Paradigm shift: How companies are engaging employees through purpose

Experts from Allstate, Molson Coors and General Mills share their thoughts on returning to the office and emphasizing purpose throughout their brands.

L-R: General Mills' Jano Cabrera, Molson Coors' Adam Collins Allstate's Kristine Stelzer, PRWeek's Frank Washkuch.

CHICAGO: Executives from Allstate, Molson Coors and General Mills shared at the PRDecoded conference just how quickly they switched up their internal comms strategies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the return to the office. 

Allstate and General Mills have given employees the choice to work remotely and come into the office when they want to, while Molson Coors has staffers back in the office three days a week.

At the event in Chicago on Tuesday, panelist Kristine Stelzer, Allstate’s director of corporate brand, said that her company made its decision after discovering that employees liked the flexibility of working from home. Its comms team works to make sure everyone feels like they are included, even if they are working remotely.

“We make sure if we do have large forums, we always have a key exec that is remote,” said Stelzer. 

Panelist Jano Cabrera, chief communications officer at General Mills, said that his comms team’s job is now similar to executive producers running a reality TV show. 

“We are having to think that way, we are now engaging through screens,” said Cabrera. “We have to surprise and delight to keep people watching the screen.”

He added that the company also restructured its comms team during the pandemic, elevating internal comms significantly. 

“Internal comms was often seen as the redheaded stepchild for comms,” said Cabrera. “We restructured our function to better support internal comms across the board.”

Panelists also spoke about the importance of building a framework that brings together C-suite functions including marketing, finance, human resources, diversity, equity and inclusion and sustainability to produce long-term meaningful impact.

“It makes sense that employees are increasingly asking for companies to speak out on a number of issues,” said Cabrera. “If you don't have a framework today on how you speak out, you need it.”

Having a framework and a purpose allows a company to better communicate with employees and about the good a company does.

Stelzer said a key is not just about what a company communicates, but how its business decisions are made and what actions it will take. 

“We know our purpose, and we have to walk the walk,” she said. 

Allstate has criteria it follows when approaching any issue, such as asking whether it will help the company better serve customers; if it has expertise on the issue; and can Allstate effect change on the issue and what are the risks and rewards. 

“We are not always going to please everybody,” said Stelzer. 

She acknowledged that an employee left Allstate because it did not take a stand publicly on anti-LGBTQ legislation. 

Panelist Adam Collins, chief communications and corporate affairs officer for Molson Coors, advised that the words on a page about the purpose of an organization are not as important as the company’s action. 

When his company removed plastic rings from its six-packs, it did so first with Coors Light, one of its namesake brands, he said, noting how the company wanted to walk the walk on purpose. 

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