“Talent development is of premium importance for Atos. We think every employee should be expected to develop and grow as much as they possibly can. That is the reason why we have put in place a series of programs designed to help individuals reach their potential in each phase of their career.” Mark Meyer, EVP Talents and Communication 2011 Atos Annual Report.
Since 2010 the international information technology services company Atos and HEC Paris have been in collaboration with each other to launch a new L&D initiative: the Gold Program – which has been awarded the winner of EFMD Excellence in Practice 2013, Talent Development category.
In the late 2000’s, Atos were facing new challenges in the highly competitive IT services market, with several new entrants from fast growing
economies. In order to strengthen the company’s leadership position Atos outlined its strategic vision and objectives and engaged in a significant transformation. The dynamic external and internal business environment required a new type of professional moving from being an IT expert to business technologist. Thierry Breton, CEO of Atos, stated that “Our vision for the future is to accelerate progress by uniting people, business and technology”.
Therefore, in 2009, the senior management team asked the Atos L&D Team to support this through an L&D program training their top managers with the following aims:
• up-skill and enable them to lead the corporate transformation
• quickly build a community of “Ambassadors” - people who can be the face of the program, who are a symbol of the core beliefs and who can display this passion for the program to others whilst maintaining its integrity.
• contribute to building and sharing a common knowledge and a company culture which supports its ambition and growth.
The aim of CEO, Thierry Breton, was to ensure that the program was transformational for the 'ambassadors'. When deciding whom to partner with, Atos were drawn immediately to HEC Paris as, due to their previous work together in 2006 they had already established a level of trust and intimacy. In January 2010, the Talent Development initiative ‘Gold Program’ was launched, with Atos and HEC working together as a team on both the design and the implementation of the program. To ensure that there was a strong collaborative working environment, they set up a Steering Committee which consisted of the Atos VP Global Communication, VP Training and Development, Global Talent Manager, HEC Paris Academic Project Manager, an Academic Director and the VP Custom Executive Education. Together they instituted a consultation regarding how the committee can meet Atos’s target audience and context. This enabled the initial possibilities to transition into development and competency needs.
Atos and HEC Paris structured the program around three five-day residential modules in France and India, supported by an online knowledge exchange. The locations for the programs supported Atos’s strategic positioning. France and India, especially Mumbai and Pune, were both seen as prime locations for the program to take place in. In an attempt to distinguish outstanding candidates from good candidates, potential ambassador’s performances were evaluated by line managers using a corporate competency framework. Due to this process, the Program is included in each participant’s Talent Development plan.
Key required competencies of candidates:
• 1 year seniority in the Company
• International mindset
• Fluent English
• Available for all sessions and inter-module work
The program had three modules of forty ambassadors, who were classified as exceptional candidates, the schedule for the modules was: the first module in April, a second in July and the last in October.
MODULE 1: LEADING IN CHALLENGING TIMES
An unconventional look at leadership that brings participants' personal insights and perceptions into their leadership style. Alongside this, it also strove to strengthen participants' strategic thinking and understanding of the challenges facing Atos whilst also challenging them participants to produce inventive ideas.
MODULE 2: IN THE BUSINESS COCKPIT
Module 2 focused on participants in leading a service business in an international environment. This module used business simulation which also acted as an experiential setting to improve Talents’ strategic thinking and offered feedback on their interactive skills within their groups.
MODULE 3: IMPLEMENTING BUSINESS STRATEGY
Module 3 looked at the challenges of strategy formulation and implementation within a multinational and intercultural environment. Participants expanded their knowledge of the international environment and tackled change management through theories, frameworks and practical applications.
Once the program had been completed, Atos and HEC Paris measured the participants success by the 4 levels of the Kirkpatrick model to gauge the improvement achieved.
The four levels of Kirkpatrick's evaluation model essentially measured:
• reaction of participant - what they thought and felt about the training
• learning - the resulting increase in knowledge or capability
• behaviour - extent of behaviour and capability improvement and implementation/application
• results - the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee's performance
Post-session questionnaires, corporate interviews, viewing internal promotions and measuring satisfaction rates all contributed in determining the success rate of the program. Alongside this, the program value was measured using a five-point scale evaluation. The results showed that for each module participants rated between 4.5 and 5 out of 5 which indicated that it was seen as a highly successful program. Their feedback also confirms that the program gave them a better understanding of the company and its strategy. Since 2010, a staggering 50% of participants were taking higher level senior position within one year. One participant revealed his enthusiasm of the program, “Overall a great international experience! It is exactly what I was looking for”.
Due to the high success rates, Atos asked HEC Paris to launch two more intakes of 40 candidates in 2011 and the following years. As of April 2013, the Gold Program has represented 5 intakes developing 200 candidates, with two new intakes currently being launched.