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How Pirelli is using culture and data to make talent count

The company believes that standardising processes for both new and existing talent can reap rewards

Home life How Pirelli is using culture and data to make talent count
How Pirelli is using culture and data to make talent count

In January 2014 Pirelli had carried out its first MyVoice staff survey and it had some clear messages for those keen to nurture the company’s talent – both in terms of existing talent and new talent.

The most positive feeling was a strong sense of pride in working for this 140-year old company with 82 per cent of respondents citing this as important. But there were also some areas that needed attention around meritocracy, transparency, fairness and respect.

What it suggested to HR Department was that while Pirelli had processes in place, they were fragmented and unstructured. These voices from inside the company were the spur to overhaul the processes for job applications for both existing employees and new recruits and to launch a major talent review process. The aim was to standardise processes. So the talent review uses the same methodology and the same language across the company to make sure that every time a key position opens, the best person is found for the job. Similarly the external recruitment process is being standardised around the world.

Internal talent
The talent review started with the top 500 staff and identified 210 top talents to develop. It is now being extended to all the company’s 7,000 white-collar workers, with the aim of finding another 700 such talents. The process looks at employees’ performance and assesses their learning potential in terms of mental agility, people agility and change agility, to try to predict their performance in future, more complex roles. 

The company also launched the innovative professional development platform Growithus in July 2015 for Pirelli’s white collar workers, which has the benefit of forging new connections around this global company. Staff can see jobs posted in Pirelli locations from Alexandria to Yanzhou, get advice on career paths through the company, and sign up for training courses. It is a way of making the process of internal job applications more transparent and meritocratic.

New recruits 
At the same time Pirelli has been looking to standardise the global recruitment process for the 80,000 people a year who apply for a job – a process that has often been in the hands of local, country operations up to now. The aim is to make sure that whether or not they are hired, the candidates are positive about the way they have been treated, the company and the brand. 

The 3,000 to 4,000 people who reach interview stage each year will have a pre-screening video interview, an English assessment and an assessment centre test on group dynamics. These same tools and processes will be established around the world. The hope is that having been through a fair, competent and professional process, even disappointed candidates will leave suitably impressed to talk favourably about their experience – and the company. 

Along with the 750 white-collar and 3,400 blue-collar workers who are successful in joining Pirelli each year, of course.

New recruits are also needed to help Pirelli achieve its goal of increasing the diversity of its workforce, to make it more international, younger and more female. Currently 9 per cent of the company’s executives are women and it is looking to make 20 per cent of new executive appointments female. It is keen to appoint more locals to country manager jobs. It is also focusing on graduate recruitment and has formalised relationships with 80 universities around the world. Whenever the company hires a fresh graduate at headquarters in Milan, the shortlist of three people will always include a non-Italian.

Pirelli culture
Behind all this work Vasino and his team are building on the huge sense of pride that was revealed in the staff survey for the company’s history and achievements  – from its pioneering technological developments to its role as a Formula 1 supplier. Pirelli knows the challenge is to capitalise on the strength of that pride while making the company fit for the future.

The real mandate is to make sure that the culture is in line with the 21st Century and the challenges that lie ahead without giving up the pride for the heritage and the history, because if you just look back you are not ready for the future.

Interestingly the process works both ways – there is evidence that some newcomers can find Pirelli’s commitment to speed and flexibility challenging. Pirelli’s approach is to be flexible to customers’ requests and fast in delivering them. And new recruits need to adapt to this way of working.

Driven by data
Backing all this is data – and numbers are something that is in the DNA of Pirelli, at the heart of how it operates. This whole human resources programme stems from the results of the first MyVoice survey and the annual survey will be a way of gauging how staff feel about the changes being made, although the impact is likely take some time to filter through. One sign of growing staff engagement is that in 2014 the survey was returned by 85 per cent of staff, up from 61 per cent in 2013.

Data can also be gathered from the processes being put in place. Both the Growithus platform and the talent review process can provide a wealth of statistics about internal promotions, external recruits and job mobility, as well as data on the number of talented people in position and also in the pipeline for the future.

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