Fonterra has launched a matchmaking programme dubbed "Tinder for jobs" to tease out unused skills and abilities from staff members.
The web based skills-to-project matchmaking initiative Amp was rolled out in early August and connects employees with cutting edge internal projects.
Amp allows employees to join projects from other parts of the organisation that they may have no connections with, says Judith Swales, chief operating officer Velocity and Innovation at Fonterra. Individual employees can spend up to 30 per cent of the time on projects listed on the app.
Swales says Amp both supports career development and will also give Fonterra a competitive advantage by uncovering hidden talent and harnessing the breadth of skills across its workforce.
Many employees have skills that can add value to the business but aren't used in their current role, Swales says. A pilot programme has proved its worth in helping employees feel more engaged, increase their skills, take ownership of their careers, be involved in lifelong learning and get involved in projects they enjoy, she says.
The pilot was open to 175 staff at Fonterra's headquarters. Swales says the app generated 140 applications for roles, with 75 successful placings. It will now be rolled out globally.
Employees who want to be involved can create a profile, register their special interest areas and expertise and be matched with projects uploaded by business managers. The managers can then select from a pool of internal candidates.
The Amp projects so far have ranged from 3D printing to how to streamline the company's reporting. Many of the projects were around efficiency, innovation and growth, says Swales. In the future it is expected there will be strategic projects designed to uncover talent in areas of shortage such as data engineers.
One of the first volunteers was technology support analyst Stuart Cartwright. Cartwright's day job as a technology support officer involves meeting room support. For the Amp project Cartwright researched emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics and came up with business cases around how, where, when they could potentially be applied.
As a result of the Amp project Cartwright took his first steps towards management and showed capabilities in building business cases that may not have been uncovered quite as soon, says Swales.
A natural with technology, Cartwright is continuing to upskill in this area. He says:
"(Amp)'s a good way to know what's going on so you can get involved. In a lot of places you may be interested in a project but you either don't know it's happening, you don't see it until it's too late and under way, or you don't know the right person to speak with to get on board.
"The platform makes it possible to have visibility of projects and to make it fairer. My project work has allowed me to get to know more about our business units, learn more from other teams and meet other useful contacts in areas I'd never worked in before."
One of the outcomes of the pilot programme was that some work traditionally given to contractors and consultants was in fact taken on by staff through Amp. "We want to use our own people," says Swales. "It is good for us and it is good for them."
It has also led to beneficial connections within the business. In one instance, the team leading cream cheese development hooked up with an employee from another area of the business who had formerly worked for the Philadelphia brand in Europe. "As a business we are starting to see more and more talent surfacing ... throughout the organisation," says Swales.
She says workers will need to become more adaptable and agile and make "shorter sprints", which fits with the type of projects being promoted through Amp. "The future is going to be less about 'I did a degree' in this and I stayed in that function for the rest of my life. We need people to be more adaptable. We want them to be more engaged and to expand their learning and experiences and we don't want them to go somewhere else to do that. At the same time we have a long list of opportunities."
Dubbed "Tinder for Jobs" internally at Fonterra, the project arose from another Fonterra programme called Disrupt, which invited employees from across the business to generate business ideas and development in an incubator.
That crowdsourcing programme involved more than 1500 Fonterra staff worldwide and Amp was born as a result.
Swales expects Amp will cross borders to create virtual teams of people who understand a variety of consumers and systems in different countries. That diversity will enable the business to understand better what customers value and need in different markets such as China, Sri Lanka, the UK or even South Africa.
Ultimately, says Swales, Amp will help staff move across functions, and geographies.