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Learning and Development

Learning and Development initiatives at Olam are largely led by Business and Organisation priorities. Hence the initiatives are usually custom-designed for building leadership capability and/or change interventions that strengthen our unique culture and values.

Throughout Olam in 2015 there was a significant focus on building ‘domain competence’, driven in a large part by the Business or Functions, ensuring learning solutions that were primarily on-the-job critical experiences supported to a lesser extent by relevant knowledge building through classroom sessions. This serves 2 purposes – to help prevent risks but also to drive forward on our goals and targets.

In October, Olam’s new intranet was launched. Called Olam Connect, the new version is much more user-friendly, operating on a similar basis to Facebook so that groups can be created and knowledge shared more easily. There is still much to be achieved in helping the Products and Geographies understand the business benefits and put them into practice, but already there has been a significant uplift in users (100% increase on daily visits at the end of 2015).

Some key highlights Learning and Development in 2015 include: 

(1) CR&S Function specific achievements 

  • New farmer training library with over 170 documents was launched on OlamConnect
  • 12 CR&S internal newsletters covering subjects such as soil fertility management, nutrition programming, women’s empowerment, and water and sanitation.
  • Workshops helping 135 staff and managers across Africa understand key Sustainability concepts and their role in achieving the Sustainability goals and targets.

In November, 40 colleagues from 12 businesses and functions across Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon and Tanzania attended the CR&S Regional Meet. External presenters included:

  • Dr. Brahima Coulibaly, head of the Forest and Environment Programme at Centre National de Recherche Agronomique, who spoke of the importance of agroforestry in the face of climate change, deforestation, soil degradation, biodiversity loss, and poverty.
  • Kevin Bosson, Programme Manager at the Fair Labor Association, reminded the audience of global labour scandals. He summarised the international legal framework, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, and the OECD Guiding Principles for multinational companies.
  • Herbert Smorenburg, Senior Manager, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), showed startling brain scans demonstrating the impact of malnutrition on brain development, emphasising that nutrition, particularly in the first 1,000 days of life (from conception), is key for physical and mental development. Data from Côte d’Ivoire revealed that the prevalence of stunting has increased in recent years, with 42-48% of children under five years of age in the poorest half of population being stunted. Meanwhile, half of Ivorian women suffer from anaemia, and over half of preschool-age children from Vitamin A deficiency. Mr. Smorenburg gave the business case for investing in nutrition, pointing out that improved dietary diversity and nutritional status of farmers, workers and families, leads to healthier and stronger people with higher endurance and increased cognitive skills potential. This in turn leads to increased productivity, a healthier workforce in the future, and brand integrity.
  • Ongoing training-of-trainer workshops for the field network of 1,110 field staff on topics such as Good Agricultural Practices, farm management, good labour practices, environmental sustainability, and cooperative management.

(2) MATS Function specific achievements

  • 80% of employees trained on Behavioural Safety via our in-house programme – ‘A Safe Olam’. We also built internal capability for continued delivery of the ‘Safe Olam Programme’ through ‘train the trainer’ programmes targeting 300 internal trainers.
  • Maintenance Best Practice programme was rolled out across all out Tier 1 facilities training plant managers, production and engineering managers. The programme emphasised the need to care for our assets and improve efficiencies through AM, PM and simple solutions.

(3) HR Function specific achievements

  • Our new Aspire performance and development programme is built on managers having ‘continuing conversations’ with their team members. We launched a phased approach to the skills building programme, with the first phase involving intensive performance and development training inn ‘conversation skills’. In six months (2015 and 2016) we have conducted 27 workshops across Asia, Africa, Australia, Americas and Europe, training 560 mangers.
  • To strengthen engagement, the next phase introduced the Aspire Embedding Programme, inviting senior leaders who have at least three to five reportees (both direct and matrix) to participate in 6 Small Group Coaching Calls over a nine month period. This small group coaching programme is designed to be entirely voluntary where the leaders will be closely supported by an external coach in the practice of Aspire-led conversations.

In addition to the Values workshops described in the Ethics and Integrity section of this Report, 3 Core Process workshops were held in May, August and January 2016 involving 160 managers. These Core Process workshops are anchored primarily by our CEO over 4 days. The interactive workshop is one of the fundamental processes contributing to the strategy, alignment and culture creation in Olam. We believe the most valuable take-aways are:

  • being inspired through the direct andcandid engagement with our CEO
  • in-depth insights into Olam’s origins and the power of our business model
  • the connections we form with our Core Process colleagues.

Image: The CR&S team meet in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Next section: Wider employee engagement