Kellogg: Building Cross-Cultural Bridges and Boosting Diversity
For the past three years, Viveca Fairbanks-Henderson, Senior Director, Energy Optimization & Start-up Management, has slowly shared her career aspirations with her mentor, Alistair Hirst, Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain. Their relationship began as part of the Kellogg Executive Cross-Cultural Mentoring Program (KECCMP), an initiative aimed at improving retention and further diversifying the company’s talent pipeline and just one of many programs instituted by Kellogg as part of its ongoing commitment to creating and sustaining an environment of inclusivity. Three years later, their relationship has taken on a life of its own, thanks to a steady cadence of monthly conversations. Fairbanks-Henderson says:
For the first year, I deliberately chose to focus our discussions on my work and results as table stakes to gain increasing levels of responsibility. Now in the third year of our mentoring relationship, my mentor has evolved to be a true advocate—an advocate who has stepped up at some of the most critical times in my career.
The mentoring program launched in 2014 and doubled in size within one year. Mentors in the KECCMP are senior executives, generally direct reports to the CEO, and mentees are top and emerging talent (typically director-level and above) who, without this program, would likely have little to no exposure to senior executives.
KECCMP boasts global participation and comprises at least 50% women, with a key goal to increase the diversity of the talent pipeline at senior levels. So far, the results are promising. KECCMP currently includes 43 mentoring pairs, with a 95% favorability rating from both mentors and mentees.
Since its inception in 2014, KECCMP has had a positive impact on participants and the organization. Through development, guidance, and dedication, five mentees (four women and one man, or 12% of participants) have received promotions to senior leadership roles. As an organization, the company knows that a more diverse workforce helps to better meet the needs of its ever-changing consumers. Hirst says:
As Kellogg Company leaders, we have a responsibility to demonstrate and encourage a culture that fosters inclusion, respect for ideas, and diversity of thought. Good business means understanding the diverse people we interact with, including our employees and our consumers. The Cross-Cultural Mentoring Program is an opportunity for mentors to help develop our bright and talented employees, positioning them for future success. My interactions with Viveca have allowed both of us to critically analyze situations with unique and fresh perspectives.
Program participants explicitly advocate that the most valuable aspect of the KECCMP is the cross-cultural learning and relationship-development component. And, much like Fairbanks-Henderson’s experience, many of these business relationships have blossomed into more personal connections. A number of mentors and mentees welcome one another into their homes, meet each other’s families, and develop stronger, long-lasting connections. According to Fairbanks-Henderson, the fact that these relationships are meant to be long-term helps to increase everyone’s comfort level and encourages open, honest dialogue:
Over time, we have developed a relationship seeded in trust and a mutual respect for what we each bring to the table. Our monthly meetings have allowed me to showcase my approach to tough business situations and get his feedback, which has challenged my thinking and strengthened my plans moving forward. While I’ve gained insights on business strategy and culture, at the same time, I have had the unique opportunity to provide him with feedback through a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ lens.
Kellogg Company is no stranger to placing a high value on diversity and inclusion. Building and implementing successful programs to help achieve its diversity and inclusion goals, Kellogg has been lauded as one of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity by DiversityInc for the past six years. Kellogg is firmly committed to inclusive practices that contribute to an environment where everyone is empowered to achieve their full potential. Ensuring diversity starts at the top, Kellogg’s Board of Directors is composed of five women and nine men, and its Global Leadership Team consists of seven women and 14 men.
Kellogg’s Executive Diversity and Inclusion Council (EDIC), chaired by CEO Steve Cahillane and composed of all function heads, provides strategic guidance for Kellogg’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, ensuring the focus filters down into each functional area. Such an environment allows initiatives like KECCMP to flourish and thrive.
W.K. Kellogg, Kellogg’s founder, was a pioneer in employing women in the workplace and reaching across cultural boundaries. The push for a more inclusive workforce is part of the company’s commitment to “living their founder’s values.” To this day, the driving force for positive change comes directly from Kellogg’s leadership. CEO Steve Cahillane puts it this way:
In recent years, Kellogg has strengthened its commitment to building and maintaining a diverse workforce and inclusive corporate culture. I believe such accountability begins at the very top of our organization and I am pleased to see leaders across Kellogg demonstrating their commitment to diversity and inclusion, allowing it to permeate our entire operation. It’s imperative that we continue to drive progress forward so we set an even higher bar, in our industry and overall. The KECCMP program shows promising results and is off to an incredible start. I anticipate seeing continued progress as the program evolves.
For Fairbanks-Henderson, the benefits of the program—to participants and the company as a whole—are crystal clear.
Being a part of the Cross-Cultural Mentoring Program has accelerated my ability to successfully navigate the Kellogg culture and make meaningful contributions to the business. It has also provided me the opportunity to cultivate an authentic relationship with one of our senior leaders. This program is a huge enabler to retain and grow diverse talent within the organization.
Building cross-cultural bridges of understanding. Cultivating champions to help accelerate women and people of color. Ensuring that leaders are role models of inclusive behavior. These are all outstanding efforts that make a real difference and establish Kellogg Company as a workplace where everyone can succeed and be inspired to achieve their full potential.