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To help industrial giant John Cockerill select and develop its talent, Hudson has introduced a compelling range of solutions over the past few years. We discuss this HR approach with Anne-Laure Delvaux, Head of Talent and HR Business Partner for the Group’s Renewables division (and previously for the Defence, Energy and Corporate divisions).
John Cockerill is an industrial group that has six main areas of activity: Energy, Defence, Services, Industry, Environment and Renewables. With its 5,000 employees, in 2020 John Cockerill achieved a turnover of 1 billion euros in 19 countries across 5 continents. Its headquarters are located in Seraing, near Liège, and the group employs over a thousand people in Belgium. The partnership between John Cockerill and Hudson began with the Defence division, where we were asked to develop a 360 degree feedback system. Since then, the service has been rolled out more widely across the Group.
The aim of 360° feedback is to build a clear picture of an employee’s performance within the organisation. This provides an opportunity to work on their professional development in a targeted way. "We wanted to do 360-degree appraisals for our Management Committee," explains Anne-Laure Delvaux. "The 360 gave us a fuller picture of the Management Committee, but it was also the starting point for building a real team, rather than a collection of individuals." To respond to this request, Hudson designed a 360 questionnaire to meet the specific needs of John Cockerill. "Together, we chose and defined the skills we wanted to assess and then Hudson led the process from start to finish: sending the questionnaire to those involved, answering technical questions, following the process, reminding and inviting people to observe the timings, organising debriefings, etc."
For Anne-Laure Delvaux, where the process brought the greatest added value was in the individual debriefings. "They were good debriefings that enabled us to ask the right questions. There was a coaching aspect to these meetings where the consultant was able to encourage people to think and reflect. Following these individual sessions, Hudson also provided us with a report that gave a general overview of the Management Committee as a whole. This meant that we could see where the main strengths and areas for improvement were as a team, not just at individual level." Following the debriefings and the general report, the directors took part in the development of a concrete action plan. "This snapshot of the situation enabled each of them to set up a personal development plan," says Anne-Laure Delvaux. "We were therefore able to use this work in a more collective way as well, to develop the management team as a whole."
Since 2018, Hudson has helped all of the group’s divisions select and retain talent, as well as to develop their leaders through a skills assessment process. The aim is for John Cockerill to support employees working on new projects or in new roles. In this context, the company asked Hudson to carry out a coherent evaluation of its (future) leaders through the use of Assessment and Development Centres. “This concerns employees in a range of different positions and roles," explains Anne-Laure Delvaux, “but they are all people with potential. In the Energy division, we had junior staff who were moving from a Deputy Project Manager position to a Project Manager position. They were asked to attend a Development Centre to see if their strengths were really in line with the expectations for the job. Other cases involved senior members of staff and we took a similar line of attack: taking an extra precaution before propelling them into a higher-level role to ensure that we didn’t put them in a role that was beyond their capabilities, as well as providing the necessary supervision and support with their new responsibilities."
Hudson carried out Development Centres and Learning Centres for John Cockerill employees in the context of their internal development plan as well as Assessment Centres for external candidates taking part in recruitment and selection processes.
As part of its external selection procedures, Hudson offered John Cockerill an Assessment Centre day for individuals, during which initial feedback was provided to participants regarding their strengths and areas for development. The candidate was led through a series of interactive exercises and scenarios that allowed the consultants to assess their skills. At the end of each exercise there was a short debrief to encourage the participant's reflection, while a wrap-up discussion was organised at the end of the day. All observations were then compiled into a detailed report to provide objective feedback on the individual's strengths and areas for improvement.
The Development Centres enabled participants to learn in a safe environment, where they could practise the skills they wanted to develop. Feedback was given in a constructive way at the end of each exercise, using a coaching style. Participants were asked to reflect on what they wanted to achieve, what they had actually done and what strengths they could build on, which helped to open up new perspectives and different options. Through this approach they became the agents of their own personal development plan (Learning Agility). Advice was shared in a comprehensive report aimed at accompanying the person on their development journey. In group sessions (Learning Centres), the aim was to offer a learning experience on different levels: participants had the opportunity to learn by doing (role-play), by observing (their colleagues) and by receiving feedback from the Hudson coaches and their peers.
Again, Anne-Laure Delvaux stresses the importance of debriefings. “We found the debriefings between the participant and coach to be particularly useful. It was like a coaching session as we came up with development perspectives, which were refined with the person's line manager to coordinate and agree on the areas for improvement." The participants of the Development and Learning Centres were asked to draw up a Personal Development Plan (PDP) based on the self-reflection and feedback from these debriefings. "Generally, people who have been to Hudson have enjoyed their experience, even if it is a long day. The added value lies mainly in the coaching and feedback from the consultants. Hudson is a full service partner. The consultants have a 360 degree view and they easily make the links with other aspects of human resources."
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