Coca-Cola Amatil has elevated its HR practices by centralising its people and culture function and utilising external ideas.
With its 14,000 employees spread across vast areas encompassing Australia, Indonesia and the South Pacific, Coca-Cola Amatil wanted to make sure its people and culture (P&C) strategy was as airtight as its beverage containers.
Cultivating a strong operating model meant combining its 250-strong HR team (which it calls its P&C team) to create a company-wide approach. Traditionally, the business was siloed according to geography and beverage type. P&C practitioners – including those from centres of excellence (COEs) – were based in multiple locations, which limited their ability to work together effectively.
To fix this, the company centralised its COEs at a group level and created an internal consultancy function called ‘People Solutions’. It draws from a centralised pool of skills to deliver projects across all businesses and regions. Right now, Coca-Cola Amatil is piloting this in its Australian business.
For example, instead of calling external consultants to support an internal team conducting a strategic cost review in any one country, the company now draws upon its own internal consultants in other countries or units to do the job.
“When we first designed our one-Amatil approach, we had a lot of static resources,” says P&C group director Kate Mason, who joined Coca-Cola Amatil in 2014 after holding leadership roles at companies including Credit Suisse and Amcor.
“We had a traditional HR model, with each business unit having people focused on talent, workplace relations and so on. We decided to strip away the duplication to create common centres of expertise. Our people solutions model went through a big change after we brought our COEs together.
“The model means we can deliver quickly. We agree on a strategy, we take it to our leadership, and we activate internal resources from anywhere to get on and do it. That’s quicker than having to align entire teams in different countries or businesses before you get leadership approval to get started. We build quickly, we get approval quickly and we deploy more effectively.”
“It’s also a more flexible model for the team,” says Michelle Phipps FCPHR, group head of talent, learning and inclusion, who joined Coca-Cola Amatil six months ago with more than 20 years’ international experience in HR, retail and manufacturing.“We can leverage the best of what we have and improve the capability of the P&C community. Everyone’s skills are maximised by being available in the part of the business where they’re most needed.”
Help from the outside
Mason and Phipps knew the team also wanted to extend its expertise and learn from HR experts outside the business. They began to research a training and competency model that could be rolled out across the company.
They launched ‘Advance with People and Culture’, a program which focuses on a consistent model of excellence, and a best-practice HR standard that draws on internal and external ideas. It dovetails neatly with AHRI’s certification program.
“Our goal was to have an evolving model for HR excellence that catered for the development needs of everyone in the team,” says Phipps.
“We think we’ve succeeded, with a program created by world class HR leader Dave Ulrich, which focuses on best-practice HR in both business partnership and COE practice.”
Raising the standards
Both leaders were passionate about Coca-Cola Amatil P&C joining AHRI to access external thinking and bring ideas back to their teams.
Experienced HR practitioners and academics can achieve AHRI certification through one of four different pathways, depending on their experience. Ten leaders in Coca-Cola Amatil’s P&C team are already enrolled in AHRI’s Senior Leaders Pathway, including Mason (Phipps completed the pathway some years ago). The company has also launched Standard Certification for the HR team.
“The AHRI certification program is also application-based, which means our business benefits as part of the curriculum,” says Phipps.
“We’ve created a community that goes beyond Coca-Cola Amatil, to introduce the team to webinars and seminars at partnered companies. That opens a whole new realm of thought leadership,” adds Mason.
“This program helps our P&C community advance and gain recognition within the HR industry as certified practitioners. It’s not only great for their careers, it helps them develop in their roles.”
Experienced HR practitioners and academics can achieve HR certification through one of four different pathways. Find out more here.