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Sharing company values with 16,000 employees | S2 E21

First published: 20 July, 2021

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Engaging Internal Comms
Engaging Internal Comms
Sharing company values with 16,000 employees | S2 E21
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Sharing company values with 16,000 employees

In this episode, Craig Smith talks to Laura Colantuono about the challenges of sharing company values with 16,000 employees. Laura is a multi-skilled communications manager with experience in large matrix organisations and fast-paced environments. She is International Internal Communications and Employer Branding Manager at Kraft Heinz and currently based in West London.

Kraft Heinz are one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world and produce some of the world’s most beloved products. They have a portfolio of over 200 iconic and new brands including Heinz Baked Beans. While Kraft Heinz is headquartered in the US and has 38,000 employees globally, London is the HQ of the international business. This zone comprises of Continental and Northern Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan East with 16,000 employees.

Keeping employees connected and engaged

Laura’s team’s role at the central hub is to keep all employees connected and informed through effective communication. This ensures clarity and consistency across the zone and to do this they work very closely with the corporate team in the US and the extended internal comms teams responsible for the local execution across the business units. Kraft Heinz have thousands of employees based around their various offices and 40 factories which leads to a very diverse workforce with different cultures, languages and needs and this is what makes Laura’s role so special and never boring.

Laura and her team have to be very strategic, and this requires lots of planning and ensuring effective stakeholder relationships. They have to make certain that the global campaigns and priorities are really embedded in the zone and that local plans are delivered in a timely fashion with a common narrative which is based on the company’s vision, purpose and values. Laura’s team also have to set up their own international internal comms strategy and plans which are aimed at driving their zone priorities, bringing the business strategy to life and engaging their employees. It’s a challenging but very interesting role and as Laura comments:

“You need a deep understanding of your audience and local needs to develop and implement campaigns that matter and to ensure communication is inclusive.”

 It’s also important to showcase the great work they do in each country.

The importance of purpose and values

Last year was an important turning point for Kraft Heinz, they welcomed a new CEO and saw through the first wave of the pandemic. They also introduced the company’s enterprise strategy and an exciting new purpose which is ‘Let’s make life delicious’. There are six core beliefs which make up their values and a new vision which is to sustainably grow by delighting more consumers globally.

Together all these elements serve as a north star for the company. They remind their employees not only individually, but also as a team, why the work they do matters. The purpose is the reason to exist, they are a company of food lovers, and they provide their consumers with products they love and trust.

Driving the purpose and bringing it to life are six core values which also define the shared culture. Each of the values starts with ‘we’ which is an important shift from ‘me’, and one Laura particularly loves. It represents the commitment that their people make to each other and to their consumers around the world. There’s now more of a collaborative emphasis which better fits the company’s culture.

The six new Kraft Heinz values

The new Kraft Heinz values are:

  1. We are consumer obsessed – we put our consumers at the centre of everything we do.
  2. We dare to do better every day – this represents the journey of continuous improvement.
  3. We champion great people – the company is only as great as the quality of its teams.
  4. We demand diversity – the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives make the company stronger, interesting and innovative.
  5. We do the right thing – by way of our consumers, employees, partners and the communities we serve.
  6. We own it – there’s a strong ownership culture at Kraft Heinz, treating the business as if it were their own.

With a new CEO and a strategy to deliver the new values they asked the question, ‘what is that thing that will take us where we want to go?’. The values describe behaviours and how to bring the purpose to life rather than being static single words.

How to bring your values to life for your people

It’s all very well having your new values but how do you go about sharing your company values with 16,000 employees in the middle of a pandemic with many people working remotely? This was quite a challenge and they needed to move away from driving awareness to driving inspiration, so they decided to make it personal. They launched a cross markets campaign with a video teaser and call for nominations in July 2020 which ran until January 2021.

To help plan the campaign it was crucial to help tie each value to an important moment within the business such as Pride month for ‘we demand diversity’ and appraisal season for ‘we champion great people’.

Each month they celebrated the unique ways that employees were living and breathing the values, the campaign had three core elements:

  • Crowd sourcing – employees were invited to nominate a person who exemplified the values, an internal judging panel shortlisted up to four candidates a month. Local teams were relied on to translate and contextualise monthly nominations and drive engagement, this allowed local teams to shine in front of the rest of the zone.
  • Storytelling – the selected candidates were interviewed and stories, sometimes videos as well, were created and featured across all the internal channels.
  • Amplifying – the stand-out stories were featured in special moments across the business such as quarterly town halls, externally on the companies LinkedIn page and also used as an employee branding asset.

Using storytelling to share values

Craig commented on a previous podcast episode where he talked about how useful storytelling is to illustrate values. He calls it operationalising the values, giving people a working example, otherwise they’re just abstract.

Laura agrees that storytelling is very important and makes the values ‘real’ to people. They chose this approach as their diverse workforce is such a great asset with unique backgrounds and different work experiences. Their people are very passionate about what they do and they wanted to recognise this great work by telling their stories.

They started with ‘we demand diversity’ in July 2020 and the first story they featured was a colleague working in HR. She told the story of how she felt really valued and cared for during her maternity leave especially as she was hired when she was already pregnant. She had a fear that interviewing while pregnant would affect her negatively. Instead everything worked out well. She loves the company and joined with great excitement. Laura is glad she felt that way and that they were able to share this powerful story.

It is important to show, in a tangible yet engaging way, how these values are embedded in the company culture and will be a guide going forward. To do this they had to give a broad definition of the values in a simple way, to show how they exist in real life examples and connect them back to the purpose. Laura thinks that what worked really well was also connecting them to a specific moment in the business to make them real. In the end they had 20 personal stories to share and these employees are now very important ambassadors and will continue to help with the engagement around purpose and values.

The ambassadors are the people they go to when they want to sense check or go more deeply into each value. Kraft Heinz had a large global convention in February and they had an amazing video with all of the ambassadors showcasing how they live and breathe their values at a global level. All of them were featured explaining this in their own language which linked to diversity and inclusion.

Telling stories is now part of what they do especially within internal comms and engagement. They have an annual internal comms plan, and the values are literally across all the months, all the plans and this is what they do now to bring the values to life.

Kraft Heinz recognise their employees based on the values on a regular basis and this could be zone, quarterly, town hall or local town halls, there is always a segment dedicated to values. Laura says it’s great to see the number of people recognised because they embed the values in everything they do. Craig agrees that this storytelling is a really powerful way of reminding people what is important.

Key learning points for sharing your values

Laura explains that what worked at Kraft Heinz was to really clarify the purpose first:

  • the ‘why’ – the reason you exist and why you do what you do
  • the ‘how’ – how you bring the purpose to life, the core values that underpin the way you behave
  • the ‘what’ – the products and the service

Once the values are defined, make them personal as this worked well at Kraft Heinz, don’t pick words that will soon become wallpaper, connect them to particular real-life examples of how the values are embedded in the culture. Involve employees, ask and listen and showcase how they live and breathe the values. Use their voice, their face and their story. This will really resonate with people and inspire others to do the same.

Kraft Heinz got really good feedback and engagement on the intranet. They made it a consistent campaign across all markets, translating the stories into local languages, using all the different digital channels, town halls and meetings.

Craig compliments Laura on the fact that they didn’t use the pandemic as an excuse to either defer the campaign or lower their expectations instead they went for it which shows integrity and determination. Laura agrees that it was important, after launching the strategy, to give clarity on the company’s direction, on what they want to achieve so that was really powerful to do through a pandemic. It helped make people feel proud and excited to be working at Kraft Heinz during very difficult times.

If you would like to read any of the stories Laura has mentioned which illustrate the Kraft Heinz values, you can access them via the Kraft Heinz LinkedIn page here

If you’d like to download The Big Picture People’s own storytelling approach for sharing values, you can find it here.

Useful links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-colantuono-44b83440/

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