Kraft Heinz’s unique recipe for its outstanding workplace learning culture
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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Creating an Action Plan for Your Agency’s Skills Gaps
Times change, and agencies cannot predict when their employees will need new skills. Triggers such as new hiring mandates can leave agencies painfully aware of the abilities their workforces lack. However, there are many strategies that exist for closing these skills gaps. GovLoop and Cornerstone OnDemand put together this worksheet to help you and your agency develop an action plan for effectively filling its skills gaps. In this worksheet, you’ll gain insights into: Best practices from the public and private sectors for addressing skills gaps. The strategies for closing skills gaps including recruitment, reskilling, and upskilling. Your agency’s triggers, biggest skills gaps, and the best approach to eliminate those gaps. Download this worksheet to create your action plan to close your agency’s skills gaps.
5 Ways to Empower Employees with Future Skills
With the onset of artificial intelligence and automation, the demand for a highly-skilled workforce dedicated to continued learning is growing. Though these tech tools have vast capabilities, employees need specific skills in order to engage with this emerging technology effectively. But many simply do not possess the necessary knowledge: according to a new report from Deloitte Insights, there could soon be too few college graduates to fill the over six million currently vacant jobs—52 percent of employers say they consistently can't fill open positions. The skills gap is real, and it's widening. Increasingly, organizations need individuals who are able to learn quickly and who are adaptable to outside factors like emerging technology. In today's skills economy—where employees' existing knowledge and their ability to gain new skills are their biggest assets—a lifelong effort to learn new technical, social and managerial skills is a required reality. In partnership with Cornerstone OnDemand, the Institute for the Future unveiled a Future Skills Map highlighting the capabilities that modern workers will need to thrive in an ever-changing, fast-paced, tech-focused work environment. Below are five of the 15 skills outlined in the map that you can already nurture in employees today, and advice for empowering employees to attain them: 1) Get [Course] Credit for Everything To ensure career growth, employees shouldn't rely on existing skills alone. Lifelong learners never stop developing, always getting credit for every new skill they develop, and using those credits to propel themselves along their career paths. Hiring managers can identify individuals who have pursued relevant courses, certifications or made other efforts to learn, and reward them. For example, before looking outward to fill open positions, consider candidates internally who have prioritized gaining new skills. Seeing their colleagues grow will also motivate other employees who may have been complacent in the past. 2) Upgrade Your Digital Fluency Robots aren't replacing humans any time soon, but there's no denying that automation is changing employees' roles. By 2020, companies will spend $150 billion on artificial intelligence, $83 billion on robots and $70 billion on AI-based systems—lifelong learners aren't afraid of this; they embrace it as an opportunity to develop their skills. Managers should help employees more wary of automation focus on ways the technology can simplify their work lives by demonstrating how AI can help them. In the healthcare space, for example, AI now plays a growing role in digitally verifying insurance coverage information, reducing the need for manual calls and freeing up office managers' time to take on important projects, like pricing new technology for the office. 3) Connect the Dots to Make Change Thanks to increased mobility and connectivity, the modern workforce is dispersed. Because of this, insight into everyone's tasks and projects can be a challenge. Lifelong learners make a consistent effort to understand what their colleagues work on—it's the only way to gain a full picture of overall organization goals and help fill gaps that appear. Empower employees, especially leaders, to better understand how their own teams, and other teams across the company, function. This may require bringing on new technology. To connect the dots for its workforce, plumbing-product manufacturing company Kohler implemented a new talent management system across all of its business units. This solution gave leadership deeper insight into employees' roles, skills and team structures. 4) Grow Your Multicultural Dexterity Diversity today means more than different genders, races or religions—it's now about uniqueness of experience, and how these experiences shape individuals and their workforce interactions. Lifelong learners are not afraid to work in unfamiliar situations or with new people, and can quickly and appropriately shift their mindsets and approaches depending on the environment they're working. This skill doesn't come easily to all. Improve employees' multicultural dexterity by challenging them with new environments. Does your organization span multiple offices? Encourage employees to travel between them and interact with colleagues they don't see every day. 5) Grow Caring at the Core Even in the age of automation and AI, humanness is essential in the workforce because it determines how machines are programmed, and how the insight they gather is applied on the job. Empathy is an intrinsic characteristic of lifelong learners because the ability to reflect is key for growth. For others, empathy can be a learned skill. Building empathy should be an ongoing practice in every organization. Open, respectful conversations that address biases and opinions are one way to start. Self-discovery training programs that help individuals assess their own personality types and psychological needs can also help employees better understand themselves before they attempt to understand others. Creating a culture that celebrates lifelong learning and inspires employees to achieve more will only work if the organization's leaders make it a priority. When developing a learning strategy, organizations would do well to remember that just as consumers have expectations of the brands they engage with, employees also expect a great deal from the companies that employ them. The onus is on organizations to deliver the kinds of learning experiences employees now crave—personalized, on-demand and holistic. Photo: Creative Commons
Use Skill Adjacencies to Upgrade Reskilling Efforts
In today’s job market, employers prioritize technical and specialized skills, especially when hiring junior-level employees in an effort to address ever-changing needs. But technical skill shortages in the labor market exist and are likely to continue as technology continues to evolve and rapidly permeate our working lives. As a result, organizations are developing learning and development strategies to address their urgent need for tech talent. Our team at the Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL), in collaboration with the Human Capital Institute (HCI), recently explored this trend, and researched viable solutions for closing the tech talent gap. The final report, titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change," found that one way that organizations can start to more proactively and quickly address skills gaps—sometimes even before they appear—is by locating skills adjacencies and leveraging them to develop new and necessary skills. This is also referred to as "new-skilling," which is defined as a proactive, data-driven approach to learning that leverages partnerships and tools to simultaneously strengthen existing skills and develop skills for new roles. What Are Skill Adjacencies? Skill adjacencies are linkages between employees’ existing abilities and those that they need to learn. By identifying these adjacencies, HR and L&D professionals can identify opportunities for upskilling or reskilling to meet emerging needs. For example, Gartner Research recently analyzed billions of job postings and found that a company in need of a natural-language processing expert can look to employees with machine learning, Python or TensorFlow experience because these skills are closely related. Similarly, employees with email marketing skills have experience that will help them more easily learn community management, while those with interface design skills can pick up the tenants of modern user research. How Do You Locate Skill Adjacencies? Our findings showed that 46% of high-performing organizations actively work to identify adjacent skill sets to better inform reskilling programs, while only 26% of other organizations do. But while using skill adjacencies to refine upskilling and reskilling efforts can bolster the success of an organization, our research also suggests the methods used to identify skills adjacencies might not be effective enough. Our survey revealed that the most common way to study skill adjacencies was by collecting information on similar employee capabilities online and saving that information into spreadsheets and databases. But these tracking techniques can be esoteric and, especially for larger or more complex organizations, collecting and analyzing the massive amounts of data necessary to identify trends is challenging without more advanced technology. As the need for more technical skills revolutionizes work roles, companies will be better served using emerging technological tools like machine learning or artificial intelligence tools to collect, analyze and identify skill adjacencies. These tools empower companies to parse more information—from not only online job postings but also internal skills surveys, competency models, certification requirements, experience metrics and more—in a faster, more automated fashion. The use of these tools will also ensure that reskilling and upskilling efforts zero in on changing skills trends as they appear and address them before they create deficiencies. Skill Adjacencies Keep Employees Confident In addition to their ability to improve a workforce’s agility, there’s another underlying benefit to skill adjacencies: increased employee confidence. Today, some 40% of employees aren’t confident that their abilities will be relevant in the future. But by directing them to skills development and training that’s aligned with their existing capabilities and their interests, employees will more easily and rapidly transition from their current roles, to emerging positions, to new needs within their organization. To learn more about Cornerstone’s HCI Survey and how to use its findings to inform or update your skills development efforts, click here to download and read the full report.