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Interview with Arne Dahlberg, Coca-Cola Written by Competence 4.0 on September 27, 2018

“Our success is made of teams; We don’t want bulldozers with listening inabilities”


As part of our multi-tiered series on competence management in traditional industrial companies, we recently sat down with Arne Dahlberg, HR director of the world’s most recognizable consumer brand “Coca-Cola“. We talked about his perspective on addressing talent shortage, attracting young talents, and competence development in the era of digitalization.

We had a chance to learn more on how common challenges that affect the global manufacturing sector sometimes don’t really affect some companies, as they strategically regroup and adapt as swiftly as the pace of industrial innovation.

It is a real testimony as to how “Coca-Cola”, one of the world most recognized and oldest brands in the world, keeps ahead of digital disruption and edges competition by adapting to and owning trends. We also found out more interesting details first-hand, such as how using data in a new way helped speed up the promotion tracking process. Moreover, we’ve learned how new technologies, such as dynamic routing, already found its way in Sales.

Q: Mr. Dahlberg, as the HR director of the world’s most recognizable consumer brand, what worries you the most when it comes to your human capital management strategy?

The key topic worrying me the most with regards to our People Strategy is to find people with the right mix of potential, drive and people leadership.  Since our success is made of teams, we don’t want bulldozers with listening inabilities. We need people with drive and the magnetism to attract others. Not necessarily only as line managers, more as owners of missions and projects.

We clearly see how the competence with our customers rise and we are seen as leaders of the category; Of course that needs people with drive, however it is a hard competition of those individuals out there.

What we can do and strive to do, is to be transparent of the opportunities with Coke, the team spirit and the possibility to make a sustainable change in both the market and in the society. We aim to reach 100% return of our packaging as an example, an initiative that really makes an impact on our common environment.

Q: Do you believe that a manufacturing company must create a competence center/system to ensure transfer of expertise, share of new knowledge and assessment of in-house competence index?

Yes. In fact we are already setting up a competence center in our Supply Chain where we can train micro-lessons on our latest technology. We need to build our own capability due to shortage in the market.

Q: Do you believe competence management should become a core function/gain more prominence within the HR department as it helps manufacturing companies sustain their organizational efficiency, productivity, effectiveness and competitiveness

We believe the competence management with regards to culture and ways of working shall sit with HR, the technical training needs to be within the functions as commercial and Supply Chain.

Q: Everyone now uses People Analytics and/or Workforce Analytics to assess performance, productivity, review management style and more. How has it changed the way you do things in your department?

We can use data in  totally new ways since the access and availability is easier. For instance on new hires, we can now track figures around promotions within 1 minute. Earlier it took us weeks to get all data collected.

Q: What cross-functional training could be created to upskill or enhance custom competencies of your in-house engineers?

Right now we are occupied with training skills needed within the manufacturing area, in the longer run I can see skills upgrading in Finance, Performance Management and possibly HR-topics for talents move from Supply Chain.

Q: Do you need to train your HR executives to better understand the shift brought by Industry 4.0 and digital transformation?

Yes, we use more tools and apps that we want to adapt. We need to learn how to do it in order to ask the right questions.

Q: Lastly: co-existing with a robot in the workplace, is it a far-fetch concept or are you preparing now?

Our teams in Supply Chain are already in the environment, I don’t see preparations in general as needed but more perhaps in specific situations. I think Swedes are quite good at adapting  to new environments. Our Sales Reps get already dynamic routing in their cars, why not self-driving cars in the future that would allow us to prepare whilst getting to our customers?

Want to hear more from Arne Dahlberg? Join us at Competence 4.0 this year!

Article published by Iva Danilovic