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Podcast: Kettle Cuisine & the Recipe for Employee Engagement

Kettle Cuisine 1 Kettle Cuisine 2Kettle Cuisine was founded in the Boston area in 1986 and have their headquarters in Lynn, Massachusetts.  They make small batch, all natural soups from scratch for restaurants, food service operations and grocery retailers nationwide.  They employ about 275 employees, many of whom are immigrants to the United States.  I was introduced to their Sr. VP of Innovation and Process, Nick Murphy, at a local food pantry where Kettle had donated soup for the guests, in keeping with their mission of helping to address food insufficiency in the local community.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting their headquarters in Lynn, and meeting with Nick and his colleagues, Director of HR Ann Hargraves and HR Manager Julie Roix (pictured left to right in the photo above).  Kettle has prospered for 30 years by focusing on their culture and their employees. In the photo here that illustrates their value of “Honor each other” you see rows of wooden spoons on the wall.  Each one represents an employee, and is decorated by that employee.  A small, but personal touch to drive home the value of every team member.

They have a great story that powerfully illustrates the benefit of investing in your employees in order to build a great business.  I recorded our conversation, and you can listen in on the podcast link below to hear their story directly from them.  We discussed the following topics, among others:

  1. Kettle Cuisine founder Jerry Schafir placed a significant emphasis on culture from the start.  How are the values he established still going strong today?
  2. Ann Hargraves speaks about investing in the whole person in order to engage and retain your employees.
  3. Most of their employees are immigrants to the United States. Learn about the various programs Kettle has put in place to help them thrive at work (and outside of work and beyond Kettle).
  4. Although many of their jobs are entry level and hard, they have a number of employees who’ve been with Kettle for 15+ years. What is it about Kettle that encourages this kind of retention?
  5. What challenges are they facing as the business expands – and what are they doing to address these challenges?

Please click on the player below to hear our conversation.

Kronos CEO Aron Ain on Glassdoor Top 20

Aron Ain 18 on glassdoorAll of us at Kronos were delighted to learn today that our CEO, Aron Ain, has been named by Glassdoor as one of the top 20 CEOs in the US.  Among CEOs recognized in the U.S. at large companies, Aron has an impressive 96 percent approval rating based on anonymous and voluntary reviews from Kronos employees on Glassdoor throughout the past year.

Aron celebrated his 10th year as Kronos CEO in October of 2015. Since he became CEO in 2005, Kronos has grown from $518.7 million to $1.1 billion in annual revenue, has expanded its worldwide employee base from 2,900 to more than 4,800 Kronites, and employee engagement scores have risen sharply from low 60 percent in 2010 to more than 84 percent today, with more than 90 percent of Kronites saying they are proud to work for the company.  This combination of extraordinary business results and an employee friendly culture is tough to pull off.

It’s not a coincidence that Kronos  has earned a lot of recognition of best places to work-related award wins from around the world for Kronos, including its second consecutive America’s Best Employers ranking by Forbes, Kronos again being named a Top Place to Work by The Boston Globe, and most recently being listed as a Best Workplace in Canada by The Globe and Mail.  The culture here that creates engaged and happy employees starts from the top.  Aron not only says that talent is our most important asset, he makes people feel that way in every interaction he has with them.  Many Kronos employees can tell you stories of his expressions of appreciation for their work and for themselves as human beings.  Aron finishes most gatherings of Kronites by asking us to thank our families on his behalf.

If you’d like to get a better sense for the man himself, you can listen to this podcast interview with him that I did in April where we talk about the importance of culture and what CEO’s can do to create a culture that makes people want to come to work everyday.

And if Kronos sounds like the kind of place you’d like to work, check out our career site.  We can always use a few more talented Kronites.


Welcoming Our Newest Workforce Institute Board Members

I’m pleased to announce that The Workforce Institute  has added four new members to our board of advisors, including two renowned international workplace voices: Veronica Baz, director of the Centre of Research for Development (CIDAC) in Mexico; Natalie Bickford, group HR director of U.K.-based Merlin Entertainments; Dennis Miller, chief employment officer of Cal Poly Pomona Foundation; and Neil Reichenberg, director of the International Public Management Association for HR (IPMA-HR).  Each of these experts brings a unique perspective to our collective conversation.

Read on to learn why we’re so pleased to have these new voices on our board:

  • veronica bazVeronica Baz is the general director of the Centre of Research for Development (CIDAC), one of Mexico’s most prestigious thinks tanks, where she has developed new strategies to allow public policy proposals to have a greater impact on national decision-makers. Baz authored the bookMyths and Realities of Successful Enterprises in Mexico (2008) and co-authored The Power of Competitiveness (2005), as well as hundreds of articles in some the most important Mexican newspapers and magazines, such as Expansion and Reforma, where she currently has a reoccurring Op-Ed column. Baz is frequently interviewed by national and international media and is a recurring speaker on a wide variety of topics, particularly productivity, human capital, and social entrepreneurship. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the Technological Autonomous Institute of Mexico (ITAM) and an MBA degree from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
  • natalie bickfordNatalie Bickford is group HR director of Merlin Entertainments PLC, the largest European entertainments company running 110 visitor attractions in 23 countries across four continents, including brands such as LEGOLAND Theme Parks, Madame Tussauds, and Sea Life. Prior to Merlin, Bickford served as HR director of the U.K. and Ireland for Sodexo, transforming the company’s approach to diversity and equality. During her time at Sodexo, the company was recognized for its diversity agenda, and was ranked number one in 2010 by DiversityInc. In 2015, Bickford took on the role of SVP HR Global Corporate Services at Sodexo, responsible for an employee base of 160,000 across 67 countries, delivering quality of life services to many of the world’s most renowned global corporations. Before that, she was HR director for Sodexo On-Site Services Europe, with responsibility for 150,000 employees across 24 European markets. Bickford has won a number of awards for her commitment to diversity and inclusion, including Diversity Champion by the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion and the Working Mums Champion Award in 2012. She is the Chair of Women 1st, which promotes the role of women within the hospitality industry, Deputy Chair of People 1st, and also a member of the Prince’s Trust Women’s Leadership Group. Bickford graduated with degrees in French and International Relations from the University of Warwick in 1992, and early on developed a varied HR career with U.K.-based and international roles at Kingfisher PLC, Barclays PLC, and AstraZeneca PLC.

Dennis Miller LRAs the chief employment officer at Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, Dennis Miller is responsible for overseeing the organization’s HR function. The Foundation is an auxiliary organization of the California State University system, which provides higher education to more than 460,000 students annually – making it the largest higher education system in the country. In his role, which he has held for almost 10 years, Miller continues to evolve the company’s human capital management strategy, including talent development and acquisition, benefits, compensation, and employee engagement programs to help maximize the overall support provided to the university in an ever-changing environment. Miller has served as the chair of the HR Committee for the Auxiliary Organization Association (AOA), as well as several auxiliary committees, such as the Executive Committee for the AOA. Early in his HR career, Miller led the evolution of the HR function during a period of high growth in an IT outsourcing company, Systems Management Specialists (SMS).  Miller holds a master’s degree in HR management and development from Chapman University, is an active member of SHRM, and has earned certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources from HRCI.

  • Neil ReichenbergNeil Reichenberg has worked for IPMA-HR since 1980, initially as the director of government affairs and taking over as executive director in 1996. As the chief staff executive, Reichenberg is responsible for the overall management of IPMA-HR, the premier public sector human resource management association. Reichenberg speaks and writes frequently on human resource and employment issues, and is a sought out speaker around the world. He has presented papers at international conferences and United Nations meetings, and has testified before the United States Congress. Reichenberg is a graduate of the University of Maryland and New York Law School and has been admitted to the Bar in the District of Columbia and New York. Reichenberg is a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), which awarded him the designation of Certified Association Executive, and worked previously for a law firm specializing in labor and employment law.