Photo: Cargill VietNam
Ms. Nguyen Tam Thanh. Business HR Leader at Cargill Vietnam, tells VET about its HR strategy for recruitment and retention at senior levels.
by Do Huong
- Cargill opens 10th aquafeed plant
Where do your employee numbers currently stand?
From humble beginnings in Vietnam, with a portable feed mill and a small number of employees in Bien Hoa city, southern Dong Nai province, in 1995, Cargill in Vietnam has grown quickly and now has around 1,800 employees working at multiple locations, including 12 animal nutrition plants, around the country.
What proportion of senior management positions are held by Vietnamese?
Acquiring and nurturing local talent has always been high on Cargill’s HR agenda in Vietnam. After more than two decades, I can proudly say that up to 99 per cent of our local workforce are Vietnamese, many of whom have come through various positions within Cargill in Vietnam and elsewhere. Many have been with the company for 10 or 15 years or even 20 years. Vietnamese hold around 70 per cent of the senior leadership positions.
What are your thoughts on the demand for senior human resources (HR) in your sector over the past year?
Demand today is high. Senior HR are quite scarce in our industry, especially when we seek candidates that have international work experience. The agriculture market is now much more competitive because of the penetration of many fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) into the industry. Over time, our recruitment strategy and philosophy have changed towards bringing people from the outside in; tapping into the talent pool from across industries. This opens more doors and supports our strategy of building a conductive working environment that embraces inclusion and diversity, which is very important for healthy growth.
What divisions of the company is recruitment most difficult?
Each division requires a different skillset and experience, so the difficulty is always there but it varies. People’s expectations vary too, so how to match the expectations of the company, the division, and the candidate is key. Our belief is this: hire carefully and go for competence and attitude, not low cost.
What are the major challenges in recruiting managerial staff in terms of both internal and external issues?
We have to be conscious of the fact that Vietnam’s agriculture sector is highly fragmented, so it has never been an easy job to get the best people. The agriculture and feed sector is also not a “fancy” sector compared to, say, FMCG or pharmaceuticals. The sector used to be little known among candidates from other industries, because agribusinesses always tended to find people from within the industry to cut down on training time and have people who are job-ready immediately. So, when we first opened up our employment opportunities to outside candidates, we struggled to the get senior people to apply. But things are different now, thanks to our strong and consistent employer branding strategy. More people started paying attention to our company and discovered how good it is and how they could build a career in a giant agribusiness such as Cargill. For the last five years, Cargill has been recognized the No.1 Employer of Choice in Vietnam in the Agriculture/Feed/Forestry sector and been in the Top 50 of Vietnam’s Best Places to Work from 2013 to 2017. We have a strong brand and strong culture built on our company-wide values: (1) Do the right thing, (2) Put people first, and (3) Reach higher.
What are your specific strategies in retaining existing talent? How have you been investing in the company’s workforce in general and senior leadership in particular over the last few years?
We always remain abreast of market benchmarks and review our internal compensation and benefits scheme to build a suitable strategy to retain internal talent and also attract external talent.
We have a strong belief that if we continue to invest in local people, they will respond and one day will be able to fill the highest positions at Cargill in Vietnam. We ensure we have the right development plans for people, invest aggressively in talent, and make sure it is a business with a purpose, where people see where they fit in, why they are important, and, more importantly, how their contribution makes a difference.
We understand the average employment cycle of senior managers is seven to ten years. To respond to this, our strategy is to leverage the advantages of the world’s largest private company by creating a dynamic and conductive working environment with international job opportunities, to nourish our talent.
Cargill’s employer brand, as the world’s largest private company, is a selling point in attracting people but it’s not enough to retain people. Among the strengths we have, what makes us most proud is our corporate culture, which leads us to always bring value added to customers and communities.
What role do you think Vietnam’s HR play when investors make a decision to invest in the country or expand?
We understand that HR is always a key factor in developing a business. They are an invaluable asset to any organization, because business growth is down to them. When you invest in people, they respond. They will engage, grow and increase their contribution and they tend to choose to stay with the company for the long term. In our culture, we put people first, as we understand our existence is because of our people and they are our key growth driver. We help people reach their full potential by respecting everyone, being inclusive, and valuing differences. We invest in development and hold one another accountable. And for that, we reward performance.
What are your plans for senior HR recruitment under the company’s business development vision?
For senior HR positions at Cargill, it follows the same talent acquisition philosophy that we have been applying in other divisions at the company. We create opportunities for people to grow, including workforce mobility. Talented employees with potential are given the chance to move around and progress into regional roles, and we share talent within the organization in 70 countries, to establish a diverse HR talent pool. Today, when millennials are becoming a large part of the workforce and are changing the workplace landscape, our hiring strategy is also changing too, to match market trends and to fit a multi-generation environment into our company, from baby boomers to millennials.
- Cargill VietNam
- senior level