What Makes Kraft’s Talent Development So Successful?

September 4, 2012 2:03 pm


Kraft Diversity Leader Jim NormanHow can you ensure that your talent-development programs are providing employees the proper leadership skills needed to build a pipeline of diverse talent? Hint: Look at your budget, said Kraft Foods’ Vice President of Diversity Jim Norman.

By prioritizing the allocation of resources, diversity leaders can better align diversity-management initiatives—such as talent development, resource groups and mentoring—with business goals, which is crucial for success, according to the diversity leader who spoke at a DiversityInc event.

The audience of corporate diversity leaders and executives was able to ask Norman questions, contribute their best practices for talent development and share their real-life success stories firsthand.

Kraft Foods, which is No. 7 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50, was recognized with the 2012 DiversityInc Special Award for Top Company for Executive Development. Mark Clouse, president of the U.S. Snacks Business Unit, received the award on behalf of the company at our October event in New York City.

Companies participating included: Procter & Gamble (No. 5 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50), Prudential Financial (No. 9), American Express (No. 14), Automatic Data Processing (No. 27), Toyota (No. 41) and MassMutual (one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies).

Talent-Development Advice from Norman: 

  • The challenge is getting people into crucial lines of business (especially people from underrepresented groups). Focus development efforts a level below what’s needed. “For example, [say] you looked at manufacturing in one area and saw people of color represented at 25 percent to 30 percent, but then if you looked at plant managers and above, you saw the number was more like 13 percent to 17 percent. So you should focus development efforts on people at the very next level from that group.”
  • It’s important to focus diversity-management dollars on what’s crucial to the company.
    “We diverted our dollars away from heritage celebrations and some external partnerships to focus on leadership training. We provided external coaches and up to six hours of one-on-one time putting together a viable and robust development plan.”
  • Make sure talent-development plans are personalized and specific to the individual.
    We take their prior year’s performance appraisal, their prior year’s development plan, and their identified strengths and development needs.”
  • Get senior leaders involved as mentors.
    “Our leaders will assign themselves as coaches and mentors to the high potentials. There may be some instances where they are overtaxed, so they can tap into a cadre we’ve built of peer coaches (internal) to support the efforts.”

 Talent-Development Best Practices From Audience:

Global Mobility

  • Helen Tucker, Global Diversity & Inclusion Director, Procter & Gamble: Everybody thinks global career assignments give you recognition, but in the United States, it’s only when you get to certain levels where that global experience is required. Quality of assignments is also very important, and this company recalibrated business plans for high potentials, especially those from underrepresented groups. “If we don’t even have the right plans starting up, they never will have the opportunity to be successful.” 

Resource Groups

  • Jason Gong, Manager, Global Diversity & Inclusion, American Express: Resource groups (called employee networks at this company) are an excellent way to find and nurture talent. “We have specific high-potential development modules that focus on specific groups of employees. We work closely with the networks to identify who the high potentials are, whether they are serving as leaders of subcommittees within the networks or as chapter leaders.” 
  • Chevy Cleaves, Vice President, Global Diversity and Inclusion, Boston Scientific: Talent identification and coaching is a core responsibility of managers. The issue is whether they are doing this for key underrepresented constituencies.
  • Dr. Deborah Ashton, Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, Novant Health: Another organization where she worked asked each of the resource groups to nominate individuals for a mentoring program. Initially, the company only allowed people in line management or on HR’s radar to be nominated. “We found we could enroll more high potentials by letting the groups nominate folks from within their own groups.” 


  • Doug Hilton, Senior Director of HR, ADP: The important factor in mentoring is to pair the right people, to check in with them periodically and to make sure the mentoring is aligned to what’s needed for the mentee. Cross-functionality is important. “You know for the mentor where their expertise lies and where their passion lies. So if they have been known to work on assignments specific to mergers and acquisitions, for instance, and someone has a hankering for that, we pair them up. We even look at personality styles.”
  • Felicia Johnson, Senior Diversity Analyst, Nissan North America: Advance training for mentors and mentees, especially focusing on cultural competency, is important, as is using electronic systems to systemically arrange pairing. “You don’t just leave it up to people.”
  • Marla Jackson, Director, Human Resources and Diversity Consultant, Prudential Financial: This company has a mentoring program that has been in place for several years, but it wanted to elevate it from self-selection to a manager-nominated program. “We look at gender and at ethnicity and the questionnaire that’s filled out (on goals and strengths). Then we do some manual adjustments. It’s not just mentoring for mentoring’s sake but to drive a specific business objective you have identified with your manager, linking to our leadership competencies.”
  • Jennifer “Jae” Pi’ilani Requiro, Internal Diversity and Inclusion Process Manager, Diversity and Inclusion, Toyota Financial Services (Toyota Motor North America is No. 41 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50): This company uses a tool to create an online profile including a job description, experience and education so that mentees can find their own mentors. Metrics in assessing pairings and their success are extremely important as well. “It’s very much like a dating site, but we can do it across all four of our affiliates. So you may be in financial services but you can find a mentor in Toyota Motor Sales or in manufacturing.”
  • Lorie Valle-Yañez, Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, MassMutual, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies: In their system, participants rate themselves on their own organizational competencies, and the matches are driven by finding people closest to what the mentors need to help them with their specific needs. Goals are established to make sure it’s an inclusive process—such as 50 percent female mentees and 25 percent Black, Latino, Asian or American Indian mentees. “There was a component around understanding when you are matched with someone who is very different from yourself that in the beginning, it’s going to be a little uncomfortable getting ready for that.”