'We have a key role to play and need to be bold' #HRtogether

Chris Jones is an HR Director at Kellogg’s supporting the UK & Ireland Market, as well as leading Commercial Capability for the European Organisation.

There can be no doubt, this has been a time of change and adjustment!

You may not know but the food sector was designated as a critical industry and our employees as key workers at the start of the pandemic. And, while I don’t claim we’ve had the same role saving lives as the NHS, none the less the entire food chain has been critical in getting food on supermarket shelves.

That means we’ve had to work hard to keep the lights burning, the cereal ovens toasting and the trucks running.

Meeting increased demand

For our factories we’ve met the increased demand for our food in a responsible way. That’s meant interventions to support colleagues together with enhanced social distancing measures and recruiting additional staff to meet increased demand for our foods.

For those working in field sales teams, that’s meant taking advantage of the time they can’t be in store to run intensive capability training and temporarily redeploying some of the team into business-critical developmental roles.

And, for Kellogg’s employees in our head office, it has meant adapting how we work to enable people to work from home (Kellogg’s has a long tradition of flexible working, but we had to adapt to the new working from home reality).

As I reflect, I’d say that I’ve been really impressed by how our organisation has adapted. That’s not happened by accident of course. It’s come about through lots of work; be that new forms of employee engagement and communication to meet people where they are at or leaning into technology to enable new ways of connecting. That’s particularly important for Kellogg’s, which is most definitely a relationship driven business.

Putting people first

We’ve always prioritised the needs of our people. That started with not making any assumptions about what people need or want. Regular surveys backed with an acute recognition of our diverse workforce, have ensured our activity remains relevant. We’ve also wrapped everything in a clear message of reassurance and empathy.

We built a new portal to help managers quickly and easily access the resources they need, and we supplemented this with additional training.

At an operational level we implemented daily COVID-19 calls for our HR Leads, which fed into our business’s incident management process, and throughout, our COVID-19 response has been people centric.

At Kellogg’s we have been championing worklife balance and wellbeing for decades, so you’d expect us to do more at a time of crisis.

That’s meant we have introduced additional flexibility into peoples’ days to allow them to care for a relative, help with childcare or just take time out. While we can’t all travel, we have strongly encouraged employees to use holidays, so they are taking time away from their home desks. We’ve run online mindfulness courses and we’ve held everything from virtual DJ sessions to quizzes to create those social interactions.

Our flagship summer hours programme – which gives people the chance to take a half day off every Friday – has been evolved so that employees can now take any half day off.

Ensuring wellbeing is a priority

We have also held a virtual ‘total health’ week providing heaps of tools and tips to enable employee wellbeing.

But I hope we can all agree one of the best ways of helping your wellbeing is connecting with colleagues. So, we have taken steps to enable people to collaborate effectively. That’s meant everything from a policy of ‘camera on’ during video conferences and how to use MS Teams bootcamp sessions, to putting our employee townhalls on a virtual footing and encouraging more employee recognition.

Being part of the team who has delivered all of this has been both exciting and challenging. For sure, there have been times which I have felt the gradient of my learning curve! So, it’s been hugely important to seek out various sources of information and advice, like my external network to help me keep a finger on the pulse and friends and family who have been great in helping me recognise “it’s ok not to be ok” at times.

Looking ahead, I am excited about the role we as HR professionals can play in shaping the “new normal”. Whether that’s championing the cause for improved flexibility or expediting Diversity & Inclusion initiatives – we have a key role to play and need to be bold in leveraging the opportunities this challenging situation presents!

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