Listening, Responding to Employee Concerns Boosts Nestlé Purina to Top of Glassdoor List

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By Caryn Freeman

Dec. 9 — The value that Nestlé Purina Petcare puts on candid employee feedback is a major reason it was among this year's Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award winners, Steve Degnan, chief human resources officer at the St. Louis-based subsidiary of Nestlé, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 9.

“There's no recrimination,” he said. “When we see a comment that might indicate a problem, we find out what happened and solve the problem. That's the circle of information you need to keep things healthy. You always need a pulse check internally.”

Employee Opinions Spur Awards

Employees feeling a connection to the employer's mission and values, respect and appreciation for their colleagues, and a clear sense for where the company is headed are all common themes among this year's Glassdoor award winners, Robert Hohman, Glassdoor CEO and co-founder, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 9. Glassdoor is a jobs website that features employee reviews of employers.

For winning companies, Hohman said, it starts at the top with communication, a clear vision for what the organization is trying to achieve and bringing in the right people to reach those objectives.

“The best investment is in communication. Anything you read on Glassdoor about your company should not be a surprise; it should instead underscore the areas where your company excels and any areas that could be improved,” he said.

The Glassdoor annual award stems from employees' opinions on why they work for their employers. Employees are asked to rate how satisfied they are with their company; how they feel their CEO is leading the company; and how they feel about career opportunities, compensation, benefits, culture, values and work-life balance.

Leadership Reads Employee Reviews

Nestlé Purina ranked third among large employers on this year's Glassdoor list. Degnan asserted that company leadership drives a culture where employees feel respected and appreciated.

“I would describe [our culture] as kind, courteous, fun, humorous, but with a really fierce competitive streak,” he said. “Our leaders display some pretty enlightened behaviors in terms of treating the associates with respect.”

Degnan said that the company tracks employee comments on Glassdoor and has human resources respond to any comments that raise concerns.

“We're monitoring these comments all the time,” he said. “Our monthly reports to the leadership team include a full extract of the latest Glassdoor reviews. To me that's an instantaneous pulse survey of the whole company; it's a great thing to share with leadership.”

Work-Life Balance a Common Concern

Degnan said comments that resonate most with leaders are those on work-life balance. “We're hearing it, we're taking it seriously,” he said.

To address work-life concerns, Degnan said, a company-wide media campaign was launched featuring videos with 20-30 leaders who weighed in—both acknowledging the problem and suggesting some ways to deal with it. He said teaching work-life balance techniques to managers is part of the company's leadership development plan.

“Our monthly reports to the leadership team include a full extract of the latest Glassdoor reviews,” Nestlé Purina Petcare Chief Human Resources Officer Steve Degnan said. “To me that's an instantaneous pulse survey of the whole company; it's a great thing to share with leadership.”

“We have a lot of activities to coach our leaders and associates on how to better manage their time at work,” Degnan said. “We're really cognizant of it and want to use that as a competitive advantage in order to attract the best talent. I think that it is a big issue for people in managing their careers and those who might consider working for us.”

Degnan said the company surveyed employees after the media campaign and found that 40 percent said they saw “a definite change.”

“I was thrilled to see that number of associates say they were starting to see a change, because we're at the front end of it,” he said. “Forty percent said yes, their department head had addressed the issue with them and was beginning to take some steps to deal with it. An even larger percentage said that they personally started to work on the issue themselves and were taking more control.”

Examining Unused Leave

According to Degnan, Nestlé Purina also measures unused vacation, which is a key metric in reports circulated among company leaders. He explained that if there's a backlog of unused time off, “we start to pay a lot of attention to it.”

“We're monitoring it closely as a leadership team. The CEO is on this. He takes it seriously and therefore the leadership team does too. We take pride in our culture, so anything that could erode this long legacy and heritage that we've got becomes alarming to us,” Degnan said.

Offering Opportunities to Advance

Degnan also said Nestlé Purina works to ensure employees are aware of opportunities for advancement and that employees are coached on how to excel at the company.

He explained that every year, in concert with their supervisor and during the performance review process, employees design a development plan and explore what they'd like to learn and how they'd like to move forward in their careers.

“We've got a really good process and an evolving set of tools available online in our career development center where employees can access information, testimonials, videos and documents about a position or department in the company they might be interested in to help them discern what they'd like to do and where they'd like to go,” Degnan said.

Leadership is involved in talent development, he noted. Once a year, Degnan said, executives spend one to three days talking to large groups of employees about where they'd like to go in the company and how they can get there.

“I always come back to leadership behaviors on these things,” he said. “The most important thing is how people think, talk, work and act and how they behave towards each other. I think that's the secret of this place.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Caryn Freeman in Washington at cfreeman@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com

For more information on this year's Glassdoor winners, go to http://www.glassdoor.com/Best-Places-to-Work-LST_KQ0,19.htm.