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People promise

Keeping your people promise is more than paying lip service to on-boarding employees and the outside world. It’s about ingraining a values-based work culture that is embedded in the organisation and consistently communicated to people on all levels – regardless of location or grade. The alternative is a bruising brand exercise to be avoided at all costs.

One of the early champions of a values-centric people strategy is, surprisingly, Cadbury. Loved by the nation and adored by millions globally, this much-loved British brand has taken a turn in recent years. The fall from people pioneer has resulted in a backlash of dwindling sales, leaked reports and a tarnished brand that has seen better days. So, how has it come to this?…..

The history

The company’s ‘spiritual home’, Bournville, was established in 1879 by the Cadbury family1. It was built upon their Quaker values that included peace, community, equality and virtue2. An early adopter of employee advocacy, Cadbury believed a healthier, happier and educated workforce was a more productive one3. The company enhanced their peoples’ well-being by developing 16 houses and over time further homes, a school, and a hospital4.

The issue

The recent expose on Channel Four’s Dispatches revealed a very different side to the brand post Kraft takeover. Reports of employees allegedly under increasing pressure to perform, broken promises made over redundancies, dodgy FairTrade claims, and manufacturing issues are just some of the issues raised.

In 2014, the company circulated a document to its Bournville employees titled, ‘High Performing Bournville, is this for me?’5. It allegedly highlights “If we don’t change, we will…see a potential decline of local employment opportunities for future generations i.e. your family and friends” and “volume could possibly go to the other sites within the Mondelez Chocolate category”6.

Change management plans appeared to be bulldozing in, without giving much thought to the emotional ties within its well-established infrastructure. Just like a well-oiled machine, it takes insight and a tailored approach to influence behaviour – regardless of who is wrong or who is right.

The point of a promise

Just like the founding Cadbury family, the brand today firmly believes in ‘helping others to help themselves’7. As a people promise, it should no doubt be interwoven into every touchpoint an employee interacts with; but therein lies the problem.

Certainly the revelations signify it has much to learn in terms of connecting what a business needs to achieve and why an employee would be motivated to help achieve it.

To champion a people promise you need to embrace its values throughout the employee lifecycle. Inspiring people with your vision and motivating wholehearted participation. Unfortunately, it sounds like Cadbury has far to go.

  1. Cadbury World
  2. The Dark Side of Cadbury Chocolates, Chocolate Class
  3. Secrets of Cadbury: has Britain’s beloved chocolate maker lost its magic?, The Telegragh
  4. Cadbury World
  5. Secrets of Cadbury: has Britain’s beloved chocolate maker lost its magic?, The Telegraph
  6. Secrets of Cadbury: has Britain’s beloved chocolate maker lost its magic?, The Telegraph
  7. Cadbury.co.uk

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