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Coke LogoLaura Miller, Chief Human Resource Officer and Robin Gee, Head of Employee Engagement  at Coca-Cola were speakers at the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, which was held in Miami, FL in February 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.

As one of the most recognized brands in the world there is no shortage of employee brand love at Coke, but how do you turn brand love into company love?  With the impending merger of the Coca Cola Company and independent bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises the organization knew they needed to approach the vertical integration with careful planning and strong communication.  This could present a huge opportunity to build engagement and a sense of “oneness” between the companies or dissolve into two cultures fighting against the merger.  Two companies on parallel paths drove engagement.  The key to Coca-Cola Refreshments success at engagement was leader led, business owned, HR facilitated and employee involved.

With the merger rapidly approaching, the HR team at Coke looked into some of the reasons why integration fails.  Common issues arise due to:

  • Lack of clarity around future vision
  • Failure to create a sense of urgency around the need for change
  • Disregards culture across merging organizations
  • Insufficient frequency and quality of communication
  • Anxious, complacent and distracted employees
  • Business results suffer during transition
  • Leaders stay behind closed doors

So.. Coke’s leaders:

  • Established the need for the change
  • Senior leaders communicated frequently and transparently to generate awareness
  • Formed an Integration team led by key leaders and Engagement Champions
  • Conducted a culture assessment prior to the transaction date, and shared the results
  • Focused on 2010 deliverables to keep everyone focused
  • Acted swiftly, deliberately, and managed expectations along the way

What they learned from the Engagement Survey was that Drivers included Learning & Development Opportunities, Strong Leadership, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability.

They communicated action around those drivers utilizing an Employee Portal, Town Halls, Leadership Road shows, Senior Leader Blogs, Online Polls, Digital signage at the various locations, data push to handheld devices, daily huddles a part of everyday life at CCR, “shoulder to shoulder” communication with employees and ride-a-longs by managers.

Did it make a difference to the business?? Yes! During a huge time of change when companies typically go backwards CCR had triple the growth, record making earnings and revenue.  According to the new CEO of Coca-Cola Refreshments – “Our best days are ahead of us….”

Kristen Joyner is a director at i4cp and represented HRM Today as the official blogger for the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference.

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