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Talent management ‘transforming global Thales’

Fri, 27 Jun 2014 | By Paul Nettleton
Global leadership
The role of talent management in turning French-owned Thales into a global company to match its world markets in safety technology was outlined at the CIPD talent conference in London this week.

Emma Lucas, global head of talent and development at Thales Ground Transportation, which has 7,000 employees in 40 countries, said talent was being treated in a more systematic way. But what worked in Thales’ traditional European operations “does not always apply in emerging markets”.

An annual people review had for years been a paper exercise but Thales had embarked on the “particularly long journey” of culture change after significant growth in the Middle East and Asia.

Thales today relied on dispatching managers from Europe to these markets. “We have to rethink this to truly become a global business, not a business that’s managed from France,” she said.

But the existing leadership had been given diversity objectives to begin the transformation by developing talent where it was. Already Thales was blending the best of the French management focus on key individuals and the British concern with programmes and process.

Lucas admitted that she had struggled with the time French managers “spent interviewing and getting to know people. For what reason and what purpose? Why am I having this conversation unless it’s for a specific job?”

Then she had begun to appreciate “the value of understanding individuals’ motivation, individuals’ aspirations”.

Lucas showed a slide of the senior management team to give a sense of the challenge ahead. “We consider it a success we’ve got one Brit and we consider it a success we’ve got one woman.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge to really get that diverse talent pipeline through.”

But she said, “these guys recognise it so I’m not speaking out of turn”.

Thales had developed a talent management roadmap to develop the leadership personnel to serve its international mindset.

Identifying talent and encouraging mobility to develop potential was a process that made managers nervous at losing key staff, and costly in terms of travel.

But she said: “The jobs are there. We’ve identified the talent.” One concern was the HR budget. But the aim was that the whole business, not just HR, should step up to complete the transformation as the impact on performance became increasingly clear.
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