How One Global Company Turned Their Business Around by Investing in Their People

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Passion March 20, 2018

How One Global Company Turned Their Business Around by Investing in Their People

Jason Richmond
Jason is passionate about helping large companies embrace outstanding culture. He engages with clients by sharing his passion for learning and instilling a sense of leadership and confidence with everyone.

The plateau effect is actually a pretty common story throughout the business world. One day you’re on top and the next you’ve grown too large, too fast and before you know it, you’ve hit a period of stagnation—that can begin to take a turn for the worse. For one company, in particular, they revamped their entire trajectory by investing in what matters most: their people. Diane Leeming, Senior Director of Organizational Development at Kraft Foods, shared her intriguing story about overcoming the plateau effect in five easy to replicate steps:

Create a Culture of Accountability

“Culture is multi-dimensional,” explains Leeming who was put in charge of revamping Kraft’s people strategy in their Cheese & Dairy business unit back in 2011. “One of the first ways to get started is by creating a culture that holds themselves—and one another—accountable.”

employee engagement

Actionable ways to inspire accountability:

  • Start with hard numbers
  • Encourage free-thinking
  • Communicate effectively
  • Address mistakes respectfully
  • Celebrate the small wins
  • Avoid micromanaging

Set High Expectations

Small, easy wins are important, but for a massive company already decades into business, it was time to go big or go home according to Leeming. By setting high expectations—with the understanding that everyone was going to rally for the big wins—Kraft quickly found their people aiming for success. “If you are intentional in what you expect from the business, you can turn things around.”

Set Goals

Talk about motivation: every six months the top 100 leaders throughout the company were invited to meet, encouraging everyone to improve their leadership skills and other markers to be worthy of this exciting, bi-annual opportunity.

Stop Bad Habits

Creating new, positive habits is a great step in the right direction for companies that previously ignored the building blocks to a healthy company culture, however, sometimes it’s not enough; most times the bad habits must be addressed first. As an example, Leeming says that they “had to stop the finger pointing” and take responsibility for each individual’s actions.

Create Business Challenges

Finally, Kraft invested in training programs to help empower and inspire their current team members that took place over the course of three days. To complement the training, they also created business challenges that pushed groups to problem solve together—a well-known tactic for team building.

And it worked—turnover went down from approximately 50% to 19%. The steps that Leeming and her team took to re-invest in the employees has helped to give them 16 quarters of double-digit top and bottom line growth. The changes they made were necessary to overcome the plateau establishing itself throughout the company. While others may have decided against investing countless dollars into the workforce of a company operating in the red, the executives at Kraft ultimately knew that this was the decision that had to be made. “The question was ‘How do we turn business around?’ And the answer was simple: investing in the people.”