TJ interviews: Orkla’s Kate Aunaas Ingram

Conor Gilligan interviews Kate Aunaas Ingram, VP of recruitment, employer branding and talent at Orkla.

Reading time: 5 minutes 30 seconds

Before coming to Orkla, you worked with Coca-Cola on its talent strategy. Tell me what brought you to Orkla, and a little more about the company.

I really enjoyed my time at Coke and learned a lot, but I wanted to develop within employer branding. The position at Orkla offered an amazing opportunity to work at a global company headquartered in Oslo.

Orkla is a very well known in Norway. We are the largest consumer goods company in the Nordics and have over 65 categories. We are always trying new things and acquiring new brands, which makes it an exciting place to be.

How important is employer branding and talent management within the organisation?

It is very important now, but this was not always the case. When I joined in 2017, employer branding had been sporadic and purely external in nature. I was the first person to take on this kind of role and also the first person to tackle it from a global perspective.

I honestly didn’t realise how big the job was when I started but I was fortunate that the executive board had made it a top priority and ‘must win’ for the company, which helped me get the ball rolling.

In terms of talent management, we have processes in place, and work with succession as many companies do but there was room for improvement in how we identify, develop and retain.

For a company to be seen as attractive today, you must be seen as a tech-savvy and innovative place where new and exciting things happen

I think the best way to describe the shift in how we are working with both of these areas is that we are moving from a reactive perspective to a proactive one.

I’d like to learn more about your transferable skills project. Can you explain how this came about and the results you are seeing within the graduate team?

This project is part of the Orkla IT trainee programme which I am directly in charge of, and acknowledges how hard it is to source IT talent and find ways around this.

Instead of seeking out IT-educated or trained candidates, we instead seek out candidates with the right mindset, personality, desire and cognitive abilities to succeed in the role. It is very much about teaching them all the aspects of the function and letting them figure out which area they want to take further.

We are also utilising this principle in our new gamification screening tool which is about finding the right fit between personality and cognitive ability, versus simply looking at the profile of a CV and/or grades.

You mentioned you are now using gamification as part of the screening process for new hires. How are you going about this and what inspired this idea?

I think the candidate experience is one of the most important aspects of building a strong employer brand. How you treat candidates makes all the difference and regardless of whether they are hired, everyone should come away from the experience feeling they were well looked after and had a good experience.

So that was one main reason, but the other relates to unconscious bias and how it can impact the recruitment process. Diversity is a key talent trend and companies who don’t reflect the world and its customers will struggle.

At Orkla, we are trying to find new ways of thinking, working and doing things, and to do that we need different profiles and backgrounds such as creativity and innovation so this gamification tool allows us to remove most of the bias and try to identify candidates with the skills we are looking for.

It is also about being effective, so using automation and technology to improve a recruitment process is a win-win.

I also think that for a company to be seen as attractive today, you must be seen as a tech-savvy and innovative place where new and exciting things happen. Introducing such a new and different way of evaluating candidates can help with that. And let’s face it – playing games is fun!

More companies are embracing internal mobility as a strategy with future skills on the horizon. How do you see culture fitting into an internal mobility strategy?

I think culture is key to internal mobility. It can be helped through processes and framework, but people will move within a company when they feel connected to the company – in its entirety.

We have a strong multi-local history and that has impacted how people connect to where they work – for some it is Orkla, but for others it is Orkla Foods or Orkla Care.

This impacts how open people feel about moving, but also that they may not even know what is possible or how another area of the business works.

Culture is about transparency, communication, engagement and unity. When you have those things, internal mobility starts to happen. I think once our employer brand is established, we will see internal mobility increase as a result.

When it comes to career and succession planning, how do you plan to build out the skills within the business?

By viewing career pathing in a more lattice perspective (hexagon shape) versus the more traditional linear/ladder model. This will ensure broader competence development and also better prepare our talent for future changes and demands of role/business.

For example, a financial controller who works commercially will gain a deeper understanding of what is behind the numbers. This also results in creating more dynamic capabilities than more narrow approaches.

We also need to focus on identifying stretch assignments for top talent to ensure we push them almost to failure in order to make strong, resilient leaders. For example, CEO candidates should have stretch assignments as part of their standard development.

The next step will be to identify future skills training opportunities or gaps that we know we need to develop in our people before they become “standard.”

With the emergence of artificial intelligence, the World Economic Forum predicts 50% of the jobs will require reskilling in your sector. What are your plans?

The main area impacted by this change will be production employees, which accounts for around 10,000 people – a huge group to evaluate by traditional means. Machines and AI will still be limited by cognitive ability which humans can provide, so people will always need to direct and manage the automation/machines, which is where the reskilling needs to occur.

Therefore in principle it is about shifting from a traditional manual workforce to a more agile digital workforce. This will involve training, but perhaps the toughest will be the change-management training and support which requires the most work from both sides.

Gamification could be a great way to engage this group in order to embrace change and understand why it is happening.


About the author

Conor Gilligan is director at Degreed.


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