The Gatehouse Blog

Creating employee ambassadors at Coca-Cola Enterprises

The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at www.internal-communication.com/joic

Neil Jenkins is Director of Internal and Digital Communications for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). Since 2013, he has played a leading role in developing and delivering CCE’s Ambassador programme – designed to help employees understand and articulate CCE’s commitment to sustainability and its role in society.

Corporate responsibility and sustainability (CRS) has been alive in Coca-Cola Enterprises for over a decade; this year we published our tenth annual CRS report. Over time, it has grown to be embedded in almost every business process. It is also a high engagement driver, typically one of the top three based on our employee survey.

In 2011 we published our first sustainability plan, to set challenging and measurable targets and  push ourselves further in areas such  as energy and water reduction, packaging and recycling, wellbeing and our work in the community. Every year we measure our progress, and we ask ourselves: “Are we doing enough? Can we do more to achieve our sustainability commitments?”

Over the years, we’ve rolled out  a number of initiatives to promote CRS to employees – including an annual week of activities and learning relating to our commitments. While they have valued this, they wanted more – and a focus that could be sustained throughout the year.

Building confidence

CCE’s Ambassador programme started in 2013, at the same time it was being introduced by CocaCola and its system of bottling companies across the world. We wanted to ensure employees under stood our sustainability goals  and commitments in detail – and in particular, ensure they felt confident to answer questions from  friends, family and customers about  our business and brands. When you say you work for Coca-Cola, you get lots of questions about the heritage of the company and our products and their ingredients.

Our Ambassador programme is designed to help maintain the high level of pride that people have to work for us and allow them to feel confident answering questions about our role in society and our sustainability commitments. It’s about equipping our employees with the knowledge to help them understand how the business operates and what we stand for, and the skills to deal with the questions that might come their way.

Our first step was to engage our leaders, using our annual leadership conference as the launch pad. We explained Ambassador in an engaging way, using videos and featuring the CEO and his executive leadership team to demonstrate their personal commit ment to the programme. Beyond the sustainability elements, we made it clear that being an Ambassador was also about being proud to drink our products and to share them with family and friends, support our customers by shopping in their stores or eating at their restaurants, and being active in the communities where our business operates.

Leadership buy-in is essential to the success of any new programme, and it gave us a solid start – they understood the goals of the programme and how they and their teams could support it and get involved. We’ve designed the Ambassador programme so the majority of content is shared with employees through regular channels – including our magazines, e-newsletters, intranet and internal social network.

This helped to build an understanding among employees about what it meant to be a Coca Cola Ambassador – whether they  work on a production line in our  plants, are on the road in a field  sales team or as a service technician, or based in an office.

But information has to go hand-inhand with involvement. We created a one-hour roadshow experience, bringing a pop-up area to offices and sites so employees could listen to key facts in a fun way, linking it to brand initiatives like the FIFA World Cup. These even ran through the night at our factories so shift workers didn’t miss out. We’ve also partnered with our learning and development team to design and deliver intensive training for more than 200 customer-facing employees – the key account managers who have the day-to-day relationship with major customers like Tesco, ASDA and Carrefour. We’re equipping them to have conversations about where our sustainability commitments have a natural fit with their customers’ own commitments, because it can drive competitive advantage for our business.

Achievements

It’s been a promising start. Feedback from the roadshows and training programmes has been strong, with almost every employee saying they feel more confident to answer questions about our business and brands. In our last internal communication survey, about 12 months after the launch of Ambassador, 70% of employees told us they were aware of and understood the programme. In September, our next employee engagement survey will be a measure of the programme’s impact on engagement at CCE.

As well as the impact on employee engagement, our Ambassador programme is also about trust. At a time when trust in big businesses is so low, it’s vital to build it from the inside out. If CCE’s 12,000 employees trust the company they work for, because it’s transparent about the way it does business and honest about where it can do more to support society, that radiates to the outside world – and one of the most trusted sources about a business is its people.

Just like our reputation for sustainability leadership, engagement and trust take time and effort to earn and maintain. This means our Ambassador programme is only really just beginning – and it’s why it’s here to stay.

BIOGRAPHY – NEIL JENKINS

Neil Jenkins joined Coca-Cola Enterprises in 2008 and is responsible for the company’s internal communications strategy, channels and content. Before joining CCE, he held senior internal communications roles at Vodafone and Siemens. Follow him on Twitter: @neil_jenkins.

Coca-Cola Enterprises manufactures, markets and distributes Coca-Cola products in Great Britain, France, Benelux, Norway and Sweden, employing 12,000 people. Find out more at www.cokecce.com.