Future Ready with Sam Thomas-Berry

LS International

One of the main goals of every company – and probably the biggest one – is to be competitive and achieve growth year after year. To do that, companies are putting extra effort into creating efficient growth strategies that will prepare the company for whatever comes in the future.

To discuss that, we have invited Sam Thomas-Berry, Vice President European Human Resources at the Kellogg Company, who will explain the journey which Kellogg’s began some months ago in order to ensure they are future-ready as a company. Sam describes herself as an authentic and real leader. She is hardworking and tackles issues head-on however difficult they may be.


Topics covered

-Concept of “future-ready”

-How to plan growth for a company

-Key measurables for a company’s growth

-Ways of working in a company to be future-ready

-Why embark in a process to ensure a company is future-ready?

Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the career success podcast. Sam Thomas Berry and I recorded this podcast before Covid 19 was a reality. I hope you and your families are safe and well at home and hopefully this podcast will provide you with some interesting moments of reflection on some of the improvements you can make in your organization either virtually or once we are back together in the office again. Keep safe and stay positive.

Today we will be discussing the journey which Kellogg’s began some months ago in order to ensure they are future ready as a company. Sam Thomas Berry, Vice President European HR at the Kellogg Company will walk us through how they reshaped their business in line with their deploy for growth strategy and how they enabled that growth.

Sam describes herself as an authentic and real leader. She is hard working and tackles issues head on however difficult they may be, welcome Sam.

Sam: Hi, Lauren!

Lauren: Thank you for joining us today and we’re going to discuss about future ready. So, it would be great if you could explain to our listeners what is future ready.

Sam: So, future ready, for us in Kellogg’s, was an opportunity to really think about our organization. So, last year we embark on really organizing our European business and ways of working. And fundamentally this was really to set us up for success, for the future, so that we could really drive growth across the region.

Lauren: Ok, and how did you organize such an undertaking?

Sam: It was a big project as you can imagine. What we did from the outset was kind of clearly define what our vision was for the future, so how did this fit with deploy for growth strategy. So being clear on the angle and then mobilizing a small team initially to work through what are the critical enablers – and that was really something that was the step changer for us – rather than organizing ourselves to just think about re-organization and box some wires. It was “what are the fundamental critical enablers to success?”. And that really became our principles.

So, a couple of examples of those enablers were making sure that we retained the very best talent, and also made some intentional choices on talent for the future. We also believed passionately that process and ways of working were critical to success, as well as culture, and really treating this as a change project. So, we took everyone with us, rather than this being a reorganization that was kind of handed to our teams. That really never is the most effective way.

Lauren: Were there some key measurables that you had defined that you’re working towards now?

Sam: Yes, I think some of the key measurables were we wanted to focus on talent. So, one of the big call outs was how do we drive our diversity agenda. So, for us gender 50-50 by 20-25 is a pledge that we had made both internally and externally. So making some intentional choices on female representation in leadership roles was a big one, and I’m delighted to say that we increased from 39% to 45% female senior leaders, following on from our future ready reorganization.

Lauren: That’s great!

Sam: Which is great, I’m delighted to share that, you know, across the organization. From a recruitment point of view, as well, it’s really important for us to have the right talent in the right roles. And it was a big undertaking, Lauren. So we had 142 roles across the full commercial spectrum, and we wanted to accelerate great external talent into these new capabilities that we knew we needed for the future.

Lauren: And were there specific capabilities that you defined that were new capabilities?

Sam: Yes, so fundamentally it was looking ahead thinking what are the new channels and platforms? So, e-commerce, digital… you know, two big examples or two key examples of what we knew that we needed to develop the most of capabilities in those areas to drive the growth.

Lauren: Ok. And what exactly Have you been doing in terms of culture and ways of working?

Sam: Culture and ways of working, another big priority for us in the region. And starting from day one we wanted to create it something that people would really understand and feel passionate about. So, our culture, you know, over umbrella shall I say, is let’s make it happen and when we talk “making happen” there are three main behaviors. That’s about deliver results, it’s about empowering other than being bald, and really bring that to life through the culture of the organization. So, it’s a language that’s already starting to stick I would say.

Now, culture and cultural change is not something that happens overnight but over the course of the last 18 months we have really invested heavily in culture and there’s so much passion and commitment for people to just cope through and drive the business forward. And that’s really being enabled by us having an organization design that’s much less complex. One that encourages faster decision making and collaborative working versus where we were previously operating in silent.

Lauren: And so I know that you are on the journey now. So what comes next?

Sam: So what comes next is really embedding the changes. So process an ways of working are really important to this so switching the organization was really a big milestone for us and we did that in September of last year. But now embedding, making sure that we have a mindset of continuous improvement. So if processes are not exactly where we need them to be or enabling us to drive the business forward, then building in that philosophy around continuous improvement and governance to embed the organization. And then of course next for us will be how do we sustain for that. So making sure that, you know, everyone is absolutely focused on the right things that our strategy and goals right through individuals PDT’s are all aligned and we’re all focused on delivering great things together; enabled by this culture of making it happen.

Lauren: What made this new journey start? You know, the future ready and making all of this happen. What was the initiating factor or why to make this change?

Sam: Yes, so why make the change? For as it was taking a step back and realizing that there were some things that were getting in the way. And, interestingly, a lot of that came from feedback from our colleagues so through global opinion surveys, through temperature checks, etc. You know, people were really open with sharing “we could be even better if we weren’t as complex, we didn’t have to invest a lot of time into aligning before moving into the decision making”. And also, the speed of pace in the external environment, you know, we need to anticipate and act to those changes very quickly. So all of this factor meant that we needed to think about where redesign most effectively, and hence why we embark on our journey to future ready, which has been a great success.

Lauren: Ok. Yeah, I think that’s great that you were able to gather the feedback from the employees and action that and do something about it. I’m sure it has been a great experience from an internal perspective to see that change.

Sam: Yeah it has. And I’m incredibly proud of the progress that we have made. As you would expect, there has been some tough times and, you know, a large number of our colleagues left the organization, as well as us recruiting new capabilities for the future. But I think, you know, the key for me was everyone clearly understood and believed in the reason for the change. And we ensured that everyone was treated with dignity and respect in line with our values. So for me, I’m incredibly proud when people leave in the organization, you know, say this is the right thing to do for the Kellogg Company and we support that.

Lauren: Well, Sam, thank you so much for sharing your input and giving us your feedback on the future ready plans for Kellogg’s. I appreciate you joining us today.

Sam: Thank you, I really appreciate the opportunity Lauren!