The key to attracting, developing and nurturing talent


Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 11 we had the pleasure of chatting to Umesh Phadke, the President Director of L’Oréal Indonesia. 

With a passion for acquiring, developing and nurturing talent, Umesh recognises the need for businesses of every size to identify passionate staff. 

In 2020, Umesh was recognised as the Most People-Focused CEO by HR Excellence and one of the Best CEO Indonesia by SWA Magazine.

In our chat, Umesh speaks about his leadership acronym ‘Be 4 S’, how to acquire, develop, and nurture talent, and how to build passion and drive business success. 

To learn more about Umesh Phadke, listen to our chat on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.


Authored by Umesh Phadke, President Director of L’Oréal.

“When in doubt, choose respect over love.” 

Leaders should always strive to earn the respect of their team. To be a strong leader that attracts, nurtures and develops talent, you want to be a leader who engenders knowledge-based leadership, not position based power. Earning your employees’ respect and engagement requires a combination of enabling them through training, empowering them to make decisions on critical areas and giving them timely feedback.

What should small or medium-sized business owners look for if they want to succeed?

Working as the President Director of L’Oréal Indonesia has taught me the importance of attracting and nurturing talent, empowering people and building a passionate tribe of engaged and enabled employees. Without our people, L’Oréal wouldn’t be the largest cosmetic company in the world. Recognising that your employees are working for you to fulfil personal, professional, financial and life ambitions should be front and centre of your leadership and management strategies. Always remember that your biggest asset isn’t your products, business growth or technology – it is your company’s culture and employees that will pave the way for long-term business success.

Leadership and business principles
As a leader, I constantly reflect on my leadership and business principles because this helps ensure that I am always improving. This also means that I can mentor and help others grow into their leadership position. I use a simple acronym that reminds me of what I strive to embody and encourage in my employees: “BE 4S”.

In this acronym, the first “BE” represents “be knowledgeable”. Knowledge-based leadership is the most formative and critical area that leaders should embody and look to improve. Whoever has the greatest knowledge has the greatest power within a room, it’s as simple as that. To gain knowledge, you need to observe and listen to those around you. Just because someone may be the highest-paid person in the room, this doesn’t mean they have the best business acumen.

The second “BE” is “be transparent”. It is very easy to become divorced from reality when you only hear good news stories. But being a leader isn’t only about hearing the success stories, it is about enabling your team to tell you when things go wrong so you can help find a solution. As a leader, your job is to fix the small fires and find answers to problems of every size. I always choose to hear the bad news first and that won’t change. The good news will always find a way to me, but if I hear the negative situations too late, the business could be severely impacted.

The third “BE” is to “be consistent”. Whether they’re speaking to the CEO or a junior employee, I expect my staff to use the same language. There should be a single message running throughout the company, and no messages should alter depending on who hears them. I don’t want you to tell me what you think I want to hear. I want you to tell me the truth because this enables a business to work collaboratively and ensures a productive work environment.

The fourth and final “BE” is to “be passionate”. This is an important one as I believe that passion is how businesses move from being mediocre to becoming a formidable force. To run a successful company, you need to be passionate about what you do and believe that you are making a difference. Whether you’re selling a beauty product or selling a power tool, you’re impacting people’s lives every day. Passion drives us and adds value to our lives – you shouldn’t only find passion in your hobbies and family, but in every aspect of your life.

Moving to the 4S – the first “S” reflects the need to “stretch” your ambitions and goals. When I was younger, my mother taught me that it’s ‘not failure, but low aim that is a crime’. Today, I continue to embody that message and have worked it into my leadership style and business strategies. At L’Oréal, we are not moderate when it comes to our aims, we stretch our goals and ambitions to the limit. We plan based on the maxim – when you aim for the stars, you might not get there but you will certainly land on the moon.

The second “S” is about “strategising” your growth. It’s not enough to have ambitions, you must also act on them by creating a strong business strategy. Blind ambitions will hinder a large organisation, breeding uncertainty and discouragement.

The third “S” is centred on “superb execution”. The customer never sees our strategic plans, beautiful PowerPoints, and complex spreadsheets. They see the final product and the execution in the market. Focusing on creating delightful customer experiences will generate brand trust and loyalty. After you have built a great business plan, you also need to have a detailed execution plan. Flawless execution must be as important as the strategic plan.

Finally, the fourth “S” represents “savouring” the sweet taste of success. You need to nourish your team spirit by celebrating the small wins. Most businesses only celebrate their big wins, but these can be few and far between. Ensuring you create a routine of celebrating the small wins will enable you and your team to remain motivated. When I celebrate small wins with my team, seeing the joy and excitement on their faces highlights how important it is to acknowledge small successes, as it forms stronger team bonds, improves morale, and generates greater commitment to business objectives.

The acronym “BE 4S” guides my leadership style and business objectives. These principles have been developed by watching great mentors & by learning from the best. They apply to all leaders from small and medium-sized business owners to CEOs of large national conglomerates.

Attracting, developing and nurturing talent
Attracting, developing and nurturing talent is about becoming the employer of choice by focusing on a strong training and development program. Identifying attributes that reflect talent in employees and creating strong connections ensures that you attract people with high technical expertise and don’t lose these people after you have hired and trained them. Finding and attracting talent is even more important if you own a small business because there is less of a safety net.

As a small or medium-sized business owner, you must select the correct people as you have limited resources and staff members. Great talent is in short supply – if it was abundant, it wouldn’t be great talent – so you need to ensure that your selection process is strong, and your business is seen as an employer of choice. To do this, you need to offer incentives and concrete reasons for people to work at your company. While big businesses have this slightly easier, with their ability to offer greater compensation and benefits, what you have is the ability to connect with individuals and offer good training, help and support. If you can offer great benefits and compensation, this will also help you attract people who possess the right skills and acumen.

It’s not only about attracting the right talent but also developing your employee’s talents through training and development programs. The recent COVID-19 pandemic was a prime example of the benefits of improving employees’ skills and strengths. Here, at L’Oréal, we pride ourselves on offering great training and development programs which we increased, rather than decreased, when the pandemic hit. This empowered our business to continue to adapt, pivot and innovate, despite it being much trickier terrain we were traversing. While every business should always offer basic training to learn how to operate within the team, such as learning Excel or how to create presentations, you should aim to offer more in-depth and specific development courses. These will be dependent on your business but should be a priority once resources are made available.

By training and developing your employee’s talent you’re directly strengthening the longevity of your business. People want to improve, and recent statistics show that 76% of employees say that a company would be more appealing if it offered additional skills training to its staff. To add to this, training and developing your staff will improve their loyalty and commitment to your business, with retention rates increasing by 30-50% in companies with strong learning cultures.

Investing in your team should be a priority. Taking the time to talk and connect with your team will promote a stronger work ethic and a positive company culture, helping to improve your business and achieve your business objectives.

Building passion and driving success
People are the foundation of L’Oréal. We wouldn’t be the number one beauty care company in the world if it wasn’t for our people. Before building a business there are five important steps you must first ensure you can fulfil if you want to gain success: love your people, reward richly, feedback timely, demand aggressively, and help everyone succeed. These are what will build passion and help drive business success over the long-term.

It’s important to have passion at the core of your business. If your employees lack passion, they will eventually lack commitment and the desire to achieve your business objectives. To build passion you must first look at your recruitment process. You need to recruit people who are passionate about things, who have hobbies and commitments outside of their work life. You need to select people that demonstrate passionate behaviour, not just people who say they are passionate about working for you. How they talk about their interests and their intimate knowledge about their hobbies are indicators that they regularly put a lot of heart into the things they are committed to.

Finding passion is important for business success as it’s what separates a good business from a great business. Having a team that is driven to achieve ambitious aims will empower your business to continue improving and striving for impossible limits. You want to find people that when you say to them, they need to give 100% of themselves to these business objectives, they turn to you and say they’ll give 110%. You don’t want to recruit people who hear 100% and get demotivated, that won’t ensure your business’s longevity. You want people who will stretch themselves. Building a team of passionate and driven people isn’t about mollycoddling or rousing speeches – the most capable employees aren’t looking to leaders for love – it’s about providing constructive feedback and enabling them to grow and prosper.

Building a passionate team can only be done if you begin with the right raw material so ensure that your recruitment process is strong, and you identify hard-working people inside and outside of the workplace.

Driving success and building passion also occurs when you celebrate success. It’s easy to celebrate large business successes. However, celebrating when individuals or teams have small wins is a great way to breed loyalty and motivation. Identifying the unsung heroes and bringing all sides of the business together is important to ensure your team’s success. At L’Oréal, we often try to celebrate the individuals that are the unsung heroes.

By showing your love and gratitude to your employees at every opportunity, while also providing critical feedback for personal development and growth, you can forge a strong and united bond. Enabling people to improve, and giving them the tools to do so, is how your business prospers in the long-term, helping build the foundation of respect that business success thrives on. Building passion and driving success should be key priorities for businesses of every size around the world.

Being a leader is about attracting, nurturing and developing great talent. Your business is only as strong as the team that works there, so investing in your staff will directly impact your business’s ability to expand and grow. Your best assets and resources are your team so ensure that you recruit the right people from the beginning to enable business success.

Building a business through passion drives success and empowers your team to achieve ambitious business objectives. Understanding and implementing “BE 4S” will strengthen your business practices and leadership style and enable you to form a business culture that thrives on reaching ambitious goals.

Remember, be knowledgeable, be transparent, be consistent, and be passionate if you want to build a strong and formidable business.