Inside View: Reckitt Benckiser
UK-based Reckitt Benckiser is behind some of the world’s most instantly recognisable brands, including Dettol, Durex, Nurofen, Veet and French’s Mustard.
Dettol, Durex, Veet; perhaps they all ring a bell, but have you heard of Reckitt Benckiser (RB)?
It is, in fact, the company behind these global brands, some of the 19 “Powerbrands” that make up 69% of the company’s portfolio. As a top 25 FTSE 100 consumer goods company, RB branded products are sold in over 180 countries around the world.
We caught up with the head of Human Resources at RB, Simon Nash, to see what kind of recruits they seek.
As Senior Vice President of Human Resources of RB, Nash joined the company in 2009 from Novartis Consumer Health where he was Global Head of Human Resources. He has equally worked for Procter & Gamble, Mars Confectionery, Kraft Foods and Fortune Brands Inc.
Over the last ten years, Reckitt Benckiser has more than doubled its turnover – from £3 billion to an £8.5 billion operation today.
RB believes its culture – very distinctive from its FMCG competitors – is the secret to its success. While competitors may be bogged down in bureaucracy, the RB structure is lean and non-hierarchical, encouraging managers and team members alike to be innovative, entrepreneurial and take ownership in everything they do, whether that may be in marketing campaigns to seeking the right talent for the team – and they expect them done well and fast.
Veet - one of RB's 19 Powerbrands
However, as the company has grown into a global powerhouse, it has naturally became more centralised than before, but still there is lots of innovation and entrepreneurial drive in the local businesses. “At the start, only individual thinking and country-based product development were encouraged, but now a global standard is also present,” says Nash. This inevitably provokes conflicts. But in the RB world, this is highly sought after. “Speaking up is encouraged. We want direct conversations so that the right solution will prevail in the end”, Nash continues.
RB is often on the lookout for new candidates from around the world. On an annual basis, over 200 graduates are recruited onto two main programs: Sales and Marketing, and Manufacturing and Engineering. While the former seeks people with commercial skills, the latter focuses on supply chains, running factories and managing the logistics behind it all.
And what are the opportunities for MBAs? According to Nash, 10% of the firm’s annual graduate recruits have been MBA graduates, mostly from the USA, where “there is a clear expectation that people who want to accelerate their business career will get their MBA”.
As a practical, results-focused company, RB keenly seeks out do-ers. The company aims to develop grads into middle managers within five to seven years. Middle managers would not be the marketing director within a country, but would, for example, be managing half the brands in that country.
That’s probably not appropriate for MBA students in Europe. “Particularly if you look at the premium business schools in Europe, they want to be a General Manager today,” says Nash. “We would never hire an unproven person directly into a General Manager position”.
RB looks for graduates from universities ranging from Duke, Michigan, Cornell, Rutgers and NYU to UK’s Loughborough, Aston, LSE and Bath for the “more practical approach you tend to find from the people there”.
Many of Reckitt Benckiser’s graduate hires are now high up in the company, as people are always given opportunities to prove themselves for promotion. In France, for example, nearly all in the marketing department were original graduate hires. “We are looking for people with passion for what they are doing, clarity of purpose, not people who are saying ‘I thought I’d give this a try’”. Successful candidates bring examples of being self-starters and resilient.
Simon Nash says RB is looking for globe-trotting candidates
In addition to early responsibilities, RB also seeks out globe-trotting candidates. In Asia, for example, they run a swap program where a graduate from Malaysia will swap with a graduate from Thailand for up to 12 months to facilitate breadth of experience. International mobility is a requirement for success: “Your career is over when you are no longer globally inquisitive”.
Of the annual intake of 200, about 40% are from Europe, 15% from North America, Australia & New Zealand, with the remaining 45% being drawn from the key growth developing markets, which includes Latin America, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, South East Asia and China.
If Reckitt Benckiser’s growth projections remain on track, they will need hundreds more employees in the BRIC markets in the next five years and so are starting to actively recruit nationals of these countries. The HR team is heading to China in October to meet some Chinese MBA grads to learn more about graduate expectations there.
The clearest message resonating from our conversation is that Reckitt Benckiser is an action-oriented, pragmatic company. They want candidates who are progressive and bold thinkers, willing to take up the baton in a lean, fast-paced company and not afraid to move to wherever in the world they are sent.
If you’re an MBA grad in the US, India or China, the firm provides great opportunities. In other countries, the roles are better suited to people graduating from their first degree, or perhaps a specialised Masters.
For those who are curious to learn more about Reckitt Benckiser, they are highly active on various social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and the Reckitt Benckiser employees blog. For Career Opportunities, visit http://www.rb.com/careers.
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