Magazine article Talent Development

Developing Managers; Improving the Bottom Line: Tencent's New Training Program Has Upskilled Hundreds of Managers

Magazine article Talent Development

Developing Managers; Improving the Bottom Line: Tencent's New Training Program Has Upskilled Hundreds of Managers

Article excerpt

Managers are critical in any company--from supervising staff and reporting to senior leaders, to managing their own projects. Because of these competing demands, they often feel pulled in different directions. Couple that with the challenges resulting from rapid company expansion and you create a perfect storm. And that was essentially what China-based Tencent faced when, between 2006 and 2010, employee head count nearly doubled every year.

The expansion Tencent--a provider of value-added Internet services such as instant messaging, interactive entertainment, and online media--experienced is not uncommon for technology companies, but that didn't make it any easier. Amid a shortage of managerial talent due to its rapid growth, Tencent found itself promoting middle managers who weren't ready for the challenge. This decreased team efficiency. In addition, many of those individuals came from nonbusiness-oriented backgrounds. Of those managers who may have come from an engineering or product background, many recognized opportunity but failed to see the flip side of the coin, the potential risk involved.

Tencent knew it needed to develop a potential pool of managers, managers who could provide their direct reports with professional and personal development, create work environments that were conducive to productive and engaged staff, and give ongoing performance support.

Rising to the challenge, Tencent Academy developed the Feilong Program: Accelerated Development of Reserve Middle Managers. According to Xi dan, the senior vice president of HR, the equivalence of feilong in English is "flying dragon." In traditional Chinese culture, "dragon" represents the top talents, which demonstrates the importance Tencent attached to the managers undergoing the program. "Flying" represents the aim of the Feilong Program, which is to fill short-term vacant positions on core teams and increase its participants' leadership behaviors. With such a monumental task ahead, Tencent Academy started at square one: the needs assessment.

Needs assessment

The need to develop a middle manager reserve first arose at the company's strategic conference when the CEO clearly articulated his vision and the skills and competencies of successful managers. After reviewing the company's talent data, it became clear there weren't enough managers to meet this vision, and of the current managers, many had room to develop. And after validating these findings through interviews with middle managers, top decision makers, and subordinates, it became evident that a training solution was in order.

To determine the appropriate training path, Tencent reviewed benchmark surveys to compare its management training with efforts of other leading global Internet providers; invited in external consultants to weigh in on program demand and to diagnose the root causes of the problems Tencent faced; and analyzed company 360 feedback to cross-validate the demand and to ensure accuracy. The final step was reviewing and securing approval from top decision makers.

The key takeaways from this process were:

* The company's strategic goals would determine the priorities for management training because training needs will vary depending on management level.

* The company needed to regularly assess the new requirements of its management team and revisit its strategic goals and focus because Internet enterprise demands change often.

* Tencent required its middle managers to have expertise in product and business competencies, which required a unique training program.

Designing the training

After completing the needs assessment, Tencent followed three steps to design its training plans. First, the company determined the core competencies to cover in the training program. For managers, these skills included industry insight, business acumen to help the company increase revenue and realize high-speed growth, product knowledge, leadership, and the ability to design products that would meet user demand. …

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