The Beauty in Talent

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The Beauty in Talent

By Alarice Rajagopal - 10/12/2015

Attracting, building and developing a talented, entrepreneurial supply chain planning team is a challenge. Add in the pressure of making significant improvements in forecast accuracy, inventory and service, while becoming a strategic partner within your organization, and describing it as daunting becomes an understatement.

Andrea Atwell

In June this year, CGT received a nomination for a visionary individual: Andrea Atwell, vice president U.S. Supply Chain, L’Oreal USA, Luxe Division — from a L’Oreal competitor! Atwell’s stance on building supply chain talent has been impressionable to say the least, and through this exclusive interview she reveals her recipe for success in this dynamic and quickly evolving marketplace.

Q Tell us a little bit about your role at L’Oreal.
I lead the U.S. Market Supply team for L’Oreal USA’s Luxe division. My teams support demand and supply planning, customer care and retail supply chain. Our accountabilities include drive planning and retail excellence, through planning collaboration, smart inventory management, and cost optimization. My biggest, and most important responsibility is to build and develop a strong team that can sustain excellent results.

Q Why do you focus on people and talent?  
People are our greatest asset in managing change. Anything is possible when you have a team of highly motivated, engaged, entrepreneurial individuals.

In supply chain, we are constantly challenged with aligning people, processes and data across a wide range of cross functional customers. This is a huge challenge, but is one of the function’s greatest contributions to an organization. I believe, in order to do this most effectively, we have to attract and develop leaders who can communicate in multiple business ‘languages’ and can influence and align. This is our first priority.

Q Was this a shift in direction?
We started a journey three years ago to drastically improve supply chain results. I knew we had to do this through a cross-functional business partnership, and through building credibility for our function by demonstrating our added value.

I believe the best way to lead change is through people. By building a team that stands behind the vision for success, and a team that will push to influence others toward achieving goals, we create a momentum of change that everyone is behind.

Q How did upper management respond to this new direction?  
Management support is so important when leading change in an organization. We were in agreement that changes were needed to deliver improved results, but also had a healthy debate on how we would get there.

We discussed the need to shift the profile of our teams from ‘technicians’ to ‘influencers’, and how this could be a catalyst for the change, and our proposed action plan. The plan included both support from senior management and HR team members who understood the vision for the team, and for the talent.

Q What kind of specific characteristics were you looking for in your team? How did you attract/keep people that worked well in that environment?
My philosophy has always been to hire passionate people and let them run. I look for ownership, resilience and courage. The desire and motivation to collaborate and influence to drive exceptional results is key. If you can think on your feet and make decisions, especially when there are holes in the information being presented, you can be very influential in a fast-paced organization. We hire people from all backgrounds, and focus on the leadership characteristics and potential.

I’ve developed a good instinct for talent for our organization. When I interview, I ask for a presentation of the candidates biggest career success. I think, “Is this person influencing me?” “Can I clearly see what they are communicating?” “Are they succinct in their delivery?” “Can they think on their feet when asked questions during the presentation?” If yes, there’s a solid chance they will be a good fit on the team. We can teach functional expertise, it’s much more difficult or impossible to teach passion, influence and resilience.

Finding the talent with analytics skills, along with great communication skills, influence and resilience is not easy. This type of talent is rare and can demand a lot from an organization, as they should. To secure top talent for an organization, we need to understand what this talent needs and wants, to be happy and productive on the team. I find that top talent wants challenging opportunities, influential projects, exposure to top management and a coaching culture, where feedback is constant for growth and development. As supply chain leaders, if we can create this type of environment, we can attract the best.

People are hungry for vision, for leadership and for change. From my experience, people want to contribute to something bigger. If you can solidify the vision and show each individual why it is beneficial for them, you can create a team environment that will thrive and deliver exceptional results.

Q Has this approach been adopted by other groups or teams within L’Oreal?
L’Oreal is an organization that offers tremendous flexibility and creativity to the people and processes that help deliver great results. This allows us to adapt in a changing marketplace and flex our approach to meet business challenges. As a leader, it’s important to stay open-minded to different solutions. Sometimes you’ll need to adjust processes, other times you’ll need to implement a new tool. In this case, we needed to reenergize the team and build credibility to drive collaboration. So naturally, the focus was on people.

Q What can other companies learn from your approach?
I think it’s important to ask the question before spending money reorganizing process flow or implementing a new tool: Do we have the right leaders and the right teams to tackle the challenge? People are our greatest asset. Once you have the right people, they can contribute to creative solutions on process and tools that can be an even better fit for the problem at hand. A flat management approach keeps people engaged, motivated, and creative, and can deliver results that exceed your expectations.

Q What advice can you give individuals looking to be part of a team like this?
Your passion is your greatest asset. Stay true to yourself and fight for what you believe is right for the business.

While you are building and developing your technical and functional expertise in your career, don’t lose site of the investment in your leadership competency development. Invest here, and you will open many doors of opportunity!

For more than a century, L’Oreal has been involved in the adventure of beauty.

  • 1909: Eugne Schueller, a young chemist with an entrepreneurial spirit, founded the company that was to become the L’Oreal Group.

  • 1931: Schueller becomes a pioneer of advertising by draping a sheet over the face of a Parisian building to create a gaint billboard.

  • 1963: French women discover the secrets of Japanese bathing practices with the first foam bath, creating a newfound demand for toiletries that were more sophisticated than a bar of soap.

  • 1965: Acquisition of Garnier.

  • 1966: Rcital launches on the mass consumer market, allowing women to color their hair in the comfort and privacy of their own bathrooms.

  • 1985: The first line of skincare products designed exclusively for men is made. Biotherm Homme is today’s leaders in men’s skincare products in more than 70 countries.

  • 2001: L’Oreal joins the “World Business Council for Sustainable Development" to encourage the exchange of expertise in the environmental, economic and social matters.

  • 2015: L’Oreal shares its commitment to “Sharing Beauty with All” by innovating sustainably, producing sustainably, living sustainably and developing sustainably.

Atwell’s supply chain vision has resulted in a talented, motivated team with a ‘Seat at the Table.’

  • 60% reduction of Excess & Obsolete

  • Full Business Alignment & Support

  • Consistently, contributing to additional sales growth for the brand

  • Forecast Accuracy Improvement of +15%, U.S. now the top performing country globally for L’Oreal Luxe

  • Service Level from 92% to 97%