The Executives of Friesland Campina, around 270 future leaders attended an Executive programme on a fast-track leadership development process at Hult Executive Education. An ambitious and strategically important initiative for one of the world’s largest dairy co-operatives, Friesland Campina. Fast-track talent development programmes and development of high potential leaders, enabling the organization to build its international leadership capability, and stimulating the significant culture change envisioned in Friesland Campina’s route 2020 strategy.

The programme and approach

 Each programme takes place over a 12-18 month period, during which participating managers experience multiple workplace development opportunities interweaved with major catalytic leadership events. The programme sets the scene for on-going learning, deep-rooted personal growth and change. The process is highly experiential and profoundly personal and was designed to both mirrors and stimulate the spirit of a new cultural energy at Friesland Campina. It blends the development of human potential with real-life experiences. Furthermore, there is a structured programme of workplace challenges which ensures high levels of learning transfer and supports the development work. The catalytic experiences, which anchor the process, ranging from immersive market inquiries in Shanghai to working in an orphanage in Vietnam and milking cows at member dairy farms. These are a powerful way to challenge assumptions about customers, consumers and the market. The experiences enable managers to re-think, see their products in a new context as well as understanding cultural differences, dietary preferences and societal needs. Participants are compelled to seek answers to questions around what more they can do to ensure that their work – and Friesland Campina products – meet needs beyond those immediate and local, as well as how to ensure this mind-set sits firmly at the heart of their organization. Strategic challenges are a red thread throughout the process and increase participants’ ability to take a more strategic, global view and drive through change.

The impact 

This talent development process has led to significant changes in the organization: • Developing future leaders’ understanding of their customers, shareholders and teams, and of what it takes to work successfully across boundaries to achieve the organization’s goals • Stimulating culture change by creating multiple networks and bringing to life new ways of working which are non-hierarchical and empowering • Successfully growing the talent pipeline and leadership capability, developing a cadre of talented individuals who have the necessary global mind-set and who are internationally mobile • Enabling future leaders to influence senior leadership, innovate and play their part in addressing the leadership challenges at Friesland Campina Multiple examples of impact, new initiatives and innovation have emerged from the programme including a new route to market in Saudi Arabia, securing new customers in Vietnam and the creation of a CSR ambassadors’ network. As the process moves forward, future leaders have continued to be placed in pivotal positions across the organization and are making vertical career moves, all designed to expand the scope of their responsibilities and fast-track them to future leadership roles. 30 months into the programme 47% of the future leaders had moved into new roles.