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How employee insights power Danone’s sustainable growth agenda

Employee Engagement |Talent
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By Yves Duhaldeborde | October 12, 2021

Danone sought to play a key role in the food revolution, here’s their success story.

The challenge


In keeping with its longstanding commitment to business success and social progress (Danone’s dual project), Danone sought to play a key role in the food revolution. Consequently, it embarked on the “One Planet. One Health” vision to transform its business model by focusing on local sourcing and sustainable food systems.

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Who are Danone?

Dedicated to bringing health through food to as many people as possible, Danone is a leading global food & beverage company. With over 100,000+ employees across 55+ countries serving 120 markets and 900 million people, Danone aims to inspire healthier and more sustainable eating and drinking practices in line with its “One Planet. One Health” vision.

In 2018, Danone expanded this frame of action by establishing a set of strategic goals for 2030 that were aligned with the UN’s sustainable development goals. Danone’s goals ranged from responsible consumption and production to climate action and advocating for decent working conditions and economic growth. Danone’s leaders quickly recognized that to unleash the innovation required to meet these ambitious goals, it was essential to entrust and empower all 100,000+ employees to play an active role in co-building Danone’s future.

Every year, employees are given a chance to share their convictions and propose their ideas through the One Planet. One Health frame of action. But to put employees at the center of this journey, Danone needed to rethink its employee experience. Danone executives regarded employee engagement as the engine that helps a company deliver in challenging times and keep its promise to consumers. As a result, they aimed to drive higher levels of engagement by better understanding the characteristics of a high-performance employee experience. In addition, they sought to develop the capabilities needed to effectively capture and analyze insights from a 100,000+ employee workforce.

Danone turned to Willis Towers Watson to help build a more robust employee engagement experience and improve its ability to harness innovative ideas from across the workforce, to progress on its sustainable development goals in an inclusive way.


The approach


Willis Towers Watson consultants helped Danone chart a path to engage and empower its employees to play a part in the food revolution. Based on insights from the Danone People Survey, Danone leaders were able to identify the factors that matter most in crafting an enhanced employee experience, and pinpoint the gaps between their global vision for the company and the action plans at the local level. In particular, employees needed to develop trust in leadership and have a better sense of their individual & collective impact.

With a renewed understanding of critical employee experience factors, and recognizing that employees go the extra mile if they believe in what they do, Danone executives decided to give employees the ability to co-own the company’s agenda and co-build the company’s future. To realize this ambition, Danone’s Culture & Engagement Team designed a new program – “One Person, One Voice, One Share” – which allowed employees to play a key role in shaping programs, on both a local and a global level, that would help Danone meet its 2030 goals. The yearly program is an innovative engagement and governance strategic routine, executed in four stages:

  1. 01

    Inform

    Employees participated in training and learning activities to better understand the company’s vision and 2030 Goals, and were empowered with proofpoints of how Danone had progressed over the course of the year. This is an essential step in preparing employees to be active contributors on local and global teams.

  1. 02

    Listen

    An employee-wide consultation using the Willis Towers Watson survey platform was conducted, enabling all employees to provide feedback, convictions, and ideas on how Danone could reach its 2030 Goals. In addition to being a feedback exercise, this survey helped the company gauge employee engagement in the journey. Danone believes that it is essential for everyone, from the frontline employees on the ground to the executives, to contribute to value creation in every local market.

  2. 03

    Impact

    Using the Willis Towers Watson analytics tool, groups of local employee volunteers work together in every site to analyze their results in a locally anchored process. They use the findings to fuel their local business plans and make recommendations for the global agenda. In this inclusive & transparent process, volunteers work with Leadership Teams to help integrate the survey insights and recommendations into Danone’s global strategy in a relevant way.

  3. 04

    Walk the talk

    Twice a year, the One Voice squad (made up of 42 One Voice volunteers from around the world) meet with the Engagement Committee (Board of Directors) and the Executive Committee to discuss employee insights. Through this ritual, they are entrusted to carry the voices of their peers to top management. During an annual event – Danone Day – employees across the globe get a closer look at the concrete business impacts of their collective insights.

This new people-powered approach to innovation and the accompanying governance model has positioned Danone to advance its sustainable development goals. To reinforce the notion of co-ownership in the company’s future, each employee was granted one free share in Danone along with the ability to participate in a global annual dividend-based incentive scheme.


The results


In the last edition of the ‘One Voice’ survey, more than 86,000 Danone employees participated, sharing their ideas and suggestions for advancing the food revolution. Danone’s “One Person, One Voice, One Share” program delivered many positive results on both global and local levels.

Over the years, employee insights have catalysed global impact across the company, including:

  • The acceleration of Danone’s B-Corp certification process, whereby the completion deadline was moved up to 2025 from 2030 (B-Corp certified companies must meet rigorous social and environmental performance standards).
  • A €2 billion investment in a climate initiative that will accelerate already robust plans.
  • The adoption of the French legal framework of "Entreprise à Mission” that allows Danone to create sustainable value for all stakeholders, not just for shareholders.

On a local level, employee convictions and ideas drove innovation in various areas, including:

  • The opening of a new research and innovation center in China to better meet the needs of this emerging market.
  • The creation of more purposeful “Manifesto” brands that champion causes, support communities by donating products to food banks and partner with local organizations to help the underprivileged.
  • The adjusting of ways of working, in particular in the face of COVID-19. Employees had been very vocal in highlighting the challenge of new ways of working – for example, working remotely. In response, Danone launched its “Stay Strong, Stay Safe” campaign that involves conducting bimonthly global pulse surveys asking all employees if they feel supported, what the company can do to provide better support and whether employees believe they are contributing to the mission of the company. The insights from the pulse survey are helping Danone to support its employees better and to find new ways of being more efficient.

Through its ground-breaking “One Person, One Voice, One Share” program, Danone upended commonly held notions of the contributions employees can make to advance a company’s business agenda by allowing employees to co-own that agenda. The program is so successful that the all-employee survey is now administered on an annual basis to ensure that employee insights continue to power innovation and propel Danone on its journey to its 2030 sustainable development goals.

Author

Senior Director – Talent and Rewards

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