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The challenges of 2020 placed the focus on inclusion for many businesses. KFC took the opportunity to listen to its employees and responded with a menu of family-friendly policies and renewed flexibility.
The double shock in 2020 of the pandemic and death of George Floyd led countless organisations to reflect on their workplace culture. Restaurant chain KFC was no exception, with Neil Piper, chief people officer, describing it as a “catalyst” to investigate what inclusion and belonging really meant to employees.
“It felt as though we were all put in a cage. There was a pivot in the world of work, and we needed to think about how we set people up at an individual level that makes them feel safe, particularly when many of them felt set adrift,” he explains. “Our strength is our culture, but having an engaging culture doesn’t always mean it’s inclusive.”
The company decided to take a ‘Listen - learn - act - amplify’ approach to its diversity and inclusion strategy. It collected data from employees and held stakeholder interviews in early lockdown to work out how it could support them going forward. From this it created a series of personas that would help build up a picture of who it was serving.[pullquote]“Our strength is our culture, but having an engaging culture doesn’t always mean it’s inclusive” – Neil Piper, chief people officer, KFC[/pullquote]
“A lot of people on the leadership team had similar living environments so it was easy to assume everyone was in the same boat,” he adds. “But some of our employees were feeling trapped, sometimes living, sleeping and working in one bedroom. Or they were in a dual worker household with their kids at home. We spent a long time listening to the colour around people’s experiences.”
Head office employees who had become used to working remotely were keen for KFC to ensure that flexible working benefits would stick around. As the company began mapping out how it might return to offices, it decided to “partially formalise” flexible working policies rather than create individual arrangements for everyone.
But the key policy outcome from its research with employees was a new suite of parental benefits. Its new policy gives employees access to parental, shared parental or adoption leave, with six months of leave at full pay, regardless of whether they work in head office or restaurants.