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Redefining HR Podcast Ep93 Coca-Cola SVP & Global Chief People Officer, Lisa Chang

Redefining HR Podcast Ep93 Coca-Cola SVP & Global Chief People Officer, Lisa Chang

In this episode, I sit down with Coca-Cola SVP & Chief People Officer Lisa Chang. We discuss the complexity and scope of Coca-Cola’s business and operations, how they’ve adapted during the pandemic and what their plans are moving forward. In particular, it was interesting to hear Lisa discuss how HR remains nimble and adaptive within an organization that has been around as long as Coca-Cola has.

For Lisa, Coca-Cola provides an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives at a large scale. “I always wanted the opportunity to have impact at a global scale around people, initiatives and efforts,” Lisa says. “[There’s] no better place than Coca-Cola, where we're in over 200 countries, to be able to do that.”

Listen in to hear all about Lisa’s background, as well as her role in supporting and nurturing company culture, staying abreast of changes (whether that involves changes in society, tech or business) and remaining adaptive in HR.

Supporting and Nurturing Culture

As Lisa mentions, Coca-Cola is a massive organization that spans the globe. When we think about who constitutes their workforce, we’re thinking of people from hundreds of countries with a multitude of perspectives. Among those people, some are factory workers who are deemed essential to work on-site, others are office workers who are able to conduct their business remotely. And, of course, this means that swaths of their workforce have been going through different stages of the pandemic at specific points in time.

So how does Lisa think about Coca-Cola’s culture remaining adaptive in HR and making sure that everyone is taken care of? It starts with taking care of the basics. “With all of our employees around the world, we said, ‘Look, the most important thing is that you and your families are safe and healthy.’ And so we encourage people to look after themselves,” she says.

One action that they have taken includes extending sick pay so that people don’t “have to choose between personal health and their jobs.” Another involves the focus on transparency in company-wide communications. “We did more town halls than I think we've done kind of in the history of the company,” she says. “Checking in with people and giving them updates, not only on the business, but on the state of health around the world, and giving people permission really to take care of themselves. We just tried to open up the kind of empathy and sympathy envelope and say, ‘Look, be cognizant and mindful of what people are going through. We kind of all have to do it together.’”

Managing by Principle

For companies like Coca-Cola that are adaptive to modern needs, only for such changes to be expedited by the effects of the pandemic, it’s clear that there is a stark difference between traditional HR and the HR of today. Part of the shift involves moving from what has historically involved formulaic playbooks toward something much more flexible. Lisa talks about the types of innovation that she has seen and how she helps to adapt people and processes in her organization.

“We're moving from a kind of managing by policy, which HR is famous for, to managing by principle,” Lisa explains. “For example, one of the guiding principles for us is, we trust and believe in empowerment in our employees, but we also believe in communities, and we believe in working together across what we call a network.”

What does this mean in the modern era of hybrid work? For Lisa, she’s helping to push the culture of HR to reward employees for the work that they do, regardless of where they are located. This can take some effort in industries that have been around for well over a century, but Lisa and her team believe in that potential and are working to drive the mindset forward. “They can grow their careers, they can get promoted, they can accomplish great results by still managing their work in this dynamic, fluid way versus the old industrial model of, ‘I need to see your butt in that seat every single day.’”

Staying Abreast of Changes

One of the biggest challenges today for executives, particularly in the role of HR, involves how ever-changing external factors can impact business. What’s going on inside of organizations is informed by social change, including movements in social justice, the evolution of technology and adaptations in business culture. It’s a lot to keep up with, and staying abreast of changes is a skill that HR leaders must master. For HR, this often means keeping one eye on the trends and the other on their people.

One way to stay connected with what’s going on is expanding your network to gain insight from different perspectives. “Staying connected with my peers at other companies has been really an important part of my own career journey. I have found so much benefit from being connected with other CHROs,” Lisa says. “We can bounce ideas off each other and share things.”

Another way to keep up with what’s going on is through social media. “It does inform and shape culture, which filters into the workplace,” Lisa says. “I think one of the largest impacts on businesses today is the advocacy and the activism that's happening with employees — and all of that's happening through social platforms.” Staying on the pulse of what’s happening around them helps HR leaders be equipped to deal with change, remain adaptive and make everyone feel like they are part of a family that has their best interests in mind.

You can also listen/share the episode directly syndicated on any of these channels: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcast | Stitcher | TuneIn.

People in This Episode

Redefining HR is underwritten by our friends at Pyn, leaders in modern employee communications for the distributed workplace. A tremendous tool that’s definitely worth your time.