Acquiring Talent through Internships: 41st on Black Collegian's Top Employers List
Carter, Barbara, Diversity Employers
During turbulent economic times, many organizations are looking for ways to be proactive and bring strong talent into their organizations. This year's featured organization. Reynolds American Inc., is no exception.
Newcomer to the Black Collegian's Top 100 Employers List for 2010 is, Reynolds American is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. American Snuff Company, LLC. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company. Inc. and Niconovum AB.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is the second-largest U.S. tobacco company. The company's brands include five of the 10 best-selling U.S. cigarette brands: Camel, Pall Mall, Winston, Kool and Doral. American snuff Company, LLC is the nation's second-largest manufacturer of smokeless tobacco products. Its leading brands are Kodiak, Grizzly and Levi Garrett. American Snuff Co. also distributes a variety of tobacco products manufactured by Lane, Limited, including little cigars and roll-your-own tobacco. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco, Inc. manufactures Natural American Spirit cigarettes and other additive-free tobacco products, and manages and markets other super-premium brands. Niconovum AB markets innovative nicotine replacement therapy products under the Zonnic brand name in Sweden and Denmark.
Barbara Carter, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition/University Relations for Reynolds American Inc., has led the efforts to bring strong diverse talent into their organization through internships and other talent acquisition models. The 12-week summer program is the flagship of how Reynolds American acquires talent through internships.
We recently spoke with Ms. Carter to discuss the importance of the internship program at Reynolds American and how diversity plays a part in RAI's talent acquisition initiatives.
The Black Collegian: What makes you so passionate about acquiring top diverse talent?
Carter: I have always been involved in our organization's diversity initiatives and I feel that a workforce that is diverse is much more productive, engaged and creative. Diversity in the traditional sense is important, but also we look for a talent pool that is diverse in their backgrounds, perspectives as well as their experiences.
I truly believe there are a vast number of strong, talented individuals out there; you just have to have the desire and ability to reach out and find them. We have been able to build such a strong internship program because we did not settle for just looking at the "traditional" methods of attracting talent or by just targeting the "well-known" schools to find talent. We have also partnered with many niche organizations such as Recruit Military, Diversitylnc., and LatPro to expand our reach.
My passion is also driven by the support I have received from the leaders within our organization who understand and embrace the value of creating a diverse organization and the vision to allow us in Talent Acquisition to go out and find that talent.
The Black Collegian: What are the goals of the internship program at RAI?
Carter: The mission of our internship program is two-fold. First, is to bring a highly qualified, diverse pool of candidates into our organization to give them "real-life" work experience, while simultaneously giving the Company an opportunity to assess the candidate's skills for future full-time positions as we continue to build our pipeline of diverse bench-strength. We are attaining those goals with having 85% of the candidates we make internship offers, accepting the challenge and joining our organization.
The Black Collegian: How long have you been responsible for RAI's Internships and University Relations?
Carter: I took over the responsibilities of the MBA Internship Program approximately two years ago and although it was already a robust program, we were not tapping into the diverse pool of candidates we wanted in order to enhance our talent company-wide.
The Black Collegian: What changes have been made since you took over the program?
Carter: Traditionally, we had 12-week summer internships that primarily targeted first-year MBA students. Early in 2009 we made a conscious effort to "broaden the net" in order to reach a more diverse talent pool. We knew we had to make an assessment and quite possibly change our approach both inside and outside our organization.
Internally, the commitment from our leadership team was there, but I wanted to expand the program by developing varying talent acquisition models that were more function-specific and would be an asset to our workforce planning models. I felt confident that the foundation had been laid with our summer internships, but you never know how much progress you have made until you put the system to the test. We now are looking at co-op opportunities and extended internships to complement our existing program. One thing that has been most pleasing to me is seeing how individuals within the company have been engaged at both reaching out to help acquire strong talent and develop that talent once they are on-board. So I guess the groundwork did pay off.
Externally we have built strong relationships with some of the best business schools and top MBA programs in the country. We have also developed partnerships with top historically black colleges/universities (HBCU's) as well as minority organizations such as the National Black MBA and Hispanic MBA organizations.
Last year we piloted an Ambassador's on Campus Program by partnering with our Finance Leadership Team to target some very strong business schools and develop lasting relationships. Our team went on campus, provided students with an overview of our business and just introduced them to Reynolds American Inc. This has been extremely successful and has paid off, as we have acquired some great talent from those universities.
The Black Collegian: Other than just internships, how else is RAI working to acquire talent?
Carter: We have a very strong Talent Acquisition team that not only looks to bring strong talent into our organization through internships, but for full-time positions as well. Yvette Willard heads up our Talent, Development and Culture area, which primarily looks at how we bring talent into the organization, how they are developed once they are here and then creating a culture that cultivates innovation and sustainable growth.
The largest number of full-time hires we have in our organization are in our Trade Marketing function. Jim Connors, our Senior Manager of Trade Marketing Talent Acquisition, has worked for the past year with Pinstripe (RPO) to build a strong bench of talent for that function as well. And I must say that we have one of the most talented sales teams in the country. We also have Ross Green who manages the full-time hires for our corporate offices.
The Black Collegian: What do you think makes the internships at Reynolds American Inc. different that with other companies?
Carter: One of the things we pride ourselves in is how "business relevant" the projects our interns work on are. We lay out an extensive orientation as well as cross-functional interaction that allows them to see the business from different perspectives. We also provide a lot of interaction with leaders in our organization, as well as other subject matter experts to give them the best possible experience while at Reynolds American. Currently we bring individuals on-board for internships within our Finance, Marketing, Innovations, Government Relations, Human Resources and Operations areas. We hope to broaden that to include other functions next year.
Another thing that makes our internship quite unique is the interaction with our Senior Management. Our CEO at Reynolds American, Susan Ivey, and Daan Delen for RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, are both been extremely supportive of our internship program. They, along with members of their respective leadership teams provide information sessions and are accessible to the interns for one-on-one interaction that have proven to be invaluable. Not many companies can say that they provide the type of access to leaders in their organizations as we do at Reynolds American.
The Black Collegian: How does mentoring play a role in the Internship Program at Reynolds American?
Carter: This past year, Brian Stebbins, one of our Senior Directors in Consumer Marketing, came up with an idea to have "mentors" instead of "managers" for the group of interns within his function. This turned out to be a fantastic idea because not only did it allow the mentors to provide feedback to the interns, it gave the interns the autonomy and accountability for the projects they were assigned. The interns were the project- leads instead of the managers and this gave them a greater sense of accomplishment.
The Black Collegian: While we are on the subject of mentors, who would you say have been strong mentors for you during your career at Reynolds American Inc.?
Carter: I have worked for this company for almost 15 years and have had many mentors during that time. I can say that just about everyone I have encountered has directly or indirectly taught me something professionally or personally. For the past seven years I have worked in the Human Resources function, and Lisa Caldwell, our Executive Vice President - HR has definitely been an inspiration. Through her guidance and leadership we have truly transformed the HR function to be much more efficient and strategically aligned with our functional partners.
It would be difficult for me compile a list of all of the people who have inspired me and guided me throughout my career here. But the most important lessons I have learned are: Enjoy what you do, and that YOU must be in control of your own destiny. You have to reach out to others for guidance and insight, and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.
The Black Collegian: Who do you feel about Reynolds American being named to the BC's Top 100 Employers List?
Carter: I was excited but not surprised because I already felt Reynolds American is "the" top company to work for. But being recognized by an organization that values the importance of reaching strong talent is fantastic. We are making great strides in our Talent Acquisition area to reach out and find future leaders in our organization, and this recognition lets me know we are moving in the right direction.
Reynolds American Inc:
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Reynolds American inc. 401 North Main Street
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Publication information: Article title: Acquiring Talent through Internships: 41st on Black Collegian's Top Employers List. Contributors: Carter, Barbara - Author. Magazine title: Diversity Employers. Volume: 40. Issue: 2 Publication date: January 2010. Page number: S1+. © 1998 IMDiversity, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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