balancing family values with global ambitions

Ferrero has built its employer brand around a combination of its strong family values and the warmth generated by iconic trademarks such as Nutella, Kinder and Tic Tac. But as Ferrero’s moves into fast growth emerging markets gather pace, it faces the challenge of how to attract and retain key people in countries where the company is less well known. We asked Fabio Dioguardi, Global Employer Branding & Talent Acquisition Director, to explain how Ferrero is seeking to recreate the ‘emotional connection’ within its core markets among employees in its new and expanding markets.

“Ferrero is a business that is anything but ordinary,” says Mr Dioguardi. This is a company with an €8 billion a year turnover, which is owned and run by its founder’s grandson. This is a company that has grown into the world’s fourth largest chocolate confectioner without acquisition or outside finance. 

“While we can offer the opportunities of a dynamic international business, being a family company gives us a human scale,” says Mr Dioguardi. “Our own employee surveys highlight our people’s pride in our products. In turn these products help us to create a connection with new employees.”

Being a family company also allows Ferrero to plan for the long-term rather than being bound by short-term earnings targets and this is reflected in how it seeks to nurture its people – “Ferrerians” as they call themselves. “We want recruits to embrace our values – to become part of the family if you like. This includes sending new managers on the ‘Understanding Ferrero’ courses at our Ferrero University,” says Mr Dioguardi. “Similarly, in their first year, new managers are encouraged to connect with our products, values and business model so they can create the awareness that will be crucial to their future success in the company. We believe this connection and awareness is just as important as how they perform.”

rapid expansion

This commitment to the long-term in both corporate strategy and career development is reflected in high Randstad Award ratings for quality of management, financial strength and job security (people polled are not existing employees). 

But now Ferrero faces a fresh set of recruitment and retention challenges as it seeks to extend its operations into India, China, Mexico and other emerging markets as part of its plans to accelerate growth over the next five years. Creating the employer brand values Ferrero enjoys in Italy, Germany, France and other parts of Europe is going to be difficult in markets where people haven’t grown up eating its products and there isn’t the same knowledge of what the company stands for. The challenge is heightened by the need to hire large numbers of people in a relatively short period of time. 

Ferrero is therefore developing a new global employee value proposition (EVP), which builds on its heritage and values, while looking to the future. The public face of the project will be a new global website and communication strategy being rolled out from September 2014. 

“We want to find people with the right skills and cultural fit, but recognize that our new operations need to be up and running quickly. So we’ve been looking at how to encapsulate what makes us distinctive and then how to articulate this in crisp and compelling ways in our target markets,” says Mr Dioguardi. The communications strategy is built around giving what he describes as a “’taste’ of Ferrero”, conveying both the opportunities the company offers and what it expects in return. “We’re building a new brand and therefore don’t just need to engage candidates, but also reach out to their families and friends, along with people who may not have considered working in the food sector before,” he says.

building bridges

Mr Dioguardi recognizes the need to make the EVP and communication strategy that surrounds it relevant across different countries and cultures – “building bridges in new markets”. But he is keen to stress the importance of a single consistent message. “Global organizations cannot communicate something different in each locality. At a time when the internet and social media have made everything transparent, varying the message simply confuses the people we want to reach,” he says. 

He also recognizes that pay is going to be important in helping to secure the people Ferrero needs in the short-term, but in the long-term they want to be competing on more than just salaries alone. “Retention is an issue when skilled people are in short supply and competition for them is increasing all the time. So if we want people to stay, we need to be offering the best of our values and the distinctiveness that could make them willing to develop careers with us,” he says. “Ultimately, an emotional connection has always been the essence of our employee brand and we need to be able to implant this in the countries that are crucial to our future growth.”