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Note 8: Our people

HR at AkzoNobel is fully dedicated to serving the needs of both our individual businesses and the company as a whole. To support us in this regard, and in addition to our operational activities, at the end of 2011 we set a new HR functional excellence agenda, which was aligned with the company’s performance improvement program. This is directed at delivering strong succession in line with our diversity and inclusion objectives and achieving internal and external recognition as an employer of choice. To that end, we defined five key focus areas:

  • Put in place OneHR Services in our key countries, serving all businesses within those countries
  • Develop a strong talent pipeline based on an integrated talent management approach
  • Implement an AkzoNobel Academy to underpin functional and operational excellence
  • Professionalize recruitment and retention to become the employer of choice in key countries
  • Deliver a step change in HR capabilities and expertise levels

In 2012, we made significant progress, a fact underlined by the outcome of the 2012 SAM benchmark. Indeed, the social dimension of the SAM benchmark places AkzoNobel in number one position in the Chemicals supersector, in areas such as human capital development, labor practice and human rights.

HR Services

For basic HR administration, we are driving towards a standardized OneHR Services way of working and organization across the company, based on three linked elements: standardized processes, executed on a standardized IT platform (myHR), by HR staff in an HR Service Center. This will enable us to provide a consistent and quality service across our ten key countries, while reducing costs to benchmark levels. In addition, the OneHR Services project is also absolutely central to removing the different systems that exist in the function today and provides the foundation on which we can focus on our core challenge: putting in place a healthy talent pipeline and strong succession planning. Good progress has been made in 2012. Our new OneHR infrastructure went live in China, with the next rollouts planned for Brazil and India in Q1 2013.

In addition, in 2012, we decided to take an integral Talent Management Suite (TMS) approach to HR IT in the following areas: Recruitment; Learning and Development; Compensation and Benefits; and Performance Management. In other words, we will be pursuing the implementation of a coherent IT solution to address all four HR domains, further reducing the fragmentation in our IT landscape.

Talent management

With the basics of OneHR Services falling into place, we are taking action to create a healthy talent pipeline with strong succession planning in line with our diversity and inclusion ambitions. Using a clear definition of what it is to be a leader at AkzoNobel, we are aiming to have talent pipelines with two or three immediate successors to key positions. We will achieve this by managing the careers of our key talents in a more proactive manner and linking succession planning to career planning, with clearly aligned learning and development opportunities, mentoring and coaching facilities, and career development possibilities.

Key actions in 2012

  • Use of Matching Forums at Business Area and Function level to regularly discuss upcoming vacancies with potentials in the company
  • Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for key talents
  • Improved Leadership Talent Review process, with more focus on an individual’s future potential and capabilities, and ensuring that we identify and assess potential earlier in the careers of our talents
  • Continued use of our two main management programs. The Management Essentials Program (MEP) is designed to give all managers the fundamental skills needed to properly manage their people. The Advanced Management Program (AMP) is designed to help more senior or middle managers become more proficient at leading larger, or more complex organizations, develop leadership talent among their staff and create high-performing teams spanning various functional areas
  • AkzoNobel Academy to enable functional and operational excellence. The Academy is the key enabler to drive and facilitate capability build; incorporate internal and external best practices and best practice sharing; offer courses that are directly linked to key areas that drive our functional and operational excellence ambition in a sustainable way; ensure that our courses, standards, improvement methodologies and tools are easily accessible across the organization and benchmarked against world class standards. Each function now has its own Faculty Leader to define capability need/competencies and the associated curriculum to grow these capabilities. In addition, we have now launched a catalog of best practice courses for key functional areas and defined the curricula for 2013, which is aimed at improving identified capabilities
  • Continued use of our Performance and Development Dialog. The P&D Dialog is AkzoNobel’s global performance appraisal and employee development program. All employees are required to participate. Our company values and success factors (behavioral competencies) are an integral part of all development discussions and are integrated into the system and annual performance appraisal process

Diversity and Inclusion

Our talent management activities are aligned with our diversity and inclusion ambitions: at AkzoNobel, we strive to draw from as wide a talent pool as possible and create a working environment where differences are valued and where everyone has the opportunity to develop their skills and talents.

To achieve this, we have had a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) program in AkzoNobel since 2008. The goals of the program are to create awareness and engagement around diversity, to embed the concept in the organization, to establish company-wide metrics and to make AkzoNobel a true reflection of the markets in which we operate.

We have made good progress with D&I in recent years – something which has been highlighted by our success in filling senior level appointments with candidates from our focus groups (women or people who come from high growth markets). For example, of the total number of senior level positions that were filled last year, 33 percent of the external recruitments and 24 percent of the internal moves were female. In addition, 29 percent of external and 18 percent of internal placements were from high growth markets.

In addition, we have improved the proportion of our executives who are either women or come from high growth markets. Since the start of 2009, the proportion of women in executive positions has increased from 10 percent in 2009 to 15 percent of the total population in 2012. The presence of women in executive positions has been particularly strengthened in functional roles over the past two years, especially in HR, Finance, Purchasing, Legal, Marketing and, to a lesser extent, Sales and Manufacturing. With regard to executives in high growth markets, we have made less progress, although the proportion of executives coming from these markets is 13 percent.

In 2012, a number of initiatives were put in place to further embed D&I in the AkzoNobel culture. These included:

  • Three-step D&I program: All of our businesses have now gone through this comprehensive program, which culminates its first phase in 2015
  • We have also invested considerably in D&I awareness training for managers in the skills needed to create and sustain diverse teams. In total, 4,700 of our managers have already completed the training and D&I e-learning module for all employees, while nearly 25,000 employees globally have completed the online training program
  • Establishment of a company-wide diversity and inclusion policy
  • Establishment of a company-wide anti-harassment directive


To support us in attracting the talent we need to achieve our ambitions, we are driving towards becoming an employer of choice in our key countries, targeting, for example, a top 100 position in China and a top ten position in the Netherlands. This should lead to recruiting better talents at lower cost. To support us in this, we have established recruitment “centers of expertise” in our top ten key countries to help us leverage the scale of AkzoNobel as an employer and to serve our businesses more efficiently and effectively.

Key actions in 2012:

  • Established recruitment centers of expertise in our top ten key countries
  • Improved attractiveness (and reduced cost) of AkzoNobel as an employer through a One AkzoNobel Employee Value Proposition – Where your ideas go far

HR training

Achieving all of the actions on our agenda will require the support of a suitably qualified HR organization. We have therefore set about delivering a step change in HR capabilities and expertise levels. Guided by a new HR competency framework and development center, HR employees are now being offered the learning opportunities they need to be a strategic partner to their organization.

Key actions in 2012

  • Rolled out the HR Development Center to help our people develop the capabilities required to deliver functional and operational excellence across the company
  • Defined an HR curriculum within the AkzoNobel Academy to strengthen capabilities, based on a clearly defined competency framework
  • Launched the HR Business Partner program to strengthen the ability of this key group to be strategic partners to the business. In 2012, we rolled out the program to various countries and trained more than 100 HR professionals across AkzoNobel

Employee engagement

In addition to underpinning our ambition to become an employer of choice with our talent management and diversity and inclusion activities, we aim to become one of the top companies when it comes to employee engagement by creating a working environment where people feel valued and are given the right conditions to perform at their best. We use our ViewPoint Employee Engagement Survey to monitor progress. This is based on the Gallup Q12 survey and provides a comparison against nearly 500 organizations.

Our overall engagement score went up only slightly this year, as did the scores for each of the questions on the survey. While there were positives, there are a number of areas where action needs to be taken and plans to remedy the gaps are already in place, including:

  • Introduction of HR Coaches program to ensure HR business partners can coach managers to improve people management skills, especially in the area of performance management and employee engagement. Sixty HR business partners have been trained so far
  • Introduction of Engagement Catalysts program to enable people managers to further strengthen their engagement expertise and to enable them to act as trusted advisors to (low performing) people managers. In total, 89 people managers have been trained so far
  • Introduction of global webinars for all people managers to improve best practice sharing and help managers raise engagement levels in their teams. Twelve webinars have been held so far
Employee survey scores for each engagement item
Employee survey scores for each engagement item (bar chart)
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