EXCLUSIVE: Diageo aligns internal and external branding to boost its EVP

Employee Benefits Live 2018: Multi-national beverage organisation Diageo focuses on aligning its internal and external branding, to help ensure that its image as an employer is linked directly with the factors that make it successful as a business.

In a leadership panel at Employee Benefits Live 2018, Else Russell, global talent engagement director at Diageo, discussed the question of how to overcome siloes to adopt a clear strategy for increasing employee attraction and retention.

Russell was joined on the panel by Kim Atherton, chief people officer at Ovo Energy, and Christoph Williams, senior manager for leadership, learning, talent and performance management at Sony Europe.

“We needed to devise a winning [employee value proposition (EVP)] internally, that would help us identify what it means to be a Diageo employee and why it was a great place to work,” explained Russell. “We could craft this into a really winning EVP that we could not only use internally, but that we could also take externally, that would help an audience understand why we were special. We came up with something that we thought was really phenomenal and that would resonate with the kinds of people we were wanting to attract.”

Working closely across various teams in the organisation to establish its EVP and create an aligned external brand, Diageo was able to break down its own internal siloes, Russell explained. This was done, in part, to keep up with the changing nature of the current and future workforce.

“Part of our attraction strategy is looking at new audiences of diverse talent, particularly gen z talent, recognising that they are different and the way they want to be engaged is different,” Russell reported.

Atherton continued this theme of the future of the employee experience by discussing some of the changes that have taken place in the world of work over recent years.

“The factors that made an organisation successful in the 20th century essentially can cause [an organisation] to fail in the 21st,” she noted. “One of those factors is hierarchy.”

Traditional hierarchical structures are no longer necessarily viable or fit for purpose, Atherton argued, as change is everywhere. Instead, organisations should rid themselves of these kinds of traditional siloes and hierarchies and become more agile.

This type of redesign has been a key priority for Ovo’s senior leaders and has informed the organisation’s move into a system of ‘tribes’. This consists of cross-function, project-based teams, with a decreased focus on directly linear management. This allows teams to use multiple avenues for management and move towards a more interconnected approach.

“We are starting to see the beginning of self-managed careers,” she observed. “Rigid workforces are going to become very outdated. There’s going to be a very large flexible and on-demand [workforce], with a very small core office. This whole idea of the gig economy being negative will be flipped.”

Williams followed this by discussing the idea that organisations should avoid over-formalising processes, which, when rigid and lacking agility, can slow an employer down.

“Yes, we need to attract employees and yes, we need to retain them, but one of the things we also need to do is optimise the performance of our employees,” he explained. “One of my concerns is that, due to the siloes within HR, we are actually weighing down and distracting employees from their core purpose.”

One of the key causes of this inefficiency is down to the self-service elements of HR, which draws employees away from the elements of their roles that they want to be doing.

Another issue Williams cited is the introduction of inefficient key performance indicators (KPIs) and a focus, for example, on statistics to measure performance. He used the example that an IT team might point to how many internal cases it had dealt with as a sign of success, but that a different result might be yielded if the employees the team dealt with were to be asked.

To overcome this, he suggested that organisations should map the relationships that exist internally and ensure that they are effective and well aligned, rather than relying on formalised processes, or data and statistics that might be manipulated.

“It’s about being agile, moving forwards,” Williams concluded. “The only thing we can predict for the future is that there’s going to be more change in ever-increasing ways.”