HR Administration

Novelis: Optimas Gold Winner for Vision

By Mary Izlar

Dec. 9, 2013

Optimas 2013

When Phil Martens joined Novelis Inc. in the spring of 2009 as the company’s president and CEO, the world’s largest manufacturer of rolled aluminum was facing some serious talent management challenges — and the decentralization and lack of leadership was visible to customers.

“The customers were demanding one company: They wanted the same quality and same experience across the board,” said Joanne McInnerney, vice president of global talent management. The “litany of human resources deficiencies” ranged the gamut from no career services page on its website to an absence of leadership development or succession planning.Novelis

“There was no list of high potentials, no talent reviews, no forum for senior leadership to discuss future leaders, no global head count. Overall there was no way to showcase any grasp of talent globally,” McInnerney said.

With 11,000 employees, a lot needed to change at Novelis. The human resources team began by developing a plan that included assessing current talent, attracting new leaders and providing learning and development. The first step was to groom high potentials.

“I’ve been in other companies where they just plop names on the list; it’s just a population exercise. We were very honest with ourselves. We didn’t have any list,” McInnerney said.

Once an individual was identified, they looked at the actions that needed to be taken — global experience for one — in the next three to five years for them to be ready for a bigger role.

In order to develop the already-existing talent, the management team introduced a global leadership program, which involved business challenges for employees to solve in teams. In this way, the employees were able to provide recommendations for other human resources challenges, like recruiting.

“A business challenge team reinvented the employment brand, which led to attracting new talent and developing a pipeline,” McInnerney said.

Novelis launched its talent management initiative, including six major programs, from nothing in under three years. It centralized leaders in the Atlanta headquarters, growing the employee base from 75 to 400. It garnered a deep bench of new talent to lead employment branding and leadership-development programs.

In 2010, Novelis had three employees supporting talent management and no money in the budget. Today, the team of 11 works with a $3.3 million budget. McInnerney said the results would not have been possible without the instrumental leadership of Martens.

“It’s the same advice that my mother gave me with dating, you don’t really have the man unless you have his time and money. You don’t have the CEO’s support unless you have his time and his money,” McInnerney said.

For its ability to turn around its talent management, Novelis is the 2013 Optimas Award winner for Vision.

Mary Camille Izlar is Workforce's editorial intern. Comment below or email Follow Izlar on Twitter at @marycamillei.

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