Advancing Culture And Connection During COVID-19

Melissa Howell, Chief Human Resources Officer, Kellogg Company

Melissa Howell, Chief Human Resources Officer, Kellogg Company

In early 2020, the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic. Countries around the world essentially shut down as businesses closed their doors, travel was prohibited, and individuals were told to stay home. Seemingly overnight, companies around the world, including Kellogg Company, were forced to implement work-from-home solutions. Employees were physically disconnected from their colleagues and their traditional work environments.

At Kellogg, we know people are our greatest strength—it underpins our Deploy for Growth Strategy—so at the onset of the pandemic, we knew we needed to reinforce our company culture and keep our workforce informed and engaged during a time of uncertainty and separation. And we did—in ways we never imagined, and it showed the strength and resilience of our people.

We knew it was important to learn from this experience and use it as an opportunity to evaluate what the future can be. What started as a necessary measure to ensure the health and safety of our employees, proved that we could continue to foster collaboration and connection even when physically apart. This inspired “Locate for Your Day,” the Kellogg culture of the future, which gives our people the freedom and flexibility to split their time between working from home and the office once we are past the pandemic.

But how did we get to this point?

People are at the heart of everything we do, so we leveraged existing partnerships and platforms to support and advance our people-focused agenda. For example, we continued to advocate learning and development opportunities. We started our journey to build a true culture of learning a few years ago and partnered with LinkedIn Learning to offer employees an always-on virtual education. Anytime, anywhere, our employees can connect to their computers or mobile devices and have access to an incredible range of learning options, which proved to be even more invaluable over the last year.

We also continued to recognize our employees. In 2018, we launched Achievers, an internal recognition platform that has been indispensable for employees to celebrate the great work and accomplishments of their colleagues, while also celebrating birthdays, service anniversaries and other milestones that would traditionally be observed in the office.

In a year when many things stood still, we were able to continue hiring and onboarding new employees through our “Welcome to Life at K” virtual onboarding platform, which enabled us to hire and onboard thousands of new employees, without ever meeting faceto-face.

Further enabling our ability to connect and engage, our IT team launched Microsoft Teams across our global network in record time. This created an enormous opportunity to facilitate our everyday business transactions—including one-on-one meetings, brainstorming collaboratives and daily meetings—on a virtual, videoenabled platform. We also expanded connection opportunities to include virtual happy hours, coffee chats, team gatherings and much more.

Key to a company’s culture and employee engagement is employee wellbeing, which was tried and tested during the global pandemic, so we offered employees several virtual series and presentations that supported employees’ overall wellbeing— including physical, financial, emotional and social health. From mindfulness and emotional health sessions, to a week dedicated to financial health, we leveraged technology and our platforms to host a wide variety of engagement opportunities for employees and their families. We also created a safe place for employees to share their voice and connect in educational opportunities as social unrest erupted across the country.

Food insecurity has become a reality for more people as a result of the pandemic, but our employees have stepped up to support struggling families through volunteerism and donations, contributing to a sense of community and societal health. One opportunity was a virtual 5K with our Chairman and CEO, Steve Cahillane. Employees and their families were encouraged to walk or run a 5K in support of the Global Food Banking Network as part of our global purpose platform, Kellogg’s Better Days, in which we’re committed to creating Better Days for 3 billion people by the end of 2030. We leveraged our Better Days Hub – an all-inclusive employee platform that features volunteer opportunities, tracks volunteer hours, enables charitable giving and measures community impact—to connect our employees to one another and within their local communities, all while being socially distanced.

A crisis is a make it or break it moment for leadership and requires agility to get to the hearts and minds of employees. Despite the many hardships the year presented, our efforts to engage and connect with employees truly worked and the results were evident in our Global Opinion Survey. We asked specific questions regarding our work to connect with employees, and, across the board, our scores were up in Engagement and Trust in Leadership. In this make it or break it moment, we got it right.

What we’ve been able to accomplish in the last year is inspiring. Even though we were physically apart, we continued to support, engage and connect with our Kellogg family around the world. As we continue to move forward and navigate this new landscape, we’ll continue to learn from our experiences and evolve the workplace culture of the future.


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