Podcast

Lauren Stiebing 06 December 2021

I&D as a Philosophy, Not a Strategy with Leendert den Hollander

Inclusion and diversity, two topics in the business world that often get discussed about, but lack noticeable outcomes for the companies. How to address them without jeopardising performance?

In this video, Leendert den Hollander, the current Vice President & General Manager Northern Europe at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, shares with us how they tackled and managed I&D, addressing them as a philosophy, and not a strategy.

Discover how a multinational company as Coca-Cola put the I before the D to allocate inclusion and diversity values across all functions and levels in their organization.

LAUREN:

Welcome, Leendert.

LEENDERT:

– Thank you.

LAUREN:

– Yeah, I’m very glad that you’re here today, and we’re going to be discussing inclusion and diversity, which I feel that inclusion and diversity is definitely a trending topic, and on the agenda of most large, multinational companies. But sometimes it feels a little impersonal, and I’m glad that you’re here today, to find out from your side, about your specific I and D philosophy, and how did it develop for you?

LEENDERT:

– Good. Well, hello. And thank you for the opportunity. Indeed, a big topic. And by no means I’m gonna pretend that we know it all, far from it. But maybe let me start by just talking a bit of how it did develop over the years, to your question. The starting point for us was we were running a very successful women’s network, which was very popular, it was very well attended, but after about five years, we really wanted to assess what was working, and what wasn’t working. So the key question really was, did we move the needle? And we talk a lot about did we move the needle, and do we move the needle? But I think our key learning at that point was that diversity can’t thrive without an inclusive culture. And similarly, you can say you’re aren’t inclusive unless you have diversity. So the changes that we made, we really needed to make a real commitment to an inclusive culture. And that was across all levels, across functions and locations. So in simple terms, what we did, we put the I before the D, and that was a really important step. And then obviously when it comes to inclusion, there’s enough proof in the world that more inclusive companies perform better, or that more diverse teams develop stronger results. But what we found pretty early on in the process, that it was really important to define how it feels to work in our company on a day to day basis. And thereby defining what we wanted from an inclusive culture, and how that would manifest itself on a day-to-day basis indeed. So what we did, we brought a group together for about 100 people, and then we defined a simple mantra, which is all around, be yourself, be valued, and belong. And the whole notion there is that everyone can be themselves, to the level they’re comfortable with, obviously, feel valued for what they bring, and have a strong sense of belonging with our brands, the company, and clearly, our people. And importantly, and you made that point earlier, it’s not a strategy. There’s a strategy you can agree and disagree with. For us, it’s really a philosophy. It’s the way we do things. And therefore, no one can opt out. And I think that’s a really important point. And ever since we made that change, and we defined that philosophy, we are working to bring this philosophy to life, and really in everything we do. And one of the things that I would mention, something that we found really powerful, is what we call the ambassador network. We have more than 100 people from right across the business, across countries, really to be the catalyst, to embed that philosophy, around be yourself, be valued, and belong, and pushing us to do more, and do it quicker, and more skilled. So I would call it a real movement, and they would call it making I and D mainstream. And I truly believe that’s the only way to make progress, is to make it everyone’s priority, and embed it in a philosophy, and then create its movement. But as I said at the very beginning, there’s lots of good things that are happening, we acknowledge that there’s way more to be done.

LAUREN:

– Yeah, and how does that philosophy then connect with Coca-Cola Europacific Partners’ strategy?

LEENDERT:

– I think it’s very much integrated in our strategy. And if you look at our strategy in simple terms, it’s centered around three things, great people, great service, and great beverages. And as part of that great people element, the great people part, we have explicitly called out that we wanna create a safe, open, inclusive and diverse workplace. So you could argue that’s only step one, right? To have it integrated in the strategy. But then you need to drive the accountability. And as an example, part of my annual objective is what initiatives I take to make CCP a more inclusive and more diverse place to work. And the same applies to my team, and the teams that I work with. And I think that drives accountability. So they can have it embedded in the strategy. You have the accountability. But then you need still need to turn it into action. And perhaps I can give a few examples on how we tried to turn it into action, from accountability into action. The first thing I would say is we’ve established what we call catalyst groups across the company, to drive progress in five areas of diversity that we focus on. There’s more, but these are the ones we’ve focused on. They are cultural heritage, and multi-generation. Now we need to get all five, right? Disability, gender and LGBT+. And all of these catalyst groups have representation across all countries, all functions and levels, and importantly, also have an executive team sponsor. I’m the executive sponsor on gender, and I’m working with that the catalyst group to see how we can truly move the needle on gender balance and equality. So that’s one way to just put it into action. The other thing is, in our leadership meetings, we always have a people section. And most likely we should always start with a people section. And in this section, we really talk a lot about the progress that we make on I and D, what’s working, what’s not, what interventions we can make. And as an example, only from this week, I had a conversation with one of the countries on further steps that we can take to get to more diverse hiring. So, starts with embedding it in strategy, finding the accountability, and get measured on it, and then turn it into action.

LAUREN:

– And what do you do, or how do you address individuals that you see when they’re not aligned with the I and D philosophy?

LEENDERT:

– Yeah. Yeah, I think the key thing for us is to communicate about the philosophy, and the intention behind it. And I think when doing that, you need to acknowledge that not everyone starts from the same page, and that’s okay. And it’s also important to establish that it’s not a zero sum game. So, when we talk about it and communicate about it, I also find it sometimes quite powerful to talk about the opposite of our philosophy. What if we would have an environment where people cannot be themselves? Where they’re not valued for what they do, and have no sense of belonging? And that really hits home, because no one really wants to work in an environment like that. And actually, what we’re seeing is a lot of buy-in to our philosophy. I think where we see the biggest opportunity is how we make this philosophy come to life. And what we typically we hear from our people is two things. First and foremost, a challenge to go faster, and bolder. And that’s great, because we like that. But also a request for what I would call tools and tips on how to make it part of the daily working. And a few things that we’ve come across, and maybe you’ll allow me to just share a few of the learnings that we had on really making it to life day-to-day. I think what we’ve learned, first and foremost, is make I and D part of the conversation, and make it very practical. I and D can be very conceptual, and we felt that if you make it very tangible, make it very practical, then it starts to hit home. And for instance, we ask ourselves three simple questions frequently. Number one is, does my team feel more inclusive this week than maybe the week before? What was the last time that a team member felt excluded? And do we have a balanced and diverse candidate list for every vacancy in the team? And those are just simple three questions that you can ask every day of the week, and really have that conversation with the team. So we really expect that that conversation is being held in team meetings, and in management meetings as well. The second thing I would say is create an environment where people can say what’s really on their mind. As I mentioned, not everyone is on the same page, and we just wanna make sure that at some point, everyone will be on the same page. But that needs conversation, and it also needs kind of an environment where people feel they can say what’s on their mind. Good, positive, or negative. And that what we call the little voice. And the little voice means you can basically say anything what’s on your mind. And really we ask people specifically, what does your little voice say? And it’s important to just stimulate the conversation, and also to just challenge ourselves a bit more on maybe the things that have not been said so far. And then the last thing I would say is that the learning together as a team is really important. We, at some point, the leadership team in the UK, we did a 24 hour marital on I and D, learning together on many aspects of inclusion. And it was very insightful, and especially to do it together. And one of the things that I appreciate, coming from that session, more at an individual level, is that we also apply a reverse mentoring, to gain more insights from across the business, at least helps me a lot. So maybe just some thoughts on how we really say, okay, we acknowledge that not everyone’s on the same page, it’s a philosophy, so we want people to opt in and not opt out, but that’s clearly a kind of an environment that we need to create for people to just come on board.

LAUREN:

– How are you guys measuring that? Is it through surveys, through the organization? Or how do you go about looking at, let’s say the improvement, as you go?

LEENDERT:

– Yeah, I think it’s really important that you measure. And measuring progress is crucial. There’s various ways to do it. I have to say though, that for us, our starting point is a real belief that effectively embedding our I and D philosophy around this be yourself, be valued and belong, will indeed lead to more engagement, and a better place to work. And ultimately, that’s what will drive the business results. So I think it’s important to start from that belief. But then to your point, you can measure it in various ways. And some are more qualitative, some are more quantitative. I would call out two things. One is around our engagement survey, which we do on a regular basis. We tend to call it the pulse survey, because it’s really a pulse of how people feel in your organization. And we really use that as a springboard or a platform to just say what’s working and what’s not, but also to see what we can learn from other parts of the world, or what we can learn from other teams and other functions, and all kind of the variances that we see within. And that’s important, because overall, you would wanna create an environment where people are more engaged. But to make it more specifically on inclusion and diversity, we also do a survey around I and D. There’s actually one going out not too far from now. To just try specifically on I and D, get the insights on what people feel is working, what’s not working, where are we making the progress, where are we not making the progress at all. And if I go on the base of the engagement pulse surveys that we do, we got a lot of qualitative comments. So it really gives you an in depth insight into what works and what doesn’t work. And again, we use that as a platform to make it better. That’s on the surveys you can do, and there’s also the more specific targets that we have. We have for instance, targets on gender balance. And we measure that, and on a quarterly basis, we sit together and say, okay, this was the target that we’ve set for the year, how are we tracking against that? And what are maybe some of the barriers, or maybe what are some of the things that we need to do better in order for us to get to that target? So I think it’s crucially important to measure the progress, but it starts from a belief that indeed, a philosophy on I and D will lead to more engaged colleagues, that really enjoy working in our workplace, and that will drive the results.

LAUREN:

– Well, thanks for sharing that. And each company is at a different level, let’s say, in their journey. And some of them may just be beginning. So all of this can feel very overwhelming when you compare your beginning stages with a company such as yours, who has been working on this for many years. So I wanted to ask you, where would you suggest to start, and maybe let’s say the top two or three things that someone could do, let’s say, that that has been put in the position to really kick off the I and D strategy for their organization?

LEENDERT:

– Yeah, I think one of the most powerful things that we did, I think at the very beginning, is that if you talk about inclusion, and I mentioned what’s the opposite of inclusion, and the opposite is really exclusion. So we did a video that was actually inspired by another company. We did a video where we asked colleagues to share what was the last time they felt excluded in the company. And lots and lots of people participated. And I still remember the day that we played that video. It hit home, in a good way. And that was a really good starting point to really drive the urgency of the things that we can do better, and the progress that we wanna make. So I think then you have to create the collective motivation to make progress. And once you have that, keep it very simple. As I mentioned, for us, it really makes a difference that we turn it into a philosophy, that is pretty simple to grasp, and actually can be very actionable, if you make it part of your day-to-day working. I think what has helped us in making the progress, is also to hire someone externally, who is there to challenge us. And challenge us on the things that we were doing, on the things that we were not doing, or maybe the things that we were not talking about, and really holding up a mirror, and really challenging us on the progress that we were making. And I think sometimes you need that external catalyst as well. And I think another perspective I think from external, is many companies are dealing with this. No one company has all the truth. No one company knows it all. And we have really learned that actually connecting with other companies that are on a similar journey, and really wanna make the progress, is very, very helpful. Because you will always find an idea that you haven’t thought of, that you might be able to implement. So we actually find that connecting with companies within our industry, or outside of our industry, can be very, very helpful also in just inspiring new ideas that we can embed.

LAUREN:

– Sure. Well, Leendert, thank you so much for all of these insights, and for sharing your philosophy today.

LEENDERT:

– You’re more than welcome, thank you.