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Action Planning for All Employees: Lessons from Coca-Cola Consolidated

Action Planning for All Employees: Lessons from Coca-Cola Consolidated

In the latest installment of our Perceptyx Listening Lab series, experts from Coca-Cola Consolidated and Perceptyx discussed the dynamics of successful action planning, including engaging deskless workers — a segment that poses unique challenges due to their roles in diverse environments like fieldwork, factory floors, hospitals, and retail stores.

Real-World Experiences and Successful Practices

During the session, participants got an exclusive look at how Coca-Cola Consolidated, an industry leader in implementing effective listening strategies, uses data-driven insights from listening to develop and execute organization-wide action plans that engage employees and managers at all levels. 

The discussion, led by Christine Motherwell, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, and Jenni Knighten, Director of Engagement and Experience, alongside Brittany Head, Ph.D., Principal Consultant at Perceptyx, offered a window into the practical aspects of transforming employee feedback into actionable strategies.

Central to the conversation were the specific tactics employed by Coca-Cola Consolidated to ensure comprehensive employee engagement. These ranged from effective communication channels to empowering managers for seamless enablement and implementation. The webinar also featured a high-level overview of Perceptyx's own action-planning best practices

Here are some of the highlights of this discussion. To view the full webinar on-demand, click here.

The 1-2-3s of Action Planning

Brittany Head introduced the organization’s 1-2-3 approach to action planning. Perceptyx research across 15 million employees shows that this approach to action planning greatly simplifies the process, leading to higher engagement and an improved employee experience. Here’s an overview of how it works:

  • Select 1 Focus Area: Rather than focusing on all actionable opportunities, teams should prioritize one focus area based on the feedback collected. To identify where to focus, teams should consider top barriers inhibiting performance and engagement. Comparisons such as how perceptions change over time, compare to other internal groups, or compare to external benchmarks can focus actions on a theme that will have the biggest impact for improving engagement and the overall employee experience.

  • Do 2 Things About It: Next, successful teams identify two actions they can take to improve the focus area. These actions may be initiatives already in progress or may be new actions resulting from survey feedback or team discussion. Assigning owners and dates not only improves accountability while focusing on actions within a specific team’s control but it also helps improve the likelihood of that team completing their action plans.

  • Communicate and Seek Feedback at Least 3 Times: While many organizations effectively seek employee feedback and even take action, few organizations consistently connect the dots between survey feedback and the organization’s response. To demonstrate that employee feedback is valued, leaders should explicitly communicate at least three times how their actions are connected to survey results.

"Picking one issue to focus on is about leveraging the interconnectedness of workplace elements, where improving one aspect, like manager-employee relations, could have wide-ranging positive impacts,” said Head.

Head then stressed the significance of acting on 'drivers of engagement' rather than just the lowest scoring areas in surveys. "It's about picking the right issue to focus on," she noted, explaining that sometimes, areas like pay, which constantly face pressure, might score low but aren't necessarily the most impactful areas to address.

In discussing the two specific actions to be taken, Head mentioned that one should be a quick initiative to build early momentum and the other a more sustainable, long-term strategy. This dual approach ensures both immediate engagement and lasting change. "One being something we can move on quickly, providing that proof of concept," Head explained, and the other proving "this is not just an event, it's a new way of doing things."

Communication, the third key component of the plan, was highlighted as crucial for the success of any action plan. Head advised against random updates, suggesting instead that communication should be timed around crucial milestones. "It's not just about telling people updates of what's happened, it's also absorbing more information so you can make more refined adjustments to that way forward over time.”

Aligning action plans with broader business objectives was another point Head emphasized. "This is not living in a vacuum, you need to make these action plans live and breathe in the context in which you're operating," she said, underlining the need for alignment with business priorities and talent strategy.

To conclude, Head highlighted the role of communication in driving engagement and inclusion. Keeping employees in the loop makes them feel like valued parts of the organization's journey: "It is a statement of investment and value in someone to keep them apprised of what's going on."

Coca-Cola Consolidated: A Listening Journey

Christine Motherwell, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Coca-Cola Consolidated, shared valuable lessons from their five-year partnership with Perceptyx. "We were not savvy or advanced in this space at all," she admitted, referring to the period before their collaboration with Perceptyx, when their approach to employee feedback was much more rudimentary.

Motherwell then offered a bit of background on Coca-Cola Consolidated. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and distinct from the Coca-Cola company in Atlanta, Coca-Cola Consolidated is the largest U.S. bottler and the only publicly traded bottler in the country. With approximately 17,000 employees, the organization operates across 14 states and the District of Columbia, servicing over 60 million consumers.

An interesting aspect of their workforce, Motherwell explained, is that out of these 17,000 employees, about 13,500 are frontline workers. This composition, she suggested, is the "heart and soul" of their business. Motherwell also highlighted the significant growth that Coca-Cola Consolidated experienced, more than tripling in size from 5,500 employees in 2014 due to mergers and acquisitions.

Speaking on their employee engagement initiatives, Motherwell mentioned their annual teammate engagement survey, dubbed "the pulse," which they launched in 2019. Despite the challenges of high turnover, especially among frontline roles, the organization achieved an impressive 81% participation rate in its latest survey. "We want real feedback," she said, underscoring their commitment to genuine employee engagement versus simply achieving high participation numbers.

A World-Class Teammate Listening Strategy

Jenni Knighten, Director of Engagement and Experience, emphasized the importance of a robust teammate listening strategy. This strategy involves the administration of annual surveys, action planning, and subsequent communications. Knighten underscored how the organization has made significant strides over the past five years, particularly in partnership with Perceptyx. "We've stuck to the plays diligently and tried to evolve each year," Knighten explained. She detailed their comprehensive approach to reaching teammates in various work settings, including those in the field, to ensure inclusive engagement.

Christine Motherwell mentioned the value provided by the unique branding of their annual teammate engagement survey as "the pulse." This branding strategy, she noted, has been instrumental in creating a common vernacular within the organization. Motherwell emphasized how this common language helps in communicating policy updates or changes, linking them back to employee feedback. "We always start those messages with 'we heard from you in the pulse,'" she said, demonstrating the organization's commitment to listening and responding to employee feedback.

Knighten expanded on the communication strategies employed to engage employees. She mentioned the use of a dedicated URL for the survey, leveraging the organization's intranet, and the use of a company app to disseminate information. Additionally, Knighten discussed their approach to engaging employees who may not have regular access to email. "We run a marketing materials campaign, which includes the direct website address and a QR code," she explained, ensuring easy access to the survey for all employees.

Motherwell pointed to the value of leadership engagement and the use of HR roadshows. She discussed how Coca-Cola Consolidated leverages its HR team to spread awareness and drive engagement for the survey. "We hosted a three-hour seminar at many of our locations," she stated, pointing out the effectiveness of these seminars in reminding leaders to engage with their teams about the survey.

The Action Planning Process

Jenni Knighten elaborated on the specifics of their action planning process. She highlighted the organization’s adherence to the 1-2-3 approach recommended by Perceptyx, focusing on choosing impactful drivers of engagement. "We've been able to steadily increase our overall engagement score," Knighten said, attributing this success to focusing on the right drivers and publishing an organization-wide action plan swiftly after survey closure. She emphasized the concerted effort in communicating these plans to all levels of leadership, ensuring that everyone is aligned and aware of the organization's commitment to its employees.

Motherwell further elaborated on the role of senior leadership in the action planning process. She discussed the importance of relating employee engagement to business outcomes and ROI. "We relate it back to a business case," she said, highlighting the connection between engaged employees and improved performance and retention. Motherwell also shared how they use resources like Perceptyx to present to their C-suite and board, demonstrating the seriousness with which they take employee feedback.

Brittany Head praised Coca-Cola Consolidated's approach to integrating employee feedback into the organization's DNA. "It really is in who you are as an organization," she said, emphasizing the commitment of Coca-Cola Consolidated's senior leadership to continually improving the teammate experience. Head noted the importance of mapping survey actions into the organization's guiding principles, ensuring that the feedback mechanism is a core part of their identity and operations.

A Truly Tailored Approach

During the Q&A with attendees, Knighten provided further insight into their tailored approach for reaching every employee, regardless of their work setting. "For anyone, we have an email for, we are leveraging that and where we talked about that communication campaign, we have banners, vinyl, three by five banners at all locations," she stated. She elaborated on the use of varied communication tools, including physical posters and digital screens, to ensure that the survey was accessible to all, including those without regular email access.

Motherwell emphasized the significance of involving front-line managers in driving survey participation: "We really rely on our frontline managers as well and our supervisors." She detailed how Coca-Cola Consolidated distributes iPads to office staff to assist employees in taking the survey and how leaders are encouraged to incorporate survey participation reminders into routine meetings and safety briefings.

Both speakers underscored the importance of making the survey process not just accessible but also meaningful to employees. Knighten stressed the need for the survey to resonate with employees across various roles, ensuring that it is more than a mere formality. "It's always exciting for us to produce and publish that ‘company wins’ sheet," she remarked, highlighting how showcasing tangible changes resulting from survey feedback bolsters employee confidence in the process.

To dive deeper into Coca-Cola Consolidated's action planning approach, watch the full on-demand webinar.

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