Coca-Cola is one of the world’s best known companies. Since 1886, the drinks giant has been on a mission to “refresh the world and make a difference”, Caitlin Motley, Coca-Cola’s global director of talent and development delivery, tells UNLEASH.
She adds: “We refresh people in both body and spirit, refresh the planet and limit the footprint we leave behind…We truly stand behind our purpose, and we are passionate about it.”
But what do these mission statements mean for Coca-Cola’s 80,000 employees? For Motley, the key is the employer’s focus on inspiring and developing its workers.
“We want working at Coca-Cola to bring out the best of you, both professionally and personally. With opportunities to grow and advance all over the world, there’s really no limit to what our people can achieve,” states Motley.
“We recognize that our success as a business is deeply connected to the growth and development of our employees.”
L&D and technology at Coca-Cola
“We’re committed to being a learning organization that thrives in this dynamic environment”, but this required Coca-Cola to rethink and reimagine career development.
The work to create a more dynamic learning organization began in 2019 and was part of the drinks giant’s five-year plan. But “the realities of COVID-19 accelerated the need”, so Coca-Cola adjusted again in 2021.
Based on internal and external listening, Coca-Cola “reimagined” career development to ensure it is “more transparent, more flexible and more about meeting people where they are”.
The employer realized that previously employees didn’t have clear visibility over L&D opportunities, so it replaced its core learning management system with a new marketplace technology. Coca-Cola did not name the vendors it is working with, but, internally, the talent marketplace is called Thrive.
This tech change aimed to simplify “our employee-facing view of how career offerings fit together”.
Having a more flexible tech approach to L&D also helps Coca-Cola to “deliver effective learning experiences for all types of employees, regardless of whether they are working on a plant floor or sitting in a home office”.
To help further, Coca-Cola has invested in new mobile technology, including tablets, and has created ‘meeting in a box’ content formats that are designed for managers to do some quick training on the factory floor.
Creating a culture of learning
The drinks giant has also transformed its culture to focus on L&D. “Its definitely a journey. We’re committed to creating an environment where learning is not only encouraged, but also incentivized”, notes Motley.
Coca-Cola does this through badges. These not only showcase employee’s achievements internally, but they can also be used on LinkedIn to share their successes more widely.
According to Motley, “this has proven to be a highly successful approach, with 88% of employees who completed our inaugural learning experience sharing their accomplishments with their LinkedIn networks”.
The employer is also looking at unique incentives for specific geographies. For instance, in Latin America, the HR team offered 2023 World Cup tickets to incentivize participation in a new digital learning program – and it worked, more people engaged as a result.
Another part of creating a culture of learning is communication – in addition to technology, switching up communication strategies has been a core part of Coca-Cola’s simplification and reimagination of career development.
In addition to more clearly communicating the L&D offerings available, Coca-Cola has been “amplifying the stories of our employees’ learning journeys and the positive impact it has had on them”. By doing this, “we hope to inspire and motivate others to take their own learning journey”.
To date, Motley’s team at Coca-Cola has shared these stories on social media, the company’s intranet, in local town hall meetings and in email newsletters. Continuing to do this is a key focus for 2023 and beyond; “We’re all about being open and supporting, cheering people on, and being real with them”.
How to close skills gaps
It is crucial to note that Coca-Cola’s attitude towards L&D is not static – the switch of strategy during COVID-19 is an example of this, as is the employer’s view that “the world is constantly evolving – the roles and jobs employees do today will look different in the future”.
This is why Coca-Cola has established a global skills taxonomy, and created a skills dictionary to “create a collective understanding of skills” thereby increasing “transparency around what’s important for functional and cross-functional growth”.
It also means HR teams can “connect with employees with opportunities based on their current and desired skills”.
While employees are encouraged (and incentivized) to upskill in areas they are interested in, and are useful to their future careers, there are three “core capabilities that we want employees to learn and development”: digital fluency, agility, and change management.
To date, Coca-Cola has focused on digital fluency and agility, but 2023 is going to be the year the employer launches “learning experiences to help employees manage and lead change”.
A success story for Coca-Cola
UNLEASH was keen to find out how Coca-Cola’s new approach to L&D has helped it in the Great Resignation, especially as research shows a lack of internal mobility is a leading cause of sky-high global attrition rates.
“We’re really proud that our employees tend to stick around for a long time,” notes Motley. “Even in these times of big changes in the job market, we haven’t seen a big increase in attrition”.
There are a plethora of reasons for this, “but one thing I know for sure is that our focus on helping people grow and develop in their careers has made a positive difference”, she adds.
If you want to find out more about Coca-Cola’s complete reimagination of career development, you’re in luck. Motley will be delving deeper at UNLEASH America 2023, 26-27 April at Caesar’s Forum, Las Vegas.
Talking about the conference, Motley shares her excitement about “the opportunity to surround myself with like-minded individuals who are passionate about technology and innovation”.
“I always walk away feeling inspired and reinvigorated, with a renewed energy [and new ideas] to tackle the challenges we have internally”, she concludes.
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