undconsorten LLP

Global Talent Development@thyssenkrupp
The new Talent Development Plattform TD Core

An interview with Frank Fischer and Dr. Anna Osterspey, People Development & Executives Management at thyssenkrupp


At thyssenkrupp you recently launched a group-wide intranet platform for talent development. What were your motivations, what were the challenges you were facing?

Frank Fischer: We have grown historically from a decentralized, heterogeneous HR landscape. Personnel and talent development have traditionally been anchored in the business areas, business units and group companies and have been set up very differently. Considering this background, the harmonization of our Talent Development activities was defined as a key priority by our current CHRO. In short, it was time to set common standards and harmonize the talent program landscape. If we want to identify talent at an early stage, develop people appropriately, and, ideally, to place them into new and challenging roles throughout the group, along with a systematic talent management approach we also need comparable rules of the game, quality standards and an overarching set of tools and products. The platform for this is the Talent Development Core.

"It was time to set common standards and harmonize the talent program landscape."
What exactly is the TD Core?

Frank Fischer: Talent management is a triad for us at thyssenkrupp: Identify, develop, place. TD Core systematically uses this triad. On the one hand, it lays down important theoretical foundations for all three phases of talent management so that we speak the same language throughout the group. On the other hand, the TD Core provides high-quality modern instruments for each of the three phases, e.g. on the topics of mentoring, feedback, or development planning. The product portfolio can be used plug & play, but business-specific adaptations are also always possible.

What were the biggest challenges in developing TD Core?

Frank Fischer: Our goal was to provide best-in-class tools and products. To date, we have usually just shared those high-quality concepts and tools already available in the group – see classic best-practice sharing – but then not everything was always state-of-the-art. As far as the TD Core is concerned, we have created a high-quality portfolio together with the Management Development Council (MD Council), which represents all business areas and regional headquarters. The deciding factor for succeeding with this kind of approach is knowing when to say no. We reserve the right to reject input from the organization that does not meet our common quality standards or which does not meet the business requirements to the desired extent.

And how do you ensure that from now on the products in the TD Core are actually being used?

Anna Osterspey: Through the targeted integration of the MD Council, all TD Core content is ultimately the result of a collective development and decision-making process. It is our common goal to strengthen talent management across the group, so in this way we are all pulling together more and more. We are very excited about this. Of course the practical application of the products shows the extent to which our theoretical considerations bear in practice. There’s a conscious learning process that we all go through together and it’s a matter of attitude and culture.

Frank Fischer: In addition, we offer accompanying TD Core training courses for our personnel and talent developers in order to make the application as easy as possible and to anchor the necessary mindset within the organization. There is a pragmatic factor as well: HR resources in the divisions continue to become increasingly scarce. It is simply no longer possible for every local personnel manager to develop their own talent program, even if it is fun.

"We offer accompanying TD Core training courses for our personnel and talent developers in order to make the application as easy as possible."
How have the newly defined standards and products been adopted so far by the organization?

Frank Fischer: Standardizing and harmonizing selected processes, group-wide concepts and core products in a targeted way is not the same as blindly unifying them in the sense of one size fits all. It has always been clear to us that the programs and initiatives have to allow for business-specific, functional, regional, or even local flexibility. The TD Core has a common thread, a shared DNA. It includes, for example, basic beliefs, guiding principles, or frameworks. Within this framework, everyone can build up their own ideas. This is the principle of freedom within a frame. By the way, our CEO considered the idea of the TD Core a positive one and even actively promoted the community.

You worked with us, undconsorten, in the development of the TD Core. How did the collaboration go? What were the advantages and disadvantages?

Frank Fischer: We very much appreciated the collaboration. It was certainly helpful to take sufficient time right at the beginning for proper clarification of the goals and the approach. Only in this way were we able to make rapid progress under very tight deadlines. It was an iterative process, in which both sides worked together closely.

Anna Osterspey: The challenge really was to work as precisely as possible. This was challenging the first time around, but we learned together as we went along. The whole purpose of the TD Core is to craft clear core messages that are on point and to provide a toolkit that stands apart for its quality.

If you look back on the development of TD Core 1.0, what would you do differently?

Frank Fischer: That’s a good question. Nothing jumps out at me. Our success proves us right; our internal customers have given us a lot of positive feedback . One could always start the planning even earlier or allow for more time, but considering the budget and resource conditions everything really went very smoothly.

"Our success proves us right; our internal customers have given us a lot of positive feedback."
What are the plans for TD Core 2.0? What comes next?

Anna Osterspey: We are going to transform the Talent Development Core into a Development Core, that is, expand the target group and radius.

One last question: Under what conditions would you recommend another company to follow a similar path?

Anna Osterspey: Two points seem important to me: On the one hand, there should be an explicit desire for networked-based collaboration. Having common ground rules also always means that there may be units that have to give up the tried and tested methods and have to open up for new things. On the other hand, I believe that clear roles and responsibilities are a key driver of success.

Frank Fischer: One insight for me is that an organization can only act agilely if a common foundation and selected cornerstones provide the necessary orientation. This may sound like a contradiction at first, but the empirical evidence is striking.

Thank you for your time and this interview.