Taking a leaf out of L’Oréal’s book of secrets


Nora Mahbob, director of human resources at L'Oréal Malaysia, keeps an open mind when it comes to hiring talent Nora Mahbob, director of human resources at L’Oréal Malaysia, keeps an open mind when it comes to hiring talent

Nora Mahbob has an enviable problem. Every day, the director of human resources at L’Oréal Malaysia receives hundreds of emails.

At a time when many Malaysian employers are moaning about the quality of graduates and Generation Y’s ‘attitude’, L’Oréal Malaysia’s inbox is stuffed with resumes, ranging from students to graduates eager to join the world’s No. 1 beauty company.

Despite the deluge of applications, the Paris-listed L’Oréal (market cap €6.9 billion) doesn’t take the easy way out when it comes to finding the perfect candidates.

Nora and her team attend career fairs. They approach universities to talent-spot. They take in interns. They give introductory talks. They produce YouTube videos. And all in the name of hiring the best for a company handling 18 international brands, including Garnier, Lancome and YSL.

Loreal model

As one of the top players in the competitive FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) industry, L’Oréal Malaysia offers an insight into how it recruits the best.

But the secret surely must be the investment in the recruitment process. For many years, L’Oréal Paris has run a global Young Entrepreneurs’ Programme (YEP), which the Malaysian team adapted to local conditions.

What makes YEP such a success is that allows L’Oréal to handpick those who fit into its work culture.

“We emphasise on the word ‘entrepreneur’ because it is one of the key values of L’Oréal,” says Nora.

In the last five years, 40 graduates have been recruited on the YEP.

“Today, Gen Y are ambitious. They are constantly doing something different and they are fast. L’Oréal provides them an opportunity to assume responsibility at an early stage of their careers. They are given decision-making responsibilities at say, key events and product launches,” says Nora.

YEP is designed to harness entrepreneurship by sending the young executives out in the field. They take on a six-month role in sales followed by another six months in marketing.

Recruits have to get their hands dirty – so to speak. They are sent to the beauty counters, shadowing their seniors as they rotate different roles between beauty advisers and counter managers.

It is an ‘immersion’ technique to ensure all recruits are immersed in the company culture and system from Day 1.

Finding the gems

But where does L’Oréal find all these gems?

“The selection process for the YEP internship is quite tough,” says Nora.

Applicants from partner colleges and universities, such as Taylor’s, are put through their paces. They undertake a day-long assessment, involving things like case studies to showcase their communication skills and creativity.

The tasks are tough – it’s almost like joining the CIA! – especially when they take part in the ‘brandstorm’ challenge.

This is a business games platform to identify young talent working in a team of four who must survive the preliminary, semis and final rounds. Talent is revealed in virtual marketing games when teams or individuals visit five rooms for interactive games which mimic real-life ‘scenarios’.

They have to meet sales target. They have to manage a beauty counter. They have to mount a marketing campaign. They have to ‘sell’ products.

Loreal handshake

Both male and female applicants rotate different roles, which apart from balancing out the sexes, reinforces the point that this is not just a beauty company but a FMCG.

And L’Oréal keeps an open mind. It welcomes chemical engineering, psychology or human resource students.

One such successful YEP recruit is Julian Tan, an assistant product manager at Lancome. In a YouTube video, he shares his journey at L’Oréal.

“Luxury brands inspire me. Since the beginning at L’Oréal, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest brands. For example, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, YSL – from working with these brands I was able to understand the luxury consumer and naturally sell them the dream!”

Julian was a management trainee for three years before being given more responsibilities.

“(The) rewards here (are something) you just can’t put a price on. It (L’Oréal) encourages individualism and pushes you to learn at a very fast pace.”

Julian is one of the managers at Lancome and the world’s No. 1 cosmetic brand prizes innovation in its employees.

“Empowerment is something I value most about L’Oréal. The sky is the limit here.”

He shares that being passionate, flexible and resilient are the three key factors to succeeding in L’Oréal.

So, it pays to give your staff independence, responsibility and trust that it will bring out the best in them.

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