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Verity Gough

Sift Media

Deputy Editor

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Interview: Cath Bailey, European HR director, Kellogg’s


Kellogg'sCath Bailey has come a long way since she kicked off her HR career as a training manager for Barclays. She tells Verity Gough about her tips on nurturing talent and how she manages cultural change at Kellogg’s within her increasingly global remit.

Cultural considerations

Despite the prevailing economic conditions, Kellogg’s is proving that it’s not all doom and gloom in the world of business. Far from it. With a focus on expansion, Kellogg’s recently acquired a Russian business that almost doubled its size overnight, demonstrating that 2009 isn’t all about downsizing in the downturn.

For Cath Bailey, HR director, European organisational effectiveness at Kellogg’s, it has meant that she’s busier than ever – not least because of the change management and culture issues that surround an international acquisition such as this.

“At the moment we’re going through the integration phase and the company is still running as United Bakers,” explains Bailey. “It has got some 4,000 employees across Europe, and we’re looking at how we integrate things like our values. We have a global ethics and compliance training programme that all employees go through, and we are just talking about how we will implement this into Russia this year.”

“If you came into the business anywhere in the world, you’d get a real sense that it is a nice and special place to work and I think that’s because of the people.”

Cath Bailey, Kellogg’s

A variety of methods are employed to help maintain the Kellogg’s ethos. “We have some really well-established programmes in terms of learning and in terms of the culture,” she continues. “We have things like the ‘K values’ programme which is rolled out as part of everybody’s induction and on-boarding, and we have local HR teams in each of our countries, so we tend to work with them in order to design programmes and solutions which they then implement.”

The brand invests significant time in this process, and Bailey herself has been involved over the past year in building the employer brand and trying to determine what it is about the brand that is ‘special’.

“Talented people, relationships and integrity, pride and passion in the organisation and our innovative products were all the things that people talked about,” she says. “Everybody identified that it’s a really special place to work and we developed a strap line, which is ‘it’s a special feeling’. If you came into the business anywhere in the world, you’d get a real sense that it is a nice and special place to work and I think that’s because of the people.”

A changing role

It was this focus on people and their working environment that led Bailey to her career in HR in the first place. Bailey first dipped her toes into HR about 20 years ago when she started with Mercantile Credit, a subsidiary of Barclays Bank, managing payroll and getting involved with the training. As she became more closely integrated into the Barclays business her role developed as a training manager.

“I started off as a trainer, then became a training manager, then went on to a learning and development manager role, did a stint as an HR manager and moved back to a change management role, and then headed up learning and development for the retail side of Barclays,” she summarises.

After a 10-year stint with Barclays she took a huge leap and set up her own consultancy firm, Catalyst People Management. But, missing the feeling of working within her own team, five years later she looked for a return to the corporate arena. Enter Kellogg’s – a role she has revelled in.

“I’ve got a fabulous role here, I get to travel; I’m in Paris next week, I go to Milan, Madrid, my area stretches down to Dubai and to Athens at the other side. We’re a US-based organisation so obviously I get to go to the US as well. I always say it’s the sexy side of HR, we’ve got employer branding, recruitment, retention, culture, succession and talent management, and leadership development.”

Europe’s got talent

This focus by Kellogg’s on talent management and development is something that Bailey is now working on assimilating into the new Russian firm. “We’ve got some global processes and also some local programmes which are very specific to Kellogg’s Europe. We have an individual article from (HR software provider) SuccessFactors for growing our talent pool, which is an initiative we’ve kicked off in Europe because we believe that building our internal bench strength is critical for the success of our business. One of our strategic priorities is organisation and people development, so people can really see the strength of what we’re doing in HR and how that fits with us delivering the business agenda.”

“Relatively speaking it’s a smaller group of people to wrap your arms around but you’ve got the complexity of the different cultures.”

Cath Bailey, Kellogg’s

This has involved some refinement from Bailey, however, who admits that when she first joined two years ago, she was faced with a talent review programme that was ineffective. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m only doing this the once, I am not doing this next year’, so I started to look around for the best providers, and wanted somebody who specialised in succession because I was looking for the real strategic aspect of that.”

Bailey says it was important to have the capacity and capability to consider ‘what if’ scenarios, so that when working with the top team about potential moves, they would have visibility on the impact of reassigning skills. Eventually, SuccessFactors emerged as the solution of choice – a decision that has since had a knock-on effect across Kellogg’s global operations.

“My colleagues in the US were looking at an integrated solution to roll out to incorporate performance and compensation and I knew SuccessFactors were one of the preferred suppliers as an option for that. We went ahead with the succession piece last year, and this year the US are rolling out their integrated products, so I was delighted when I found out that they selected SuccessFactors because, of course, our managers are already used to the look and feel, and we’ve been able to share our experiences of using it in Europe to inform the global design.”

Embracing change

When thinking about the complexities and the challenges that the expansion has heralded, Bailey reflects that it was this aspect of the role that really appealed to her. “When you’re thinking about doing change and talent management across several countries it brings its own complexities and that’s the piece I think that was really attractive for me.”

She adds: “In terms of thinking about the size of team that I managed in Barclays, I was responsible for about 12,000 staff; now here our core business is about 4,500 employees, and then we acquired a business in Russia 12 months ago and it doubled the size of the company overnight and now we’re up to about 8,500. So relatively speaking it’s a smaller group of people to wrap your arms around but you’ve got the complexity of the different cultures.”

Bailey concludes: “For me, I love change, so the changing nature of HR I find really exciting. There’s so much more opportunity and so much more scope to get more actively involved in businesses, and I have real passion for developing people and seeing organisations getting better as well. And that’s what does it for me – knowing I can add real value to an organisation.”

At a company which has doubled in size and with a more diverse workforce than ever, this enthusiasm for change and development will surely serve Bailey well.

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Verity Gough

Deputy Editor

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