beverage and food company Lion is rethinking the way it manages talent through taking a category management approach based on where its people are at in their lifecycle, according to the business’ talent director and people and culture director.

Lion’s talent processes are less around buy, build or borrow, according to talent director, Alicia Purtell, who said a more holistic approach is taken so that everybody in the business is getting the attention they need for their development and is understood where they’re at in life.

“I see us taking more of a category management approach to talent, so we have got a number of plans and programs in place which cater to people based on where they’re at in their lifecycle,” she said.

“It’s not your classic HR approach, but we think it’s one that engages our people and which will continue to help them and us flourish as an organisation and keep people here in a sustained way.

Purtell noted that the “war for talent” had shifted to a “wooing of talent” as people want attention in order for them to feel engaged.

“That attention doesn’t mean ‘can I throw more money at you?’ or ‘can I just make sure you feel like the most loved person in my team?’.

“It means that ‘I really understand you, what’s important to you, what you want to work on this year and how I can as a leader be here for you to make that happen,’” she said.

Developing authentic leaders
Lion also takes a unique approach to leadership development, harnessing and celebrating individual strengths as well as identifying 10 behaviours that support an achievement culture.

The organisation encourages its leaders to build their own “psychological capital” by providing resources that help them to leverage their personal strengths as leaders within the workplace.

Lion places significant emphasis on authentic leadership and has developed programs which focus on four key areas – self-efficacy, hope, optimism and resilience – to support achievement and wellbeing for leaders and their teams.

“We’ve got to be very candid in facing reality; we can’t pretend that we haven’t got serious challenges with $1 for a litre of milk, for example. It’s had a massive impact on the profitability of our dairy business,” said Lion’s people and culture director, Bob Barbour.

“So we’ve got to build confidence and help our managers be successful in this kind of environment.

“We need to add fuel to their tanks and help supply the kind of psychological capital that comes through goal-directed thinking and building optimism through the achievement of goals.

“Realistic optimism gives you the energy and passion to keep going and the belief that actually you can make a difference and you’ll be able to work things out. This all adds up to resilience.”

Purtell acknowledges that change is difficult for people, particularly when it’s regular and on a number of fronts.

“What we’re really trying to do is to equip people to be able to cope with that in a really effective way through helping build their personal resources to not only manage their way through it, but perhaps even see that they’ll be better for it. So it’s about giving people skills to navigate their way through,” she said.

“So we’ve operationalised this process, so it feels like something a leader could talk about in a one on one, something an individual can just call upon when they need some more ‘fuel in the tank’ essentially.

“When change is coming at you from a number of angles and you might be leading that change and you really need that resilience and toughness, then these programs are designed to help our leaders with the belief that it’s possible for them to achieve those stretch goals.”

For the full interview with Purtell and Barbour and story on how Lion manages change, see the next issue of Inside HR magazine. Image: Hayden Brotchie