Mastering Leadership Development with Levi Strauss’ Chief Talent Officer

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, Carrie Bevis, i4cp's Managing Director, Communities and Partnerships; Eric Davis, i4cp's Creative Director and Senior Editor; and Kevin Osborne, i4cp Senior Director, Member Development, facilitated a conversation with special guest Karthik Varatharaj, Vice President and Chief Talent Officer at Levi Strauss. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Levi Strauss includes several well-known brands, from the iconic Levi's to Dockers, Denizen from Levi's, and Beyond Yoga.
  • The core values of Levi Strauss Co. include empathy, originality, integrity, and courage. Karthik said that these pillars guide very decision Levi's makes and every action they take. And they fuel their commitment to drive profits through principles.
  • Davis shared some of i4cp's research from earlier this year that found that very healthy cultures have leaders who:
    • Lead by example
    • Are held accountable for employee outcomes
    • Regularly communicate values
    • Address poor behavior immediately
  • Varatharaj described that at Levi's they have a Moral Leadership Framework in place, which includes four key pillars:
    • Let purpose lead
    • Inspire and elevate others
    • Be animated by values and virtues
    • Build moral muscle
  • Levi's has a relatively new leadership development program called NXT-GEN. They've had around 140 leaders go through the program so far, and expect another 140-150 to do so in the next couple of years. NXT-GEN is an accelerator for emerging leaders who are navigating the increasingly interdependent and morally activated world. The program:
    • Includes an intensive 16-week fellowship program, similar to a graduate-level course
    • Is run externally by the HOW Institute and includes fellows from multiple organizations
    • Involves 20 participants per cohort at the manager/director level
    • Is run twice a year: August-December and February-June
  • Levi Strauss Co. has four high-performance culture levers:
    • Uplevel manager capability and accountability
    • Emphasize quality feedback and coaching conversations
    • Continue to streamline and simplify the APR process
    • Drive more equitable and bias-free performance evaluation and ratings
  • Levi Strauss Co. has a multi-level Talent Accelerator program:
    • Readiness for Scale Assessments, for executives and the C-Suite, includes individualized asessment, coaching, and development for HiPo leaders mapped to ELT succession plans.
    • Lead@Strauss, for directors and senior directors, includes cohort-based high potential program to develop next-level leaders on succession plans.
    • Rise@Strauss, for managers and senior managers, includes an emerging talent program focused on in-role learning and coaching support in clusters and markets.
  • Varatharaj also described their Manager Capability Model. Beyond education and training, they are standing up a comprehensive measurement, accountability and evaluation model for people managers. This includes development, assessment, and performance management components. See the slides above for more details.
  • Varatharaj noted that earlier this Levi Strauss Co. did institute a RTO policy at three days per week, but with significant flexibility that managers can leverage at their discretion with their teams. He noted that managers know best how work gets done, and how collaboration best happens, on their teams.

Links to resources shared on the call:

This event is approved for certification credits.