How to create an inclusive company culture at enterprise scale


Elizabeth Adefioye


Nicole Alvino

Ignite and accelerate your company culture

How can companies collaboratively create an inclusive culture at enterprise scale? Elizabeth Adefioye, CHRO at Ingredion, will join SocialChorus founder and CSO Nicole Alvino to discuss how Ingredion developed their shared purpose and values and implemented them company-wide to mobilize their entire organization. Elizabeth will delve into techniques for deep listening, co-creation and activating leadership to play a key role in culture.

Video Transcript

Nicole Alvino:

I’m thrilled to be joined by Elizabeth Adefioye, who is the CHRO at Ingredion. So our audience is in for such a treat to hear about the cultural transformation that she has led for her company, which has proved to be critical during their business last year, and especially to position them for success in the future. So, Elizabeth, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your role in Ingredion?

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Yes. Thank you so much, Nicole. So my name is Elizabeth Adefioye, I am the chief human resources officer for Ingredion. Ingredion is a food and ingredients company, and we basically help our customers to deliver on any innovation they want with their food ingredients.

I joined Ingredion just under five years ago now, and have been really focused around helping Ingredion to deliver on its purpose, to bring the potential of people, nature and technology to make life better.

And that has really been the journey I’ve been on, really helping to deliver on our culture and business transformation over the last two to three is now.

Nicole Alvino:

Yes. Can you tell us a little about that transformation that you’ve led to really codify the company’s purpose and values?

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Yes. Few years ago now, and in fact, three years almost to this month, our new CEO took over, and really we needed to understand what we have to do differently to continue to win within the marketplace.

At that time, the company was going through challenges like many of the companies, and we knew that what got us to where we were at that time wouldn’t get us to where we needed to be going forward. We were experiencing changes in consumer preferences, we were experiencing changes in the marketplace, and all of those things just made use get together to really identify what do we have to do differently.

And for me, as we got together as a leadership team to really understand, “If this were our own company, how would we lead differently?” And we had the three day offsite where we were asking us of questions around, what are we excited about the company? What gives us cause for concern and what would we do differently?

And the journey began for us with really understanding how would we develop an overarching purpose for the company? How would Ingredion differentiate itself from the marketplace? Why should anybody come and work for Ingredion rattles our competitor? So an overarching purpose statement was missing for us at that time.

We also knew that given all of the forces of change, given all of the talent war that we were facing in the marketplace, winning, the hearts and minds of our employees was going to be critical for us. So we wanted to also contemporize our values.

So we got together to define what are the strategic pillars we needed to work towards, for us to go forward. But more importantly, how do we really, when they had the minds of our employees to ensure that they’re able to deliver against the strategic imperatives for the company.

Nicole Alvino:

Yeah. I was thinking about that.

Elizabeth Adefioye:

So to develop our contemporize values, I brought the leadership team together and really give them a deck of cards. There are 85 cards that fortune 500 companies have used to determine their own values. And each of them had the opportunity to choose 10 cards. And it was interesting that when we look at the 10 cards that each came up with, we had words that were very different to the values that we have as at the company at that time. We had words like love, we have words like the long game, we have words like care.

And, and that really made me facilitate the conversation with the leadership team around what kind of company are we becoming? Are these card demonstrating the kind of values that we want to really foster within the organization.

And when we chose the values, we also wanted to make sure that we were co-creating with our employees. So we went out, spoke to almost a thousand employees across the organization, across levels to really make sure that those values that we were developing had was resonating with our employee base. We also tested it with some of our leadership team members during our leadership team meeting to make sure that they also had the opportunity to provide input and perspectives on those values.

So those values became Ingredion values. We launched the values with vouched intentionality in the organization, developed strategies to launch. First, we wanted to make sure that we were really winning had some minds, like I said earlier on. And having all of our leaders really being inspired and committed to the purposeful launch for the organization.

In addition to that, though, we also knew that for those values to be endearing in the organization, we also needed to make sure that we were aligning our processes, both HR processes, as well as business processes to those values. So that on a day-to-day basis, we can see those values in action.

And then we created a value per month education. We were making sure that all of our employees understand how those values show up on a good day and on a bad day, and really being very purposeful and intentional on really making sure that each value was well understood within the organization.

So we launched the values we’ve now… It’s year three that we’ve launched the purpose and values. We also took time to develop our employee value proposition as well, which would call, All In. So we want all of our 12,000 employees to be all in, to help Ingredion, to live its purpose, to bring the potential of people, nature and technology to make life better.

Nicole Alvino:

I love that. And I didn’t even know that, but we have a deck of cards to social chorus to talk about our value and our cultures and our theme is all in. So I think that’s-

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Oh wow, what a coincidence.

Nicole Alvino:

We didn’t even know that. But I love how you, how you talked about really bringing the values into the day-to-day work. That’s obviously different for different parts of the workforce. So can you talk about how you disseminated that, especially to the frontline and how you really got the buy-in and just the ongoing utilization and living of those values?

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Yes. No. That’s a great question because I mean, it’s so important that when you do this work that every employee within the organization feel like they were part of that journey and Ingredion is a… We’re manufacturing organization, to your point, 70% of our organization are really within manufacturing. In the plant location, in the lab location.

And what we did was really making sure that in the beginning we would co-create. And like I mentioned. So focus group. We engage with plant employees as well to make sure that they would understand the process that we were using to develop those values.

We had employees also volunteer as cultural ambassadors. So these are ambassadors that I chosen across the organization. They volunteered themselves, they wanted to be part of the part of the co-creation and they really help those values to have meaning locally.

They were conducting activities to really bring it to life that were engaging with each other and with leadership teams to really provide input and perspective from our employees across the globe. We appointed two cultural leaders as well, who were really making sure that all of our cultural aims were showing up across processes. We’re showing up in the way we relate to each other in the way we also engage with each other.

So by making sure that we were deepening the work we were doing across levels, across locations, and having monthly engagement with this cultural ambassadors to take input, to check about, what’s working? What’s not working? That really helped us to really further embed the values and the purpose and the EVP work across the organization.

And up until today, we still continue to get input from all of our employees, frontline employees, employees at the headquarters, to really make sure that this work is seen as there were. This is not a leadership team effort only. This is an input of all of our employees who really are all in to continue to help Ingredion be what’s next to our customers.

Nicole Alvino:

Yeah. I just love that. And how have you incorporated that in your onboarding?

Elizabeth Adefioye:

That’s a great question. So, I mean, when we have new employees joining the organization… Actually it starts from before they join the organization, we engage with prospective candidates around Ingredion’s, purpose, we make life better.

We talk to them about our contemporized values. And I can tell you that when I sit with candidates, the thing that resonates with them most is just the purpose and the values. And when they come into the organization, they assign bodies as well. Individuals who can help them assimilate into the organization. We’ve created explainer videos. That is part of an onboarding program that takes them through the journey.

So they weren’t with us when we contemporize the values and develop the purpose statement, but they can also relate to the process through our onboarding program, which is really through our learning solutions. So they can see the process we went through. They can understand what each value means. They understand how it shows up, they can engage with cultural ambassadors to really help them acclimatize, assimilate into the company as well.

So we make sure that even though they weren’t part of the journey, when we started, when they joined the organization, they really feel like they were part of the journey. And that really helps them to begin to feel a part of the company very early on when they join the company.

Nicole Alvino:

Yes. And I have to imagine that especially last year through COVID and just the complexities, having those core values in place, and you already had that, buy-in just really helped to get the business through. Can you talk a little bit about just all of last year and how the culture has really ground you.

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I am so inspired by the work we’ve done. And I have to say that given all of the challenges of last year, obviously COVID is still with us, but at the height of COVID our value of care first really carried us through.

I mean, we were able to really just live that value and by putting the safety of our employees, the safety of their loved ones first and foremost. And it was just amazing to see how everyone really, we were able to just galvanize around those values. And every action we took was really just embodying that value of care first.

When you think about what happened middle of last year with the cleanup, George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and all of this social on arrest, and the discrimination and the social inequity. Again, our value of everyone belongs really carried us through that again. We were just so fortunate to have a value that really demonstrates to our organization, that everyone belongs within the organization, regardless of who they are, what their preferences or orientation is. The race or really whatever it is, everyone in ingredient belongs.

And we just use that opportunity to, again, just reinforce all of our strategies around diversity, equity and inclusion, and really co-creating and engaging with the organization on what it takes to foster an environment where everyone can bring their best self to work. And we just really were fortunate with a purpose to make like better with the values of care first, with the values of everyone belongs, innovate boldly, owner’s mindset, be preferred.

All of those values came together to really help us to lean into the organization that we want to be, and to really help our employees to just really help the company to continue to drive the strategist. Because I think at the end of the day if you don’t have an endearing purpose, if you don’t have values, the really galvanized energies, and win the hearts and minds of your employees, when you find yourself in a challenging marketplace or find your strategists to be challenged or find that you need it to continue to drive the strategies for the organization.

Those fundamentals… I know they sound easy, but those fundamentals are the things that get you out of a challenging situation. It helps your organization. It helps you employees to really drive discretionary efforts. It helps them to really be engaged, to be motivated, to be inspired, to drive the business strategies.

We were just fortunate that we did all of that work because it really helped us to, to continue to deliver against our business imperatives.

Nicole Alvino:

Yeah. I mean, I could not agree more. I think that we’ve always been grounded. At Social Chorus, our higher purpose is to reach every worker and this notion that every worker belongs, every worker is important and they deserve to be connected to their company.

And I think that what’s so interesting is like you said, you have this higher purpose about make life better. And then all of these pillars to ladder up to that. And you said when times are tough, that’s really when you need that strong cultural foundation to guide you through. So how would you think about the key success factors?

I mean, you’ve done such incredible work and so fortuitous that you did it when you did, but are there some things that, that we can give our audience to take away as they think about doing some of this work in their own organizations?

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Yes. Yes. Absolutely. I mean, when you do this kind of work, you, you learn a lot along the line, right? So I think for us one of the key success factors and what really mattered the most was the opportunity to listen deeply within the organization.

During the focus groups we’re asking our employees, what are the strengths of Ingredion? What are the weaknesses? What are the things we do well? What are the things we would be doing differently? If this were your company, how would you lead the company differently?

I think just taking the opportunity to learn from employees around what we do well and what we don’t do well, gave employees the commitment, give them the… What should I say? Just give them the opportunity to co-create that future that we would try to create with us.

So listening deeply and also co-creation is what I would say is important. Along the line, we kept going back and checking that we were hearing from our employees were being integrated into the way we were developing that purpose and our values.

We had checkpoints along the line to make sure that it was still resonating because we wanted the employees to… Once we learnt the purpose and the values, we want them to feel like, “Yes, I was part of that. Yes. I helped to create that.” I think another success factor would be that this is not just the work of human resources. I wanted to make sure that the executive leadership team really felt that this was their work, that HR was just facilitating that work.

So I was CEO who really is extremely committed to our cultural evolution, what’s driving our culture revolution, and really the executive leadership team were part of every single part of the co-creation.

So it’s not an HR work. Make sure your leadership team are deeply invested in the process and the journey because they have to stand for that work. I tell our organization that our leaders create the weather for our people. So they’ve really need to be the ones that are driving the efforts around culture, around transformation. So that’s key as well.

And I think another important success factor is that developing the values and the purpose, or your brand proposition, doesn’t stop at just when you have those statements, you have to really wire them into your processes. They have to be felt. You have to think about, what are the processes that are enabling you to live into those purpose and values? And what are those that are not? And how do you make sure that you are addressing those?

You can’t say you have a purpose a value of innovate boldly, and you really do not encourage risk-taking or you penalize failure. So you have to make sure that you hard wiring your values and your purpose into all of the processes within the organization.

And I think another success factor is also making sure that you continue to go back and check, are we still living all of these values and purpose? When are the good days? When are the bad days? What are the moments that matter? And telling stories across the organization is going to very important, because the stories you tell really demonstrate how you live in into those values and purpose.

So we spent time to really develop our enterprise transformation story and equip all of our managers with sharing that story with our employees and making those stories meaningful, unbelievable across the organization. So those are the few success factors that I would cite, but it’s not HR’s work it’s leadership work.

Make sure you’re co-creating that you’re listening deeply within the organization, make sure that you hard wiring all of this work into your processes across the organization. Business processes, as well as HR processes. And of course continued to tell powerful stories of how those values and purpose is being lived.

And of course, the days that those values and purpose get tested as well, maybe because of a challenging situation, use that as an opportunity to continue to engage the organization on how to continue to live it and when they’re tested, how their purpose and your values could get you out of those challenging situations.

Nicole Alvino:

Oh, it’s just so inspirational Elizabeth, and the impact that you’ve made at Ingredion. And I know some of the other companies where you’ve been, can you share how being a woman of color has helped drive the success and the change that you’ve helped to deliver across the organizations that have been fortunate to work with you?

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Wow, that’s a great question. I mean, I have been fortunate myself quite frankly, to have had the opportunity to work for organizations where this work matters, right? Where fostering a great culture is important. I always say that culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So being in an environment where culture is important, it’s very… It’s critical for me.

And I think we, HR professionals really have the opportunity to help the organization to be successful through really fostering a great culture, through fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. Now, I am passionate about this work, regardless of whether I am black or not. I think it’s just the work that needs to be done.

When you think about the marketplace challenges, the changing consumer preferences, particularly in our industry, the headwind, the societal issues that we face, whether it’s race discrimination or just all of those multitude of challenges makes this work so important.

So for me our organization and other organizations that have been being given that opportunity to lead, this work, this very important work has just been transformational for both the organization and for all of our employees as well.

So I’m very passionate about the work. Yes. I recognize that being a person of color, I do have a responsibility and an accountability to pay forward this amazing work around making sure that organizations understand what it takes to be successful through our people. I always say that our are our source of competitive advantage. They are our strategic asset.

We can have strategies, but if you don’t have the people who are deeply passionate about the organization, who you’re able to win the hearts and minds to give you that discretionary effort, then you have nothing. So being in human resources and given all of the challenges we faced last year, gave us HR professionals, the platform, the opportunity to really lead purposefully, to help the organization understand what’s critical. Which is culture, which is purpose, which is having endearing values and being able to just lead that work and help to foster that environment where everyone can bring their full self to work.

For me, I mean, has just been such a great opportunity to be able to lead that. So as a person of color as a… I am British, but as a person of color, I feel an accountability to really help drive this work and stand for this work. But it’s because it’s so critical though is, organizations that are going to be successful, have to understand that they can only be successful through their people. They can only be successful when they bring the best of the people to help them to drive the strategy, to foster a culture that really wants… Attracts talent that engages talent, that inspires and motivates talent. So for me, that’s what it’s all about.

It’s about doing important work. It’s about doing this… Culture, again, it’s just a differentiator. It is the one thing that will differentiate one company from another. So I’ve been fortunate to be able to lead that work and, and I’m very proud of it.

Nicole Alvino:

Yes. Well, it’s been incredible work, Elizabeth, and thank you so much for sharing your stories and what you’ve been able to achieve. It’s been incredibly inspirational to me and I know to everyone else who has the opportunity to learn from you. So thank you for joining us.

Elizabeth Adefioye:

Thank you so much for the opportunity. Thank you.

Nicole Alvino:

I’m thrilled to be joined…



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