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Kimberly-Clark Developing Talent in Developing World Markets

Kimberly-Clark has steady increased its talent development and training programs during the past 10 years.

April 12, 2006
Related Topics: Global Business Issues, Managing International Operations
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Multinational employers such as Kimberly-Clark, Nokia and Siemens are becoming increasingly aware of the value that lies in fostering overseas talent, particularly workers in high-growth developing markets.

   Local hires have a great deal to offer at a fraction of the cost of an expatriate. And they usually have a far better grasp of the market and an intimate understanding of the language and culture of their homeland.

   Kimberly-Clark, one of the largest makers of paper and personal care products in the world, is keenly conscious of this dynamic and has taken steps to develop its workers overseas. "In mature markets, like North America, disposable diapers and Kleenex already have a 98 percent penetration rate," says Lizanne Gottung, senior vice president of HR. "The explosive growth is now in the developing markets, which is where we have been deploying a lot of resources."

   The company, which has more than 60,000 employees, has steadily increased its talent development and training programs over the past 10 years. The changes have been more dramatic, however, in developing markets. In Latin America, the average employee has gone from receiving practically no training time to about 38 hours each year. By contrast, workers in Europe now receive 40 hours per year—eight hours more than in 1996.

   One of the company’s most ambitious global projects is its performance management program, which has trained about 28,500 employees across 63 countries and in 16 languages. Much of this program is geared to inform workers about the new salary structure, which makes a stronger link between performance and compensation. For the time being, the majority of the employees receiving the training are top-tier executives and managers.

   However, Kimberly-Clark also has programs that are designed to reach blue-collar employees. "We believe that workers can lead from any position, and we give them the tools to do so," Gottung says.

   In Peru, the company offers a training program that goes onto the manufacturing floor. Kimberly-Clark has partnered with Senati, a technical institute, to give blue-collar workers the opportunity to refine their manufacturing skills. So far, 20 workers have received manufacturing certificates from the school.

   Kimberly-Clark plans to expand the initiative. "The program has practically paid for itself because of the cost-saving tips that students have passed on to management," says Rick Woodward, learning and development director, North Atlantic.

   Kimberly-Clark has a similar manufacturing certification program in Malaysia, where it has joined forces with the University College of Tun Hussein Onn.

   Beyond improving the technical skills of its workers, the firm is also fostering social and interpersonal development. Yuhan-Kimberly, the company’s joint venture in South Korea, has launched a program that teaches Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, self-leadership and team building. Employees also can take a variety of courses that match their personal interests, including piano lessons and painting.

   "The more workers know about themselves, the better they will be at thinking differently and at problem-solving," Woodward says. Its training programs and investment in the workforce were instrumental in earning Yuhan-Kimberly recognition as one of the "30 Most Respected Companies in Korea," a distinction awarded by IBM BCS Korea and daily newspaper Dong-A Ilbo.

Workforce Management, April 10, 2006, p. 34 -- Subscribe Now!

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