In order to make the world a better place, we need to anticipate trends: an interview with Alexandre Popoff
The Advisory Board for the Faculty of Management, St. Petersburg University was established in 1993 as a pioneer experience of such Boards for Russian business schools. At present, The Advisory Board includes 35 representatives of state authorities, leading Russian and international companies, world business schools and universities, and outstanding public figures. These people have a significant impact on the development of business education in Russia. In this series of interviews, we would like to introduce them to you.
We spoke with Alexandre Popoff, Executive Vice-President Eastern Europe, Africa and Middle East, L'Oréal, about the future of business education, tomorrow’s manager skills, career and employee development in the company.
- What management trends exist in your company? What new approaches are you introducing?
L’Oréal combines innovation, avant-garde thinking and flexibility. In order to remain industry leaders and make the world a better place, we need not only to follow trends, but anticipate them. We are confident that only in an atmosphere of free choice and an entrepreneurial spirit the best ideas are born and innovative solutions appear. Of course, we closely monitor all the achievements of science and actively introduce innovations. So that the cosmetic products we created are high-quality, effective and safe.
- What competencies do managers need to solve problems in the new reality? Do modern business school alumni have this knowledge and skills?
L’Oréal appreciates initiative people who can identify problems and offer effective solutions. We inspire each other with new ideas and support in their implementation. Since one of our priorities is the development of beauty tech, digital competencies are of particular importance for managers.
- How do you train employees in L’Oréal? Corporate universities or business schools?
Firstly, we focus on continuous education online. We work with the best virtual learning platforms and international universities to ensure that L’Oréal employees use free ways of developing their professional and personal skills. Everyone can form custom development program, select the modules and the training format.
Secondly, an integral part of our corporate culture is on-the-job learning. We have the obligatory six-month internship in the role of a sales representative (so called “stage-route”), which is held by each manager-trainee. This internship gives employees the opportunity to understand the company’s business, learn about the market, competitors and distribution channels.
- What competencies should a candidate have in order to be valuable for your company and build in L’Oréal a successful career?
Ambition, determination and openness are the key qualities of the L’Oréal team. Relying on the development of high technology in the beauty industry, we are pleased to welcome people with innovative thinking and the ability to quickly learn new digital tools in our teams. We also appreciate the desire of our colleagues to learn, develop new skills, and participate in cross-functional projects. It is important for us that every employee can grow inside the company not only vertically, but also horizontally. L’Oréal has 36 international brands and freedom of choice for development. Confirmation of this is the career of L’Oréal CEO Jean-Paul Agon. He began his career in the company with the position of trainee immediately after graduation.
- How should business education be transformed in order to continue to create valuable resources for your company: managerial personnel, corporate training, possibly consulting and research?
At L’Oréal, we are paying attention to the issues of digital transformation of the world around us, and, as a result, our business. Now more than ever, we value the ability of a team to find non-standard solutions, think creatively, adapt those approaches that were effective in one function to others. Modern education gives students the opportunity to work more on specific projects and cases, to see synergies with real business, to be able to learn the most successful business practices both in the familiar academic format and online. The task of business and education is our common task — to be in close interconnection, strengthen our cooperation and develop training programs based on the challenges of today's market. For example, the processing of big data, the development of digital tools and beauty tech are the challenges that our business is working with today, and alumni who can make a significant contribution to solving these problems will be especially in demand.
- L’Oréal has been supporting GSOM SPbU for 12 years. How and why does your company help education, and in GSOM SPbU? Why did you decide to become a member of the Advisory Board of the School?
I joined the Advisory Board of GSOM SPbU, as this project was unique in its kind. We were motivated by the idea of creating a business school of the highest level, capable of combining the vast academic base of Russian education and the best business practices. I believe that the interaction of large business with higher education is simply necessary. Without a mutual exchange of experience, it is impossible to imagine the development of these institutions.
- How do you assess the development of GSOM SPbU over the years? Have you ever worked with GSOM SPbU alumni?
Every year we take on well-trained alumni with high professional qualities. Moreover, GSOM SPbU alumni are among the top managers of L’Oréal in Russia.
- Does your company offer internships / practices / employment to students and alumni?
GSOM SPbU is one of the key campuses for us, whose students and alumni regularly join the L’Oréal team as summer interns and managers-trainees.
- What are the strongest qualities of GSOM SPbU alumni?
GSOM SPbU alumni are favorably distinguished by business orientation and leadership skills. Young specialists come with both academic preparation and a certain understanding of business processes, since during the studies they regularly take part in workshops with the participation of representatives of large companies and undergo internships. This allows alumni to quickly get into the work, what is very valuable for such a dynamic FMCG company as L’Oréal.