Keeping their heart & soul
How Kellogg's is embracing a culture of change
People often say that the further north you go, the kinder people get. But where does that northerly charm start? The threshold of the north-south divide is a much-debated topic; some say it starts when you’re past the Midlands, some believe Yorkshire isn’t t’up north, or if you’re a Londoner, you might think that it begins anywhere past Watford. Regardless, upon visiting Kellogg’s UK Headquarters, the Mancunian charm was clear.
The cereal manufacturer, which this year, was named as one of the world’s most reputable companies by Forbes - not to mention the numerous accolades around diversity, ethics and the products themselves - has embarked on significant change in recent times, including Project K, the embrace of digital and, perhaps most significant, their plan to relocate to MediaCityUK.
Regardless of this ongoing transformation, it’s the heart and soul of Kellogg’s which has remained constant, Samantha Thomas-Berry, the new Vice President of HR for EMEA at Kellogg’s tells me. And these traits are part of Kellogg’s DNA. “Whenever we go to the Dublin headquarters, taxi drivers pick us up from the airport to take us to the office,” she explains. “This one Irish taxi driver was particularly chatty, but he seemed to know straight away that I was a Kellogg’s employee. I asked him, ‘how did you know that?’ and he said he could just tell. He told me everyone he meets from Kellogg’s is grounded, pleasant, chatty and passionate about the brand. There’s certainly a Kellogg's DNA – I know it sounds bizarre. But we are a people organisation.”
But it’s not all sunshine and grains, it’s important that having a culture built on strong relationships doesn’t derail from business goals. “Another facet we’ve focused on is how having a people culture drives results. It’s about balancing those values whilst driving breakthrough performance – and you can do that,” she reassures.
One way Kellogg’s has achieved this, is by introducing a global five-point scale for performance, which measures behaviours in equal measure to business results. The culture journey is then built in as part of this, “otherwise it’s just a nice conversation to have,” Samantha points out. “I always say to the team, we have to measure how we turn the dial for the business and how as an HR function, we’re delivering business growth. But it drives a very different behaviour. You can keep the heart and soul whilst getting results too.”
Taking staff on a journey has proved incredibly important amidst dramatic transformation. For example, Project K - the company’s plan to reduce annual overheads resulted in the culling of hundreds of staff, largely from manufacturing. Surprisingly, the results from Kellogg’s 2016 global opinion survey, the year the redundancies were made, saw engagement levels increase by 12%. But how? Samantha emphasises that it’s “only achieved by the journey. This starts with explaining the reason for the change – it might not be good news, but here are the reasons why, and we want to hear your views,” she says. “Building that reality of the situation and then asking for feedback allows people to move through negative news much better. And it’s not just about the people who are leaving – it’s survivor syndrome. How you support everyone is important.”
Change is far more than just a business operation, which is why Kellogg’s has several tools to overcome transitioning. And HR’s role, being “the conscience of the business,” as Samantha puts it, ensures people come first, and results and financials come second. In fact, part of the agenda she is driving centres around changing culture and moving towards the creation of a more agile organisation. To kickstart this movement, Samantha tells me that Kellogg’s has set up a power team of individuals from across the European business, to focus on inspirational leadership, role clarity and simplifying our processes.
Their aim is to break down the barriers, hierarchy and bureaucracy that hinder change. “What’s important is that people are able to offer up their ideas and bring them to the table, we want to hear them. We don’t want to wait for three months to build a business case to create change,” she explains.
The second arm of the change agenda, entails “engagement in the environments in which we work in and the move is going to enable us to turbocharge this activity,” Berry continues. Drawing on those tools to help with the relocation to MediaCity, has been critical.
One way they have drummed up excitement is by bringing the new space to employees. “We’ve had familiarisation sessions and brought in external suppliers such as a travel to work fair to encourage people to use the tram more, just to showcase the benefits of the move. It’s really important to take that time to facilitate people before the move. We aren’t creatures of change, but the more we bring MediaCity to staff, the more exciting it becomes.”
The move will see a step change to their approach to agile working which they currently embrace, with core hours defined as between 10am and 4pm. “Some people have a preference about their working style and we want to support all staff,” Samantha explains. “We also have summer hours, providing that staff do their contractual hours, they can finish at midday on a Friday. That also needs to be role modelled by senior leaders, so everyone in the business feels that they can do it.”
And that’s one of the reasons why Samantha has remained with the brand for 12 years. It’s allowed her to develop her career, without forcing her to choose between being a mother and a leader – an issue still faced by many working women today. “During my tenure, I’ve got married, had two children and many experiences,” she says. “Throughout all of that, the flexibility to do the small things like take t kids to school and go to parents the evening, is great. We all have personal lives, it’s just about getting the balance and supporting our teams to get the best out of them.
“That is our mantra – unleashing potential in everyone so they’re bringing their best to work every day. Being part of a team that thinks and operates in that way is great. We really do live our values.”