Part 2: Putting the “joint’ in joint venture talent development.
OVER THE LAST 25 years and across numerous research studies, we have found that joint ventures face a set of unique talent demands and opportunities that are the direct and sole outgrowth of the shared ownership structure of these businesses. Although talent development in joint ventures may be challenging, JVs have an advantage in that they have a natural connection with at least two other companies with which they can actively collaborate with to develop talent in the JV.
In a previous insight, we outlined five categories of practices involving parent company and joint venture collaboration that should be considered to ensure the venture has and develops the talent it needs.
The purpose of this note is to provide more detail around and examples of the first of these category of practices- direct people transfers and placements.
DIRECT PEOPLE TRANSFERS AND PLACEMENTS
The formal placement of individuals in a joint venture (or from the joint venture into one of the parent companies) is one of the most direct ways to develop joint venture staff.
Short term rotations – where an employee transfers from the JV into one of the parent companies (or vice versa), for a period of up to 12 months – are the most common way to do this. Rotations can be developmental in nature – where an individual is placed in a role purely for learning purposes – or involve a “real” job – where the individual is filling an empty position and expected to deliver on the responsibilities associated with it. Rotations can also differ when it comes to the content of the role. In some joint ventures (e.g., Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, a multi-billion dollar global Travel & Logistics joint venture with 5,700 employees), these are P&L rotations that involve business management roles and accountabilities. In other JVs (e.g. Swisscard, a 600-employee Swiss credit card joint venture between American Express and Credit Suisse), the rotations are more technical in nature, with an employee being transferred from the joint venture into a parent function (e.g., legal, marketing, risk management) for the purposes of learning through observation and doing.
In the best of cases, these types of rotations take advantage of an already-existing framework or program, and create a direct benefit for both the JV and the parent. One such example was in an Anglo American JV. Anglo American has an existing program under which it identifies young, promising talent, and rotates these employees into various parts of the business globally (Exhibit 1). The JV had the option of receiving individuals through this program. Those individuals would then spend 1 to 1.5 years in the JV, transferring skills into the JV and gaining valuable JV experience.
Exhibit 1: Short-Term rotations from Parent to JV
Another people placement approach is reverse secondments. As compared to the typical secondment (where a parent employee is loaned into the JV), reverse secondments involve an individual from the joint venture being loaned into a parent company. The idea is for the JV employee to fully soak in skills and/or knowledge that the parent has, and then return to the JV to apply that experience and teach others. One Asian joint venture uses this approach to increase the familiarity of JV employees with one of the venture’s parents. The JV is between a local company – which seconds people into the JV – and a global company. Because of language constraints, the global parent is not able to put many people into the JV. Instead, the global parent invites high-potential JV employees into its organization to spend 18 to 24 months in technical, marketing, or management/planning roles. As reverse secondees, the employees increase their understanding of the global parent’s processes, making it easier for the parent and JV to effectively interact, both when the reverse secondee is on rotation and when they return to the JV. The reverse secondments also improve retention of talented employees, who view such an opportunity as a benefit. And, the parent gets the benefit of a talented individual in a role that needs to be filled.
Talent development is an area where joint ventures may have a benefit relative to wholly-owned organizations: JVs are naturally tied to at least two other companies with a strong interest in their success. Most JVs and parent companies are not taking sufficient advantage of this benefit. Are you?