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How adidas is transitioning toward collaborative leadership

We chat with adidas' senior HR director in Amsterdam for insight into the group's new approach to leadership

Wouter Hol is the Senior HR Director at adidas Group Amsterdam, a certified Top Employer organisation. You’re already familiar with the brand, but you may not be familiar with the organisation: it has a massive 55,000 employees worldwide, and is in the midst of a leadership transition that's transforming how it attracts talent and engages employees.

A big part of this transition is reducing the traditional, hierarchical structure of HR and leadership through initiatives that increase understanding and empower employees.

Wouter highlights three of adidas Group’s most successful initiatives:

  1. 'People Pulse' is a new tool and technology used to assess employee engagement and sentiment. Every month, short surveys are sent to every employee with a few targeted questions. adidas only started deploying this rapid measurement tool at the beginning of the summer, but it's already seeing trends emerging on what is most important to its employees.

  2. The 'New Leadership Framework' is helping adidas define and promote its leadership DNA. It is “ basically a framework and set of behaviours we can hold ourselves accountable to,” and it is rooted in the organisation’s core behavioural cultural elements: confidence, collaboration, and creativity. This framework is unique because it was not established by HR and then passed down to managers – it was a collaborative effort throughout every level of the organisation, including many different cultures around the world. Additionally, the framework is deployed by leaders, starting with the CEO and cascading down.

  3. 'My Best' is a new way to look at performance, and the program is replacing the traditional yearly performance assessments. Using a structured format, leaders talk about performance with their employees at least four times a year, and there are monthly touch bases on top of that. This program emphasises multidimensional feedback – it’s not just a manager assessing their employees, but all of the employees also assess the manager’s leadership. “We drive accountability for the leader, but also people have an opportunity to grow and understand that they're working in a collaborative environment, instead of a hierarchical environment.”

Three things to discuss with your team:

 

  1. You need a methodological approach to understand what's going on in your organisation and what drives people on a daily basis.

  2. For any leader, when you believe in a tool, initiative, or program, show the organisation – “When they see you're supporting it, they understand it is of great importance and, therefore, the success rate of these programs becomes much, much higher.”

  3. Every organisation needs to ask themselves this question: How are you making sure you're bringing in your Gen Z workforce, and how do you manage to engage them?

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And remember… Develop. Always.

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Resources:

Production & Development for Top Employers Institute’s Talent is Transforming by Podcast Masters