What Defines a Winner in Creative Talent Management?

SSON Editorial

Talent Management GBS

SSON Impact Award 2019: Creative Talent Management Impact Award

Winner: Mondelēz International Destination Program

Mondelēz stands out by creating an international leadership development program that gives junior staff the opportunity to base themselves internationally for 6 months and contribute to problem solving

“The Destination Program has become a unique and distinctive retention strategy as very few SSCs run programs like this on such a scale. It provides the competitive edge required to attract and retain top talent and help us in our relentless preparation of the next group of leaders.”


Organisations generally have different development initiatives based on the level of individuals at a specific point in time – some delivered to everyone and some to just a few based on merit. The Mondelēz IBS Destination Program offered the opportunity of working and living abroad, historically reserved for senior level roles, to all staff in in-house Centres regardless of their seniority. And gave them the flexibility to do it for 3 to 6 months, without having to make a major life change.

This top-class program – fully funded by the Company – fostered development opportunities on other continents through working on a Lean Six Sigma project to add value to the host centre and to bring the learnings back home, at the same time building a global and diverse mindset amongst participants and host locations.

The Destination Program reflects the commitment of Mondelēz to invest in our people. We understand the value we add through adding value to them. Irrespective of the length of service in the organisation, we want this experience to be unique, meaningful and unforgettable. Something we know can only be achieved by living the journey by themselves.

International Destination Program

The landscape for Mondelēz International changed dramatically in 2014 when the “Mondelēz Business Services” (currently named Information Business Services/IBS), was formed as part of our global business strategy. This required attracting a different pool of talent to be integrated into our global organisation. Building in- house centres in regional hot spots had its advantages: access to talent, capability, expertise and know-how … but it also meant that we were in a new arena, competing with more established centres for the same talent. The new Destination Program was introduced to reduce attrition, increase engagement and create a global pipeline while also stand out in the industry as the only company offering such a development platform at junior levels. It changed the practice of having exchange programs exclusively for smaller senior groups and showed the commitment of the organisation to invest in our people development, especially those in growing positions.

The Destination Program

Creating a Talent Management strategy became an organisational priority, as a new generation of employees joined our new SSO, in order to develop as a high-performance organisation that would satisfy the aspirations of our workforce.

The challenge was that while key people metrics on engagement, career progression, attrition and continuous improvement initiatives were trending positive at senior levels in the organisation, the same metrics were trending in the opposite direction for more junior roles, which had a snowball effect on slowing down our progress for ‘fit for future’ workforce planning.

The Centres struggled with not enough people at entry levels equipped with interchangeable skills to take on roles of higher responsibility (such as Team Leaders and Process Improvement specialists). This resulted in prematurely promoting high performing individuals that did not yet have the skills to become managers or bringing in external talent for those roles. The perception emerged that our environment did not offer enough internal opportunities.

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With many young talented employees looking for growth and learning opportunities, along with highly competitive markets, attrition levels were inching up beyond our comfort levels. We found ourselves losing expertise and experience and lacking a strong pipeline to take on vacant roles. It was clear that if the trend continued, we would fall into a cycle of low engagement and high attrition that would fail to achieve our business objective of providing outperforming services to customers.

Mondelēz already had top tier development programs for senior roles in the organisation, designed to foster a culture of continuous upskilling, learning and development and ensure leaders can make well-informed decisions for the business and their people. There were no such programs for junior level employees, however. The IBS Leaders identified this opportunity to replicate the same high standards of the global curricula for senior leaders for more junior staff. The objectives of the program were:

  • Develop Leaders who drive operational excellence at more junior levels in the organisation
  • Step-change employee engagement to build a High-Performance Organisation
  • Build bench-strength to bring internal career progression to life
  • Create a customer-centric, experiential development program
  • Unleash the power of partnership across Service Centres

The Destination Program became the platform to provide all these key developmental elements for our talent and offered 11 individuals the opportunity to work and live in a different location for 3 to 6 months, experiencing first-hand the different ways of working and diversity while at the same time allowing a cross pollination of expertise, ideas and skills. Not only would they experience the work in a different country but they would also engage with the host location to identify an opportunity and, through a Continuous Improvement project, deliver efficiencies and value added for their customers. After a rigorous selection process during the first half of 2018, the first participants were deployed to the Philippines, Costa Rica, Slovakia and the UK.

Over 30 improvement ideas following the lean methodology were implemented in the destination locations ranging from Compensation Data accuracy to a Recruiting and Sourcing Analysis in North America. All the projects were thought through to align with the requirements and challenges of the market the participants were heading to. Going into our second year of the program, the linkage with Continuous Improvement has strengthened as the program is an ideal vehicle to deliver both talent growth and an enhanced customer experience. A higher number of applications is expected for 2019.


The Program team estimated the expenses based on each different location and accounting for airfare, accommodation, visas, per-diem, transportation etc. It was a priority that the experience had to be outstanding and that the participants should have a hassle-free experience in the Destination country. To that effect, we allocated $ 250k to the program to ensure that all needs would be covered. Not only did we make it a remarkable experience from start to finish, but we managed to stay well below budget by 117k.

The selection process was key. We chose Learning Agility parameters to determine who was best suited. Candidates were assessed through a series of questions and real-life examples. They were expected to come prepared with a well thought out initiative that would help improve the destination they were travelling to. So, they would have had to liaise with the Centres of their choice to uncover the topics they were struggling with and identify an initiative that would bring the most value to the customers that the Centre was servicing.


Allowing three people from each Centre to go to a different country meant that the Centres would have to back fill those positions or find creative ways to solve the shortfall. We also needed to move quickly. The budget allocation only permitted the assigned funds to be used during 2018. This meant that the whole program, from communications to returning back home, needed to happen before the end of the year.

The major outcomes we were striving for included process and customer experience improvements, talent development, retention and upskilling. In just three months, 30 projects were initiated and completed across the 4 locations, tackling some of the most pressing problems faced. More than 75 individuals got involved in the initiatives delivering benefits such as:

  • Sourcing analysis for the ISC function in NA
  • Providing guidelines to support faster hiring for this function
  • Creation of a tool to ensure Compensation Data Accuracy for Year End Process
  • Reducing up to 70% of the time spent in identifying and fixing errors during the data load

But there was one area in which we wanted to have major impact: our people. The program provided a unique and unmatched framework for multi-level development in the personal and professional fronts and the possibility of a broader group of people being able to access it. Different areas of our business reached out to inquire about the program as they were interested in the selection process, projects, and people participating. They all recognised that offering such an opportunity represented an incredible retention and motivational initiative. We are now looking for ways to expand the program to other business areas, fostering pollination not only across IBS but within the rest of the business too.

3 Lessons to Share

1. Importance of alignment of talent initiatives to overall talent strategy and business strategy
The biggest learning we had was the time we spent in making sure that the Destination program tied to the overall talent strategy and business strategy. We had multiple rounds of extensive discussions around what talent initiative would have a direct impact on overall business strategy. Replicating an existing program would have taken less time but would have not stood the test of being to articulate what the program was going to achieve. Our program both excited our colleagues at junior levels and offered a clear line of sight of program deliverables to overall IBS strategy.

2. Engaging wide Stakeholder groups
One of the first decisions the project team made was to identify all the key stakeholders outside the Leadership team. For example, contrary to convention the Destination program involved our junior colleagues as active stakeholders. We listened to what the employees really wanted out of a development program which would capture their excitement and imagination. While this initially seemed a deviation and was going to take more time to design the program, that key decision got great buy-in from all colleagues.

3. Communication
It was critical that such a program with significant benefits created the necessary excitement amongst colleagues. The project team had a separate communication track to reach out to colleagues through all possible channels for an extended period of time: Townhalls, Yammer, Emails, Weekly team meetings, employee 1:1s with managers, regular and frequent reminders from senior leaders, video interviews with IBS Leadership team, to mention a few. Messages outlining the program benefits and its selection process were built into communication to be very targeted and effective.


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Barbara Hodge
Principal Analyst and Global Digital Content Editor
Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON)