Coca-Cola Enterprises engages employees across Western Europe

By Karuna Kumar

It’s black. It’s fizzy. It’s what 85% of the population world over can’t live without: Coca-Cola.

Based in Atlanta, the Coca-Cola Company produces the concentrate that is sold to licensed Coca-Cola bottlers throughout the world. One such bottler that falls under the category of the largest single Coca-Cola bottler in Western Europe is Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). Post purchasing the bottling rights in Netherlands, CCE began significant European expansion. Acquisition of bottling rights ensued in Belgium, France and Great Britain. It now also has Luxembourg and Monaco under its umbrella.

CCE presently has over 13,000 employees across Europe. In 2010, the Coca-Cola Company acquired all of CCE’s North American territory. CCE retained its European operations and acquired bottling rights in Norway and Sweden.

Rodney Jordan is Director of Employee Communications at Coca-Cola Enterprises, overseeing British and European territories.

“Through our initiatives, we communicate to all 13,000 employees across Europe as the HR communication and employee communication department, ” Jordan explains.

Presenting a more strategic insight into his role, Jordan explains how global messaging and local flexibility lie at the core of his communication strategy. “We have to make sure that things resonate the right way in a different country and culture. So we develop an enterprise wise strategy.”


The communication structure at Coca Cola Enterprises is unique. It is compartmentalized into two departments – Public Affairs and Communication and HR communication.

Jordan explains, “While public affairs and communication focuses its work on public affairs, public communication and internal communication within each of the different countries, HR communication lies within HR and does broad messaging around employee engagement and the employee value proposition”.

While both are separate entities, the two divisions collaborate on certain projects. Giving an example, Jordan points to the internal magazine and says, “The public affairs and communications department produces this, but we have added content to this. We both have our own set of vehicles to get across to the employees.”

“Our innovation and strategy is targeted at employees and managers and our topics are different from the issues of public affairs that are focused around what’s happening in the business as a whole and what’s happening in different countries,” he adds.

HR communication focuses on performance around development. In 2008-2009, one HR organisation evolved within CCE. With that came the need to consistently communicate with employees from an HR perspective about what was happening within the business and broaden the communications to a new HR model.

“So, it is a fairly new function of the CCE, about two years old. That is why there is a unique sort of environment at CCE,” Jordan says.

While the HR communications team is based in UK and team members look over activities in all the seven European countries, it is not regionally divided; the Public affairs team is spread across a wide range of geography.

Diversity of employees

The average age of employees at CCE is around 32-33 years. Jordan speaks of a great diversity of ages, gender and culture within the organisation. He mentions a 60:40 split of wired (desk-based) employees and non-wired staff who are constantly on the move.

Jordan says the company is heavily committed to cultural sensitivity.

“Our messages are not only global but also have a regional resonance. We are very cautious of what messages we deliver, where. We translate all our messages to make sure that people really get our messages across different locations.” This is particularly true with change management. When any new initiative is rolled out, Jordan and his team keep in mind the consequences of those initiatives.

Capabilities: HR communication team

Jordan highlights the varied initiatives that HR communication undertakes at CCE. Pointing to the pie (below) Jordan remarks, “This is 80% realistic and 20% aspirational. Based on the annual plan of what’s going to happen, we use this to set the agenda”.


Starting with the Intranet, Jordan explains the various activities taking place on the intranet to keep employees well engaged. The intranet pages are well designed and have a meticulous architecture giving sufficient space for every initiative.

My workbench is the manager’s dashboard while My profile caters to employee details and updates. The underlying bed is Microsoft Sharepoint 2008 which also enables an instant messaging service.

Jordan recalls, “The intranet came into place as a result of putting one HR function in place at CCE and having a vehicle for executive and company messages. From an HR perspective, while we put a good system in place, we did not think of a way to continuously improve it. It is important to consistently improve that experience for viewers and interact regularly. We made the intranet accessible from home and kiosks and have begun a branding initiative. Also, HR managers are made to understand and monitor the traffic to reach a sound understanding of their employees’ activities.”

Jordan describes the HR Teamsite as a one-stop shop for HR managers and HR to Business as a monthly HR bulletin.

As for translations, Jordan lays emphasis on seeking support of one vendor to support the entire company thereby managing costs and ensuring consistency. “This is very important from a diversity point of view. We need to speak to employees in a language they understand. We decided to use one vendor for all the translations and now there is one glossary that we all use as an organisation. It is the most cost effective way because we have so many different languages and we may have additional languages in the future. We brought consistency to translations across the world and had a control on spending.”

Each month, the HR Communication department holds an HR connect call which falls under the category of HR for HR. Previously the call only catered to North America and Europe. “Not everybody used to understand the same language. We hence changed the name and structure of the call in 2010 and saw the participation numbers rise from 10 to 110,” Jordan recalls.

Emails, brochures, town halls and videos all fall under Ad Hoc.

Change communications

This is one of the most significant capabilities of the HR communication function. As explained by Jordan, this function is all about connecting the employees with the business. Under change communication, the biggest thing has been drawing up the Employee Value Proposition. “We developed this into a branding and messaging service. We started out by telling people that the employee engagement survey is coming this year and how that engagement survey will help us build the employee value proposition. One of the key things is people talking, listening and acting.”

Explaining this initiative in further detail, he continues, “One of the tactical things we did is we gave a brochure to everyone telling them what engagement at CCE means along with what their feedback has been thus far. We developed an online news channel called CGW News (Connect, Grow, Win) that shows examples of employee engagement. We have engagement champions and have developed a section on our intranet dedicated to videos & articles about engagement. Once the survey is done, we now have a vehicle to keep the interaction ongoing. It’s not just a simple project, it is the backbone of everything we do and why we do it.”


Jordan is a big fan of having sound measurement techniques in place. “We developed the brochure only to give some tangible feedback in hand that would clearly articulate the strategy. It was important to give specific feedback telling people how we would be responding to that conversation.”

He explained that the team measured traffic to My profile and my My Workbench on the intranet and as a result, he now knows that managers visit the Dashboard 8 times a month and employees go to my Profile 3 times a month. “Ultimately we would want all those numbers to increase,” Jordan points out.

Measurement of the traffic on the HR Teamsite revealed that from 5 daily visitors, the traffic surged to 110 daily visitors.

“We also have a commercial academy which is a consolidation of the curriculum for our employees. Be it customer management or marketing, we put it all together in the curriculum,” explains Jordan.

The future

The challenge for any communication professional lies in how they add strategic value to an organisation. For Jordan it lies in the balance he achieves in how he divides the capability pie.

“I would want to spend more time in the change communication space and in making improvements to our intranet. I think those are big opportunities there. It’s really just making sure that we are satisfied with the kind of support we supply so that we can always try to be better at it.”

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