Laura Kohler Gives Perspective on “The Great Reset”

The new standard of different, better, and stronger that should be on every leader’s mind.
Jan 27, 2022 12:30 PM ET
Laura Kohler speaking

By Laura Kohler, SVP HR, Stewardship & Sustainability

As a business leader wearing many hats—CHRO, head of social impact and sustainability, board member, safe water advocate, mom—I must admit, life hasn’t gotten any easier. From the ongoing and ever-changing global pandemic . . . to social, political, and economic stress . . . to the “Great Resignation” and the “Great Attraction,” leaders throughout the world are grappling with how to respond to the desire for radical change in our workplace and world and authentic leadership to go with it. In the midst of all this, I believe what we really need is the Great Reset. Here’s what I mean.

It’s time to reset our thinking to learn and grow.
We will never reach a point when “all of this” is behind us. The next “thing” (challenge) will come, and we must reframe and reset our thinking to see every problem as an opportunity to innovate, to disrupt, or to breakthrough to new heights. As a leader, that means we’re equipping our teams to not only think in this way, but also to act in a new way. To be better and stronger when the next crisis or set back hits. To see opportunity. And to focus on the future.

This is what a growth mindset (and #LoveForLearning) is all about. At Kohler Co. we continue to invest in our associates in a variety of ways, namely our Leading Boldly learning curriculum (more here). This forward-thinking approach (that we each practice every day) is based on the idea that all associates, in all roles, are leaders. It equips each of us with the standard for success at every level of leadership— from individual contributor to executive. We also provide access to #LinkedInLearning for every Kohler associate around the globe, and we recently started a Bold Mentoring program to offer one-on-one opportunities for connection and learning. Because as Simon Sinek put it, “The goal is not to be perfect by the end. The goal is to be better tomorrow.”

It’s time to reset our workplace experience to thrive.
A Gartner Global labor market survey released last April showed the top three attraction drivers most meaningful to workers globally included compensation, work-life balance, and stability—what I would argue are table stakes for every employer. Going a step further, a more recent analysis from McKinsey & Company in September showcased an even more compelling reason for workers to stay, including top responses around being valued, feeling a sense of belonging, being cared for and trusted, having flexible options, the potential to advance, and manageable workloads.

Is this too much to ask? No way.

AND, as leaders, this insight should cause us to seek to better understand our own workforce (ask for feedback, listen!)and move with purposeful action around the experiences we provide on an everyday basis—intentionally shaping a culture of care, belonging, and well-being to, ultimately, lead to better results for the customers we delight and the businesses we sustain. Boston Consulting Group argues in a recent HBR article that now is the perfect moment to incentivize loyalty and provide opportunities for growth inside the company. This is the human-centered workplace we are striving for at Kohler Co.,  one where we look holistically at what helps our associates “show up at their best to do their best,” and that’s more than creating career opportunities where they can learn, grow, and achieve their full potential; it’s also about how we help our associates feel a greater sense of belonging and live a better, more fulfilled life—with the richness of an experience that connects to their own values, beliefs, and purpose. “Humanicity” must be at the center of what we do.

Which brings me to my last point.

It’s time to reset our shared purpose to win. Through the pandemic, many employers—Kohler included—learned how unstoppable we could be if we were united under a single shared purpose: keeping our people and communities safe. Teams worked with extreme focus, total clarity, and lightning speed as we led through our COVID response. Our learnings here showed us how powerful we can be together, #KohlerStrong—prioritizing the most important work while maintaining safety and well-being. We now have much more rigor around agile teams, more focused initiatives on our biggest strategies, while strengthening our emphasis on well-being, not only as a business function but an experience differentiator for associates.

Beyond this, employees today want so much more than the nine-to-five. For example, 64% of millennials won’t even consider working for a company unless they have a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy,* and six in ten people globally agree that “It is important to me that the companies I buy from actively promote diversity and inclusion in their own business or society as a whole.” Employers who can deliver on a great place to work AND do good in the world will win (and retain) the best talent. You can go to any organization and make great products and services, but to contribute your time, talent, and energy to an organization that is leveraging the power of its brand to solve the world’s most pressing water and sanitation challenges . . . well that’s game-changing. And that’s what Believing in Better® is all about.

The Great Reset I have in mind is all about a growth mindset that creates opportunity out of adversity. Leaders who take this new thinking to heart and move to action are the businesses (and customers) that will win in 2022 and beyond.

The Cone Communications Millennial Employee Study
† Kantar U.S. Monitor 2021