Investing in change

Investing in managers’ communication competence is the only way to survive change

Like many multinationals operating in today’s fast paced world, Mondelēz International is familiar with change. Anyone working in business nowadays is told that change is the only constant and that you have to be resilient, resourceful and flexible to survive.

The business world has come to expect company leaders to display clarity on purpose in guiding their organisations through restructurings, cost-cutting programmes, acquisitions, divestures and countless internal change processes.

But what about those who are impacted the most by these changes? Employees and managers who suddenly have to do more with less, are faced with travel bans, have additional administration requirements and entirely new structures to navigate – can we expect the same level of resilience and strength from them?

It certainly would be wonderful if everyone simply ‘aligned’ behind the required change and happily went on with their jobs even as they lose trusted colleagues and resources and have increasing demands placed on them. In such a world, people management would hardly exist. But also in the real world,  some organisations de-prioritise people management and fail to invest in effective leadership development, and internal communication. By focussing on the practicalities of the change process, on keeping the business running and the external world satisfied, attention to the engagement of employees is lost in transition. When in fact, it is indeed engaged employees that are the cornerstone of successful change.

"By focussing on the practicalities of the change process, on keeping the business running and the external world satisfied, attention to the engagement of employees is lost in transition. When in fact, it is indeed engaged employees that are the cornerstone of successful change."

Our view is that only through investing in essential communication and leadership competencies across our senior and mid-level management can we achieve our targets throughout our transformation and in the longer run. We are indeed seeing progress towards our 2016 margin targets: "Our strong second quarter results reflect continued execution of our transformation agenda," said Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO

Changing a young company with old roots

Mondelēz is a young corporate brand with a rich heritage in our iconic brands and legacy companies. We are used to transformation. What has made this current phase different is the magnitude  and complexity of the change, involving the split off our coffee activities to refocus purely on snacking alongside a major process to enhance supply chain productivity and reduce overhead cost.

At the beginning of this impactful process, we realised the need to enhance communication skills amongst our leaders and managers. The Corporate and Governmental Affairs function (CGA), in close partnership with Learning and Development (L&D) had already started designing a series of modules for senior and mid-level management focused on internal and external communication. This programme was adapted in the process to add weight to the topic of ‘communicating through change’.

Co-creating tailored content

Based on a clear understanding of what we wanted our leaders to be able to do, we created the content with volunteer representatives of the L&D and CGA function. We were clear on what we wanted to achieve and from the outset and had these main objectives in summary:

  • For our leaders to understand the commercial imperative of managing our reputation
  • Successfully deliver the Transformation
  • To help our leaders become more confident in driving employee engagement

Initially the following modules were created:

To ensure that the content included best practice and the latest thinking externally we collaborated with specialist management consultancy ReputationInc. In co-creation workshops and through delivery of Mondelēz specific examples, they co-developed the core modules with us. Work is now underway on specialist government affairs and media relations modules.

Offering a ‘smorgasbord’ to leaders

The success of the programme rests in its ability to cater to a wide range of training preferences, time and travel constraints. For this reason we adopted a demand led, ‘pick and mix’ style roll out. This smorgasbord approach allowed the programme to gain traction on its own accord. Functional leaders could choose for elements of the modules to be adapted and tailored further to their needs. Top up sessions, one to ones, webinars, electronic handbooks were all part of the package.

Our external partners worked with us on the content but also on the rollout. They ran train the trainer sessions for our corporate affairs network and subsequently supported sessions as required- dependent on size and seniority of the participants.

Embedding the learnings

We have been measuring progress on our transformation journey amongst our colleagues and have seen a marked improvement as a result of leaders’ enhanced focus on internal communication. The programme itself is continuously evaluated and we have achieved high scores on all indicators.

We are now looking to reach a wider group of managers by embedding sub-modules into our various levels of leadership programs and offerings within our new Mondelēz International University.

In sum, the keys to success:

  1. Bespoke. Tailoring the content, the examples, the learning mechanisms to functions, to training preferences and to the level of participants is essential. Co-created core content can be tweaked slightly and delivered by trained internal moderators so bespoke does not have to mean expensive!
  2. Partner with experts. HR and L&D functions are essential partners in succeeding in this area. But as communication experts, the corporate affairs function needs to stay close to design and roll-out. Don’t hesitate to bring in external expertise to ensure effectiveness.
  3. Measure and adapt. Evaluate not only the programme itself, but its impact on metrics such as engagement. Fine tune the programme continuously.

Image: Thinkstock.com 

Kristian Hvilen

Kristian Hvilen is corporate and government affairs director for the Nordics, part of the Northern Europe Corporate Affairs team at Mondelez International. Kristian oversees and drives the corporate communications and public affairs agenda for the four Nordic countries. He was also one of the co-creators of the Leadership Communications training programme and has trained several leadership teams across Northern Europe. Kristian joined Mondelēz International in 2011 as head of external communications Nordics where he was responsible for driving all media engagement and public affairs. Kristian took up his current role in December 2012.