Korn Ferry worked with Maersk to develop a new human-centric talent and performance management strategy and help the global shipping company prepare for the future of its workforce.

If you’ve traveled through almost any port in the world, you’ll have seen Maersk’s seven-pointed star logo on the sides of freight ships and shipping containers. Since 1904, the company has been moving goods across oceans, today distributing 16% of the world’s containers between 500 ports in 130 countries.

But in recent years, customer needs have expanded beyond the water. Now Maersk’s clients want a logistics partner that can shift goods not just port to port, but door-to-door from factories to homes.


One of the world’s leading container shipping companies since 1904, Maersk needed a new strategy to meet growing customer demand for door-to-door logistics.


With a global employee base of more than 110,000, Maersk needed to rethink its talent strategy to ensure its people could meet its customers’ changing needs. It worked with Korn Ferry to create a new human-centric approach to bring its workforce on board with its growing business objectives.


A people strategy for the future of the business, with an outcome of strong employee engagement and post-launch surveys showing exceptionally high satisfaction levels with the new strategy.


The challenge

The turning of the business tide

To meet the wider logistical demands of its customers, Maersk knew it needed to develop a new talent strategy to identify the full range of roles and talent required to help grow the business.

The company needed people with more diverse capabilities in many areas, such as supply chain management and technology, to fulfill the new strategy. This meant reskilling and upskilling of existing staff, as well as hiring new people to fill skills gaps.

It was also crucial to build strong pipelines of future leaders in the most mission-critical areas of the business.

The final element was to ensure the existing workforce was on board with the new strategy. This required the business to be more human-centric than it had ever been. After all, it’s people who execute the strategy—and lasting growth can’t be achieved without meeting their needs.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“We wanted a thought partner that would challenge our thinking, and who would bring in the latest research and best practice to help us be more creative in developing and delivering this new approach.”

Dave Adrian, Global Leader, Talent & Performance Management and Employee Engagement, Maersk

The solution

Turning the ship together

It was Korn Ferry’s radically human approach to performance and talent management that attracted Maersk to partner with us—and the first step was go to back to fundamentals:

  • What did Maersk want this people transformation to achieve?
  • What were its talent principles?
  • What did it expect its organizational talent needs to be in the long term?

Answering these questions led to some clear objectives. Maersk wanted to elevate its performance and talent management practices in order to become strategic, data-driven and human-centric.

The pathways to achieve these goals became clear, including through enhanced performance via a stronger feedback culture, and ongoing discussions with its people focused on alignment, improvement and growth.

Four connected areas—team, performance, career and talent across its 110,000-strong workforce—would provide the catalyst to activate its business transformation.

Working closely with Korn Ferry, Maersk created a blueprint that re-designed its existing performance and management handbook. Instead of the typical annual review, the company would switch to an ongoing and more collaborative program led by people leaders.

The former focus on high or low potential would instead ask "potential for what?" to allow for new capability development. Talent planning would cease to be a box-ticking exercise and instead become a series of strategic discussions about talent linked to business needs. The formulaic annual approach to ratings would be replaced with a system in which leaders would be educated on, and empowered to, assess talent throughout the year.

“We wanted a thought partner that would challenge our thinking, and who would bring in the latest research and best practice to help us be more creative in developing and delivering this new approach,” says Dave Adrian, Global Leader, Talent & Performance Management and Employee Engagement at Maersk.

Charting a new course

With its commitment to developing a more inclusive stakeholder alignment and radically human communications, things moved quickly at Maersk.

The new performance management strategy began fostering a much stronger feedback culture within the everyday flow of the business. And because it built on what the company’s leaders were already doing every day—connecting with their teams—it was also relatively easy for its people to adapt to.

A key benefit is that it removes the fear of feedback by focusing more on mindset, behavior and capability. This in turn breeds a culture of curiosity, learning and growth. This means that feedback is becoming less of a negative experience and instead is viewed as constructive and essential to career success. Conversations lead to positive actions that help us unleash our talent’s potential.

One of the largest global HR transformations in company history

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    People empowered to help their teams deliver the strategy

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    Number of people in global workforce that the new performance management approach has been deployed to

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    4.5 / 5

    Employee survey scores confirming employees are having effective conversations linked to the transformation strategy

The results

Full steam ahead for Maersk

As one of the largest HR transformation programs in the company’s history, the performance management stage of the strategy saw an extremely high level of employee engagement for a global launch.

The new approach led to significant momentum, which continues today because the approach was a change to the company’s way of working rather than a one-off event for its 10,000 people leaders and 110,000 employees.

The strategy’s post-launch staff surveys have shown strong positive results, with more than 4.5 respondents out of 5 saying they are having ongoing, effective conversations, and feeling satisfied with the change and the resources provided.

Maersk leaders continue to talk about it as an important part of the business transformation and everyone is already using its name—MPACT (Maximizing Performance, Alignment, and Career growth of our Talent)—as standard parlance.

On course for tomorrow, together

While Maersk’s transformation journey is still in its early stages, the momentum it has already generated bodes well for the future. And the shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration between Maersk and Korn Ferry played a major part in that, coming together throughout the design and deployment process to bounce ideas, share findings, rethink, reinvent, and redress.

“We came together to build this new approach to performance and talent management” says Adrian. “It was no simple task. And through the collaboration, we've been able to achieve that.”

Listen to Dave Adrian from Maersk talk about the company’s new people strategy in this video. And get in touch with us to find out how Korn Ferry can help activate your people around your organization’s transformation journey.

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