Future Proofing Q&A with Coca-Cola's Ben Galloway



What have people's experiences of enabling their employees to be able to work from home been like? What were the main issues?

Working from home for so long has already required some adaptation. I’m personally missing those daily informal moments with team members and (dare I say it) the commute, which separated home and work for me. When lockdown started, the priority was to build connection across my team and increase support and direction. Regular check-ins and a sense of routine were important to establish a new normal. Direction helped to head-off some of the discomfort created by uncertainty from the crisis.Now we’re further along I can see fatigue setting in. I’ve found the need to be more sensitive to individual situations; parents with young children are holding down two jobs – the one in front of the screen and the schooling/entertainment of their children. Some of my team live alone, away from their families. Empathy and personal connection, focusing on what needs to be done (but not prescribing when), and encouraging team members to take time out (the leave days are still clocking up) have all helped keep the team on track and motivated.

Does Coca-Cola provide a source of internal funding for these sort of 'fast reaction' solutions?

At Coca-Cola we are constantly looking for new and different ways to do things. We know that if we want to continue to be a leader in our segment then we need to evolve and change with consumer tastes. That’s not always as easy as it sounds. When does a fad become embedded behaviour? Consumer insight and trend tracking are important tools to help us stay flexible and resilient (and, being data driven, close to my own heart). Online consumer surveys can be a quick way to test new concepts, while social media scanning can be a handy barometer to popular sentiment. But test and trial with real consumers is hard to beat. We are taking a portfolio approach to this, including incubator test-and-learn teams and working with innovation start-ups to ideate and test low-cost solutions.

How does Coca-Cola is digitizing customer services to transform their business and product experience during Covid times?

Digitising brand experiences has become even more important the last few months as we all (as consumers) spend even more time in front of our screens. In the UK we’re pretty developed on the e-commerce-front. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn and develop – our bottling partners are working with online grocers and food aggregators to refine and improve our proposition. Online grocery is now more than 10% of sales, and we expect that to continue to grow as grocers continue to increase their capacity. Food aggregators on the other hand are not just about take-away but now provide restaurant-like experiences at home… and convenience store ordering too. Partnering with the right outlets and with the right proposition takes the physical online. From a comms perspective the team is reviewing the right media mix with COVID. With more consumers online than ever before (and a stable of mass market consumer brands) that means more online video, social media and content.

Are you anticipating a shift back towards your pre-pandemic model overtime when things stabilize or are you sensing the new approaches you are undertaking now will endure?

As mentioned in the webinar, for FMCG it is going to be a bit of both. We recognise consumer behaviours that have accelerated from pre-COVID times (eg online grocery, food delivery, more focus on functional benefits in every-day products) and expect these to stay. Our traditional model is going to flex.To better gauge the new normal post-COVID we’re spending a lot of time understanding how consumer attitudes and behaviours are shifting. New occasions are being created with us connecting and celebrating with family and friends via communication apps, snacking has seen a huge upswing, as has recreating premium experiences in the home.

As a leader how do you see and measure indications that innovation and stepping up is gaining momentum at the individual level as opposed to sticking to the status quo and holding the line?

Setting milestones to reinforce that you’re making progress is very important. If you only have a single measure of success then it can be hard to maintain momentum and focus.  On innovation as a whole we’ve been learning the benefit of having a portfolio approach and to look at overall yield, not just individual projects.

How to prepare the teams to have more accountability, more freedom and at the same time keep high standard levels of excellence with customers?

A few thoughts:  Focus on what not how – I’ve found that it’s better to give my team the right framework and inform them as much as possible with the context of the problem, and then to empower them to find the best solution.  I’m not obsessed on how they got to that answer. I am interested however in regular catch-ups to test and challenge the team and how they are thinking about the problem. Learning then happens as part of the process. Mentoring and coaching skills are even more important than ever.

Do you think working in parallel with these is a more resilient approach versus the model of "3 horizons" in innovation?

Working in parallel can be useful, but efficient resource management is going to be a focus as we step into an environment of reduced economic growth. For a lot of large businesses that is going to mean finer prioritisation and small-and-fast test-and-learn bets.

Could any of you share examples of changes in how you work that have been introduced in the wake of this crisis, but are being made permanent now?

The obvious one is working remotely. Pre-crisis we did it fairly frequently (it is hard to avoid when the team is distributed across Europe). But in the last few months all of our experience has accelerated as we do it on a mass scale. I can now see an acceptance on working from home, and how we can collectively do it efficiently. What I’m sensing is that the counter to this is that we are also expecting that we can live with less business travel. Which seems strange in my business which is very socially focused. A second change I’m seeing is a focus on outcomes, not hours. We have a lot of parents with young children at our work, which is difficult at the best of times. Over the last few months we have learnt to be flexible on working hours, and have be both more aware and respectful of the needs of others.