Talent without Borders: Monsanto's Global Leadership Programs

Corporate leadership training has an enormous strategic value to businesses large and small. Supporting employee development via management leadership training is essential to an engaged workforce and will create an attractive employer brand, loyalty and is also useful as a retention management tool.

HRIQ is joined by Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Global Talent Management Lead at Monsanto. Bandyopadhyay discusses some of the talent development strategies taking place at Monsanto, the multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation.

As you look at talent management strategies within your global company, what are some of the key focus areas for Monsanto?

As we look at our business growing in different parts of the world, one of the key focuses is ensuring we have a talent pipeline which can meet the needs of the business as we grow in different markets, specifically in emerging markets where our growth trajectory is really strong.
One key talent management issue that we grapple with, as do many companies, is first ensuring a leadership pipeline for Monsanto across functions and businesses—really focusing on key talent segments, which will be critical for the future of the business and ensuring we have the right talent to meet the needs of the business.

The second broad area is ensuring we develop the right functional skills within our key talent segments.
The third key category would be managing succession and developing people for future roles. We do this through a combination of international moves, cross-functional moves, leadership programs, mentoring programs and ongoing coaching.

You have several programs that focus on internal career development. Can you briefly tell us about Monsanto’s Global Leadership Program For Experienced Hires in Commercial, and why it’s been a value-added program for you?

Before I talk about that, I want to emphasize that historically our core focus has always been on developing talent internally. We focus on developing internal talent through a variety of programs: moving people through different roles, giving them different learning experiences, moving people on international experiences and assignments to give them opportunity to work in different market categories. We have a fair degree of cross-functional movement where people get to experience the company in different aspects. We have pretty robust leadership programs at different levels in the organization: there is one called the Global Leadership Exchange for senior talent; there are regional approaches which we call regional leadership exchanges in the regions. We also focus heavily on ongoing career coaching, providing feedback to our employees through our People Review Process, where employees get discussed and receive career feedback.

A couple of years ago, we realized we had a need to supplement our talent pipeline, essentially in our commercial organization and businesses globally – really building talent for key leadership roles within the business, which play really critical influence roles and help drive organizational strategy in these areas. With this intention, we created Global Commercial Emerging Leaders Program. Essentially, what it does is focus on getting external talent into Monsanto through different industry segments. This allows us to broaden our talent pipeline, bringing in diverse points of view from very different industry segments (i.e., consumer goods, investment banking, the technology space, etc.) The program selects, onboards, assimilates and develops external talent to come into Monsanto.

There are two roles in this program: we start in a home country assignment and they go on an international assignment the second year, thereby getting exposure to two key markets. During the program they have global mentors who give them larger global perspective, as well a local mentor who can help them understand the nuances of working in that culture.

Apart from this, we offer ongoing trainings which provide functional -specific overviews, understanding of our R&D pipeline, leadership and cross-cultural skills training, and live business projects where they work with business in different parts of the world on a live situation to offer solutions and put all they’ve learned into practice.

We also have a 360-degree process where we get perspectives from different stakeholders and provide this feedback to talent. We connect this group on an ongoing basis through calls and encourage best practice sharing among them. We have people across different world areas who share what is going on with each other, and that peer learning has a huge value that develops a very large global mindset. This really helps us obtain talent from different industry sectors who bring a totally different way of thinking to Monsanto and help us continually approve ourselves.

How GCELP align with your larger corporate strategy and what sets this program apart?

The GCELP complements our efforts on developing internal talent. It broadens our talent pipeline and our talent pool for key roles, especially in commercial leadership roles and brings in broad diversity to Monsanto. Often the kind of people we hire into a program like this are people who have worked in at least three countries, have gone to business schools in a different part of the world, and really bring in experiences and learning from multiple different sectors, which is a value that the bring to us.

What sets it apart in my mind is the integrated nature of development it offers participants. It’s not just classroom training, on-the-job-learning, creating a peer network or mentoring—it’s a combination of all these factors, which go hand in hand along with the coaching that we use to develop employees through this program.

What initiatives do you take to promote continuous learning and the role of knowledge sharing through your GCELP program?

Moving on to other programs, we run a Virtual Mentoring Program where we try to identify high-potentials around different parts of the world. We pair each mentee with a senior leader mentor in a different part of the world. The idea is to foster a 12-month learning relationship with two specific goals. We launched the program using technology solutions such as WebEx and web conferences, where we train the mentor and mentee separately and then together. They connect on hour-long monthly calls, and we track progress at the six and 12 month point through a steering team of business leaders across the world.

One of the things we do to promote continuous learning is to ensure we get in a lot of internal speakers through some of these web conferences to talk about things like developing leadership style, working in a cross-cultural environment, working in a matrix organization, and business updates on how things are shaping up for us in different parts of the world.

How do you create an attractive employer brand in order to attain the most desirable MBA candidates to participate in this program, and what key attributes do you look for in a qualified candidate?

We post to different business schools globally. In some of these cases where we have relationships with the schools, we have campus visits. Otherwise a lot of it is just posting with the current class or out of line networks. In my experience the program appeals to a certain profile of candidates. These are people who like global careers, have worked or desire to work in different countries, who have had some breadth of experience working across multiple functions. Most importantly, the kind of people we often attract are people who really want to contribute to the space of agriculture and see agriculture as playing a strategic role, given the world’s issues we have surrounding feeding a growing population, and find Monsanto has a unique opportunity to contribute to some of the growing issues today.

Going on to the second part of the question, we look for (like most companies) things like cognitive ability, functional skills, in whatever the area. Apart from that, what really differentiates people who get into this program are essentially the attributes around collaborative leadership. We’re looking at people who can work in a matrix organization with stakeholders across regions, functions, and have the ability to really align people and bring them together. We are looking for a very strong cultural fit in this program, and for us, leading by influence becomes really important. We look at aspects like leadership humility—not just for people who are really smart, but who are also nice people to work with. Who are approachable, can carry people along, and will create goodwill wherever they go.

Interview conducted by Alexandra Guadagno, Editor for Human Resources iQ. Listen to the podcast with Bandyopadhyay.