Laura Montagu - Senior Director Human Resources EMEA at Under Armour

Human Resources
12 February, 2024

Laura Montagu is the Senior Director Human Resources EMEA at Under Armour, based in Amsterdam. She started her Human Resources career at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, before moving to the Netherlands. Laura has since worked for various organizations in the FMCG, High Technology and Logistics spaces.

What does your onboarding/hiring process look like at Under Armour?

At Under Armour (or UA as we call it!), we are passionate about empowering those who strive for more because we are a team striving to make athletes better as part of their journey to compete. We challenge convention, and we challenge each other to learn and grow. We play to win. We celebrate the wins, learn from our mistakes and always fight on together. For the new teammates who are going to join our sqUAd, we look for the curious and innovative, those who want to have an impact and believe that sport can be the ultimate unifier. To find the right talent we use a competency-based interview technique and identify eight core competencies for each position (to make sure we stay consistent in our selection process) and review applicants against those to find the best talent.

We have really defined processes with interview panels, which include three rounds for most roles and a maximum of four for more senior positions. Plus, and this is something I’m really passionate about, we always make sure to have diverse interview panels, as well as a variety of stakeholders from other departments to provide a more holistic view of the candidate, while also providing them with a broader insight into our organisation.

We see interviews very much a two-way process. Our priority is to identify a mutual match: what is the candidate looking for, does this match with what we have to offer and do they live and breathe the UA values.

Regarding the onboarding process, this begins for our teammates already before their first day. They are in close contact with our HR function and their manager to receive all the support they need. This includes a 50% discount code to buy UA products to best equip them for their first day and feel like a real UA teammate before joining.

Once they join our sqUAd, Teammates receive a 90-day onboarding program from their manager, which they work through over their first few months. That program includes meeting their team and key stakeholders, face-to-face and virtual training, and building their development plans. We feel that’s important from day one, because everyone can develop and grow and have that clearly mapped out. A buddy is also allocated by managers for each new teammate to kickstart their time at UA.

Within their first month (and usually on their first day), our new Teammates also attend our pre-season training, which gives them the chance to immerse themselves into UA by learning about the brand’s values and our history, as well as an opportunity to get to know other teammates – they also get to visit a retail store to meet more of the team and get to know our consumers better. During this time, Teammates who are joining us from other locations across the region get the chance to come join us at the Amsterdam hub and get to know our teams here.

Finally, as part of our quest for continuous improvement – a core component of our culture – new teammates receive surveys where they will have a chance to share their feedback on their hiring experience so we can celebrate the wins and keep striving for more to improve for future teammates.

The sports terminology we use is a big part of who we are and why we exist. It’s for people who have that same mindset and how we look at things from an organisational perspective. That red thread runs through all we do.  

How can leaders create diverse teams?

One of our key philosophies at Under Armour is ‘the power of sport can unite, inspire, and change the world’. We stand for equality, which remains central to everything we do.

Although this provides a really strong foundation, we know that just creating diverse teams is not enough. It’s about building diverse teams and helping them thrive by creating a strong sense of belonging, while – at the same time – allowing our teammate to feel appreciated for their own uniqueness.

To do this, we have made bold commitments to our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) approach in EMEA, and leaders have a pivotal role to play in executing those plans. A fundamental starting point is that our leaders act as role models - they recognise and embrace the benefits DE&I brings and show courage and conviction to stand behind our strategy and culture.

We therefore roll out regular training for our leaders to build cultural competency and create inclusive environments, including some specifically created content for the EMEA landscape (because how we operate in the region is quite different), but also for our retail team, recognising they may have different needs.

New leaders, both external or new to internal teams, undergo what we call Leader Assimilation sessions to fully integrate them into the culture and relationships of their new team, helping to further drive inclusion and a sense of understanding of one another.

We also believe in the power of nurturing diversity of thought: building an inclusive and collaborative community across the entire business where we seek out different teammate voices and encourage input and ideas from all levels.

Both our teammates and our leaders strongly believe that we have a responsibility to not only build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace for our teammates, but also show support for the communities where we live and work. It doesn’t just stop with us; it’s about how we create that environment where we operate too.

We acknowledge that DE&I is bigger than us. Therefore, we provide all our teammates with 40 hours of paid time off to give back to causes they are passionate about. The team have clocked up more than 6000 hours in 2023 which is awesome. We also gather as a region at least once a year during Armour Day to prioritise volunteer work and our philanthropy efforts as a team.

Sure, there is so much research and data to show the impact that DE&I teams can have on business, people’s sense of belonging, and communities, but for us it’s also just the right thing to do. Our authentic belief in that makes it easier to deliver, as it’s something we truly believe in, rather than just doing it from a business perspective.

How is Under Armour reducing bias in the hiring process?

The first step is to acknowledge that bias exists, and it is therefore critical to create awareness and tools for effectively managing it during the hiring process. 

For hiring managers, there is mandatory training before every hiring process to build the skills and capabilities to recognise and mitigate potential biases. The competency-based interview model helps us further reduce bias, while our framework on how to provide feedback is focused on constructive commentary versus assumptions.

Then we recruit from a range of sources, including internal referrals, job boards, recruitment fairs, recruitment agencies, etc., which ensures we are hiring from a variety of locations and backgrounds – helping to diversify our talent pools.

We also insist on diverse interview panels to help ensure a broad range of perspectives and ensure feedback is available. It helps mitigate bias if you are hearing ideas, thoughts, and challenges from different sources The fact our interviewers determine a score for each candidate against set competencies using a numerical system also helps us keep our feedback more fact-based, balanced, and fair.

By following a structured process, being clear on what we are looking for, and having an evaluation process based on facts rather than assumptions, we can hire the best talent for the role and the team they are joining. That also helps us sense check what we think against what the scores and the feedback were.

By having competency-based and value-based interviewing and focusing on diversity, we have a very international and culturally diverse group of teammates. With diverse interview panels, candidates get a deeper and more transparent insight into our culture and feel a greater sense of belonging.

What are the three to five key drivers to success in Under Armour that you watch the most?

At Under Armour, our purpose is to empower those who strive for more. These are not just words – they are a core part of our organisational culture and a mindset we are fundamentally committed to. This mission is at the heart of our People and Culture strategy, fuelling how we inspire our teams, build transformational leadership, and invest in the growth and development of our teammates. 

Our philosophy is to do our best to make tomorrow better than today, for both our athletes and for our teammates - a key driver to our success.

We’re not the type of organisation where we believe that everything is set in stone. Like athletes, we thrive on being challenged. We don’t stand still. We challenge the status quo. But we are humble, too – acknowledging that we don’t always get it right and there is always an opportunity to learn. It’s also important to enjoy the adventure, have some fun, and be grateful for the team you have around you - that’s the real game changer.

Teammates also have the freedom and opportunity to make their mark, improve things, change things, and suggest enhancements – bringing their own ideas to life and making a tangible impact. That’s something we value deeply and that’s what sets our teammates apart.

As a brand, people and culture drive our business, so we are constantly looking ahead to how best we can support our teammates grow, be better, and how we can better create an engaging place to work for them.

What strategies do you use for developing innovative, diverse teams?

Currently, our EMEA team consists of more than 80 nationalities from all over the world, located across nine countries, with more than 50% of our corporate population being female. Over 45% of that female talent is at Senior Manager level and above, which is more than 14% higher than the industry benchmark.

In EMEA, our current Managing Director is Kara Trent and she has recently been promoted to relocate and be the President of our Americas business which is super exciting. Our Global CEO, Stephanie Linnartz, is female, too, so Under Armour’s clear commitment to diversity goes right to the top. 

I think these achievements stem from Under Armour setting ambitious KPIs around diverse representation, which we monitor on a quarterly basis and stand firmly behind as a leadership team. So, it’s about role modelling and believing that diversity is what creates the power in our teams.

It’s also about incorporating a DE&I lens into everything we do to really drive impact, including policies and processes like flex working, hiring, promotions, and pay equity – so it really influences everything we do.

We believe in being purposeful about how we create and leverage moments to build unity. For example, in EMEA, we developed an annual teammate engagement and cultural calendar where we celebrate the rich diversity across the region. This provides opportunities for better awareness, understanding and respect of differences, and drives deeper connection amongst our teammates.

We’re really passionate about active engagement with our Under Armour Teammate Resource and Give Back Groups, who play a significant role in driving our DE&I culture and goals in the region, promoting underrepresented groups, driving sustainability, giving back to our communities as well as supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our teammates.

In terms of the workplace, it’s fundamental that you make your environment as safe and inclusive as possible for all teammates. To help achieve this, we build DE&I competence and awareness through regular training and development programs, recently launching a training series to facilitate anti-racism and engagement on racial justice issues across the entire organisation.

We know at Under Armour that DE&I is a continuous and relentless journey, so we are extremely committed to learning and being purposeful about creating more diversity of thought in our teams and within the communities we are a part of. This includes some really exciting, progressive initiatives we brought to life last year to create better visibility and representation of all forms of diversity, both internal to Under Armour, as well as in external partnerships with our vendors and suppliers. We believe this will help drive our DE&I journey within Under Armour and have an impact on the sector as a whole. 

I think it’s that sense of belonging, welcoming ideas and inputs, helping people feel safe and connected, celebrating uniqueness, and creating KPIs that really help the team be innovative together.

What excites you about working for Under Armour?

First of all, I am hugely inspired and energised by the genuine commitment to our teammates and team culture. Being in HR for more than 20 years, I have been part of many different organisations. All of them would say that people are their best asset.

With the leadership committed to people and culture just as much as I am, we waste no time moving forward and making things happen for the teams and business. We acknowledge what we can do better and work towards improving things every day.

Secondly, I am excited by the wealth of opportunity we have as a brand. Although we are well respected and globally recognised, many people forget that Under Armour is only 27 years old and was started in Kevin Plank’s (our Founder) grandmother’s basement.

This means that we have a solid organisational foundation in place, but there remain a lot of opportunities for growth and improvement. All this makes Under Armour an exciting place to be - finding opportunities and solving problems is inherent in my nature and I thrive on it.

Also, from a business perspective, EMEA has tremendous momentum in the region right now, having doubled our business and growing our team year on year. It’s exciting to see the brand winning more market share, as well as expanding in countries with our retail footprint.

Lastly, if I haven’t said it enough, I just love the Under Armour culture. Being a sports brand, we believe in the power to inspire through sports and to have a positive impact on the lives of others, including our athletes, consumers, and teammates.

Change and agility are key to our success, resulting in a culture that is fast paced, dynamic and never boring. I am constantly inspired by the talent we have – our teammates show such grit, resilience, and desire for progress.

We also have a very open, non-hierarchical approach and very little bureaucracy; you can come up with an idea, watch it come to life and see its impact. It’s a great blend of professional and fun – we definitely work hard, but having a laugh as a team is definitely what makes it special for me!

Thank you to Laura for speaking to Katie Insley, Associate Director in our Human Resources recruitment team in the Netherlands.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment