For more than three years, Nestlé USA has been in the midst of a seismic cultural transformation. The company set out to unlock the creativity of its employees and embrace risk taking—all at a rapid pace. The goal? To fuel innovation that resonates with consumers while igniting growth for the company.
These changes have begun to pay dividends. During the past year alone, Nestlé employees helped reshape how the company operates through innovations including a new talent marketplace and e-commerce solutions. “We needed to change how we work,” says Steve Presley, chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA. “And as part of that, we created these new platforms to unleash our collective intelligence and bring new ideas to bear faster.”
Presley’s vision was to shift Nestlé USA’s culture to focus more sharply on the consumer while also emphasizing creativity and innovation to deliver products that those consumers will love. To do that, Presley knew the company needed to prioritize speed, agility, and collaboration. That’s what drove the recent creation of Nestlé’s Talent Marketplace, which aims to tap into the unique experiences of the company’s 15,000-plus workforce to unlock career growth for employees while also driving value for the company. The program uses artificial intelligence to match employees’ skillsets and interests with projects that need help. The result? Employees build new skills, get new experiences, and lend fresh perspectives to project managers and businesses within Nestlé USA.
“Traditionally career development was kind of linear: learn skill A, move to job B,” Presley says. “But with Talent Marketplace, we can add value for both the employee and the business. This is a win-win approach.”
That commitment to its employees and a focus on empowering them to participate in the company’s success helped earn Nestlé USA a spot on Fast Company‘s annual list of the Best Workplaces for Innovators.
“INNOVATION FROM ANYWHERE”
The concept of Talent Marketplace was the brainchild of Kaitlyn Sullins, one of Nestlé’s senior diversity and inclusion specialists. She developed the idea through Nestlé’s Open Channel initiative, an internal crowdsourcing platform that allows any employee to contribute ideas to help solve problems, innovate products, or introduce better ways of doing things. Ideas are voted on by employees across the company and final ideas are developed and presented to Nestlé’s leadership team. The creators of winning ideas—say, gluten-free Stouffer’s mac-and-cheese or California Pizza Kitchen with chickpea crust—often are pulled from their current positions and given a team to run with the project.
“At Nestlé, we know that innovation can come from anywhere,” Presley says. “Open Channel taps into our employees as experts but also as consumers. They identify tensions or unmet needs in their everyday lives and bring forward ideas to meet those needs. But its role does not stop there. It is also an important tool to help embed innovative thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset across Nestlé USA.”
Last year, e-commerce growth doubled for Nestlé globally, and accounted for 40% of the company’s growth in the U.S. Presley says the agile response to the pandemic and the company’s resurgent progress speak to the success of the cultural change within the company.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
As Nestlé USA looks at the next chapter of its journey, the company has moved to a flexible work model, which gives employees more flexibility to decide where to work—in the office or at home—based on where they are most productive. The company also will be reimagining its office spaces and solidifying their role as hubs for creativity, collaboration, and culture.
Presley notes that this type of flexibility is key to attracting and retaining the talent that will play a crucial role in Nestlé USA’s ongoing success. “We attribute our business success to our people,” he says. “They rose to the occasion over the past year despite all of the uncertainty and obstacles, delivering results beyond our expectations. That’s why we took a hard look at what the future of work might look like at Nestlé USA and evolved our path forward.”