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Executing Change Management in Conjunction with Internal Branding Programs

A Q&A with Robin Gee, Director of Employee Engagement, Coca-Cola Refreshments

Organizations are looking to integrate their communications activities across various business segments and also create brand relationships with their employees that will encourage them to deliver better operationally and pass on ideal behaviors. Internal Communications professionals, along with Department Managers, need to be able to help their team members believe in the value of full engagement and inspire them to pursue it at a personal level.

Robin Gee is Director of Employee Engagement for Coca-Cola Refreshments (CCR), which includes the sales and operational elements of Coca-Cola's North American business. She is responsible for building capability in engagement, maintaining engagement momentum and ensuring that engagement is integrated into CCR's people practices. Gee was a speaker at Marcus Evans 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, held February 24-25, 2011 at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, FL.

Q: What is the best method to measure employee engagement against business results?
Employee Engagement is as dynamic as our business. We leverage our engagement survey data as baseline information and monitor our performance against key business performance metrics. At the conclusion of our last global engagement survey, we completed a linkage analysis of engagement results and key business outcomes. Through this analysis we were able to quantify and correlate engagement with one of our most important financial measures (On Time In Full). Our ability to demonstrate the tangible impact of engagement on one of our most important financial measures enabled us to capture the attention of those managers that may have been skeptical about the business benefits of employee engagement.

Q: How can a company best understand the current trends that influence how employees work and what they find motivating?
Given the size and diversity of our workforce, we’ve found that leveraging a coordinated leader-led and employee-involved engagement strategy has been most effective. Feedback from our Engagement Survey allowed our leaders to identify key themes in the information and comments provided by employees. These themes gave our leaders clues about the factors that influence employee motivation. From there we began to explore these insights in greater detail. We used a variety of techniques to understand and ultimately act upon the results. We leveraged technology to communicate broadly and obtained input when appropriate. Leader involvement and visibility was critical to our approach. Leaders established regular routines that built in opportunities for individual employee involvement and input, including frequent town hall meetings, small group discussions that included one-on-one interaction with their leaders and interaction with senior leaders. With each of these interactions, leaders listened to employees and fine-tuned the specific actions included in the action plan for their part of the business.

Q: Do you believe there’s a strong correlation between a well-articulated employee engagement strategy and positive customer experience?
Absolutely. Studies have shown that an engaged workforce translates to committed employees with higher performance. We recognize that employees who understand the strategic goals of the organization, who have clear performance expectations and who have the appropriate tools and support to be successful will strive to perform in a way that’s aligned with organizational objectives. At CCR, our business is oriented around the customer. Customer focus sits at the heart of our organizational mission and is woven into the very fabric of the way we work and operate across North America. Our executives, managers and line employees share a passion for the customer experience. As such, customer focus was identified as a central tenant of the multi-year Engagement Strategy that will be implemented in 2011.

Q: How does Coca-Cola Refreshments drive internal brand loyalty and commitment during times of global change, such as the financial crisis that has been taking place for the past few years?
In a tough economic climate, we’ve continued to invest in people and initiatives that have proven to drive employee commitment. We engage our employees in aggressive efforts to eliminate waste and reinvest those savings in ways that are visible and meaningful to our employees. Our employees embraced this effort and have found creative ways to eliminate waste, which in turn resulted in multi-million-dollar investments in our total rewards package and talent management practices, as well as investments in technology and customer-focused initiatives. Additionally, as external forces in the form of legislation threatened to impact our industry, we helped to raise awareness and give our employees a voice. Recognizing the opportunity, our employees responded through strong grass roots efforts influencing legislation at local levels.

Q: What lessons has Coca-Cola Refreshments learned in this time of great change?
Our experience supports that strong leadership visibility, coupled with consistent communication and employee involvement, has been well received by our employees. In times of change, we communicate transparently and share what isn’t changing along with what is changing. We act deliberately but swiftly while always communicating the strategic goals to be achieved.

To view the entire transcript, go to @@http://www.marcusevansch.com/IBRGInterview

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March/April 2011

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