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Leaving your comfort zone

Demand & Supply Planning Specialist Alberto Duca
Whether it is internationalization or digitalization – the business world continuously changes, thus influencing our way of working. But consequently, also the demands placed on every individual change. With the so-called “Development Toolbox” Beiersdorf not only offers all employees classic training sessions, but also different methods for e.g. on-the-job development and the possibility to learn from others. Alberto Duca is 48 years old and has worked for Beiersdorf for almost 20 years now. Within the company’s Management Unit of Southern Europe, the Italian rooted Demand & Supply Planning Specialist steers a team of 17 employees spread across four countries. In a conversation, Alberto discusses his experience with the different HR development tools.

Alberto, please describe how you personally use the toolbox within your team.

Alberto Duca: “On the job development” definitely plays a large role, but in my experience so far, the aspect of “learning from others” is even more common. I personally like mentoring and the 360° feedback but of course I also discuss the other tools and their benefits with my team – for example, during the half-year employee review meetings. We then look back on successes and failures and try to derive concrete actions for the future. I also motivate everyone in my team to leave their comfort zones.

Can you name an example in which employees in your team had to leave their personal comfort zones?

Alberto: Conflict management is a good example. We as planners have to regularly and critically examine the input of other departments and their decisions. The majority of my team colleagues do that very well, but some prefer to avoid those conflict situations. And then there are others who overdo it. In both cases, we try to develop a better understanding of conflict management in our self-reflection meetings. I try to show up new ways to handle this and motivate them to try it out. Another example: There are colleagues who try to avoid visibility. In this case, I encourage them for instance to hold presentations in front of large groups. We’re indeed seeing some success with this helpful instrument of our HR Development Toolbox.

You say “learning from others” represents a central aspect of the Development Toolbox for you. To what extent have you had personal experience with this?

Human Resources gearwheel to show the connection between on-the-job-development, learning from others and training

Alberto: Mentoring is especially important to me. The toolbox contains practical tips on how to concretely shape this, e.g. what the mentor and mentee each bring to the table and what the schedule should be. I was a mentee myself and I benefit from that experience still today. I learned from Alvaro Alonso, the former Beiersdorf Country Manager for Spain, in two distinct ways: on the one hand, I learned about the Spanish market. On the other hand, we worked very deliberately on my personal skills. There are too many examples to go into detail here, but this much is true: Alvaro made me leave my comfort zone more than once – it was a very formative time for me. We remain in contact even now – he in the meantime, has gone on to be the General Manager for Beiersdorf in North America.

What did you learn that you can apply to your current job?

Alberto: Self-reflection and a healthy feedback culture are essential. That is what I would like to share with my team and my mentees. I want to open my employees’ eyes and where necessary, show them new ways to do things. I practice regularly with my mentees. For example, we discuss what can be done differently at the next meeting. Furthermore, 360 feedback helps to start a discussion and to find an approach for personal development.

What value do you put on international and interdisciplinary experience for yourself and your team?

Alberto: In my opinion, both international and cross-functional job rotation is important. It makes sense to enable talents to change their perspectives and location every two to three years. It helps them to recognize and better understand new contexts and the big picture. But the changes shouldn’t come too quickly, because it takes a little time to build networks and discover and implement potential for improvement. Only after a certain time, the employee and our company can profit from this career move.

Thank you for sharing this with us, Alberto.