Kraft Heinz’s unique recipe for its outstanding workplace learning culture






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For some, shaping over 38,000 employees into a team of enthusiastic learners could be considered biting off more than you can chew. But Lan Tran, who has nearly a decade of learning and development leadership, is not one to be intimidated by initiating a workplace culture shift.

As Head of Learning and Development Governance, Technology and Operations at Kraft Heinz, Tran says coming to Kraft Heinz was a massive opportunity for her to work with Pamay Bassey, a notable figure in the learning industry, and for an iconic brand that everyone knows, “It was one of those moments where this feels like your chance, and if you give this up now, you might not ever get it again.”

The Kraft Heinz brand is a stalwart in many households, filling pantries with staples from ketchup to macaroni and cheese. What started as two separate companies with a history dating back to the 1800s, Kraft and Heinz merged in 2015, establishing one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world. Today, Kraft Heinz supplies products for global households and restaurants. Its portfolio of brands ranges from Oscar Mayer to Kool-Aid and Lunchables.

After reconnecting with Kraft Heinz’s Chief Learning and Diversity Officer and longtime acquaintance Pamay Bassey, Tran joined the Kraft Heinz team. Together, they embarked on a mission with the larger learning team to elevate the vision for learning at Kraft Heinz.

Their objective: Create a culture of continuous learning, bold creativity, and intellectual curiosity. Kraft Heinz wanted to build a learner-centric ecosystem that was enabled by technology and innovative approaches to learning to ignite behavior-based change and provide learning experiences that draw in employees with curiosity instead of obligation.

The team already provided employees with exceptional learning content through Cornerstone. But to achieve a true culture change, employees needed to understand that learning and development opportunities were easily accessible and beneficial to their personal development and career growth. From leveraging the capabilities of Cornerstone Performance and Cornerstone Learning to making lifelong learning part of Kraft Heinz’s Values and Leadership Principles and celebrating learners on their journey, the Kraft Heinz learning team made sweeping changes to the learning and development landscape.

Designing the next evolution of their corporate university: Optimizing the learner’s journey

Tran immediately identified a gap between what Cornerstone offers and how employees were currently utilizing Cornerstone within Kraft Heinz’s corporate university, Ownerversity. “It really was, ‘I generally go to Ownerversity because I have to for compliance, not because I want to,’” says Tran, describing their old learning culture. “There were many people who didn't even know we offered LinkedIn Learning.”

After an in-depth audit of the platform, Tran’s team worked to optimize the learner’s experience. And in December 2020, they launched the next evolution of Ownerversity. The new layout highlighted Ownerversity’s ten academies, representing Leadership & Culture and each of their functional areas at Kraft Heinz to provide easy navigation to learning related to an employee’s job function and professional skills. They built each academy to provide unique learning opportunities tailored to an employee’s area of focus and related skills and topic areas, which made finding learning even easier for employees.

The Kraft Heinz team also increased the number of learning opportunities on the platform. In 2020, they created over 800 new playlists to support employees working from home. Popular playlists included “Resources for Working Remotely” and “Emotional Wellbeing.” The most followed playlist was the “#LearnLikeAnOwner Speaker Series” which incorporated Kraft Heinz’s Vision, Purpose, Values and Leadership Principles.

Incorporating internal marketing to grow employee engagement

Weaving learning into Kraft Heinz’s Values and Leadership Principles helped to enhance the culture of learning at Kraft Heinz. In addition, the team also increased their focus on using internal marketing to drive engagement. Tran recounts Bassey was doing something different than most CLOs: She had made herself a user within the system in 2019 by taking courses in Ownerversity and posting what she was learning on the company’s internal social media app, KetchApp. While it started as Bassey’s personal, public commitment to 365 days of learning, #LearnLikeAnOwner evolved into a movement to create a culture of continuous learning and encouraged employees to make learning a regular part of their lives.

To increase engagement across a remote workforce, #LearnLikeAnOwner was launched to all employees in September 2019 with an announcement email from Kraft Heinz’s Global Chief People Officer, Melissa Werneck, encouraging employees to commit to learning at three-tiered levels. At the Gold level, people committed to learning one hour a month or participating in four learning experiences; at Silver, 30 minutes a month or two learning experiences; at Bronze, 15 minutes or one learning experience. They also offer a Freestyle commitment, where employees can create their own goals, like committing to 100 consecutive days of learning or learning more about diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

The team ended 2020 with over 1,100 learning commitments, more than double the amount they received in 2019. And most of those employees committed at the Gold level. Self-registrations and the number of participants fulfilling their commitment to learning also skyrocketed, proving the cultural shift around learning was taking place.

Maintaining momentum by staying innovative

To build on their growth, Kraft Heinz launched a monthly newsletter this year that highlights new and top-picked courses, spotlights their academies and celebrates a learner of the month. Engagement on the platform spikes after they send the newsletter, allowing Tran’s team to measure its success.

During an annual retreat for top learners this March, Kraft Heinz hosted a session on influencing. The session focused on empowering employees to advocate for learning within their teams and groups.

As a result of these combined efforts, Ownerversity has received over 17,000 visitors in June 2021 — more than 3x the number of visitors since the Kraft Heinz learning team started ramping up efforts to ignite behavior change.

Tran has seen employee feedback that shows Kraft Heinz’s workforce truly understands the value of learning: "People say, ‘Hey, I see how Kraft Heinz is making an investment in me as an employee through Ownerversity,’ she says. “We're definitely increasing employee engagement through learning.”

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