A Closer Look: Mars Works to Make Collaboration a Bit Sweeter

Jun 8, 2015
8 Min Read

A Closer Look - Mars Works to Make Collaboration a Bit SweeterWhat’s the best engagement tool? How about a cup of coffee? Mars Drinks finds that providing such a simple connection is an important part of a strategy that makes its parent company lauded as one of the best places to work.

There’s been much written about how we all dread Mondays, but a new survey finds that twice as many workers feel “energized and productive” at the beginning of the week as compared to how they feel when they reach Friday.

So what happens during the week that leads only 17% of workers to feel they’re on top of their game by week’s end?

That’s a question being pondered by Xavier Unkovic, global president for Mars Drinks, whose parent company is Mars Inc. The poll of 2,034 American employees was sponsored by Mars Drinks and Ipsos.

“I think the results of the poll surprised me personally,” Unkovic says. “I think many of us make assumptions about what energizes people and makes them productive. It’s the reason we did the poll.”

Mars Inc. is ranked among the top 25 Best Multinational Workplaces by Great Places to Work, but Unkovic says the company isn’t resting on its laurels and knows that it must keep its 75,000 worldwide workers engaged if the company wants to remain competitive and innovative.

At the same time, it believes it has some information to share on how it’s reached that top 25 milestone, and has launched a new campaign called “Rethink the Daily Grind,” which seeks to inspire other leaders and workplaces on how to engage and energize workers.

Taking a page from the popularity of coffee shops as a place to meet and form a community, Mars is suggesting that workplace changes can be as simple as setting up a Monday Happy Hour. By offering hot beverages and snacks as a way to get workers and managers to communicate and collaborate in a comfortable space, it’s much more inviting than a sterile meeting room.

“For me, I think the most important thing for leaders is to build a workplace that intentionally keeps the workers going – something that focuses on keeping them very energized,” Unkovic says.

Companies that are not thriving often have the same ailment: They don’t understand what engages their workers and fail to show appreciation for what they do, he says.

“As a business manager, it’s critical that you understand people are your No. 1 asset. Your people bring your brand to life. We are all competing for talent, and if you don’t do a good job (with employees), they’re going to leave. And the No. 1 reason people leave is because of line managers,” he says.

Unkovic agrees with the Gallup research that shows great workplaces have several things in common, such as:

  • Workers know what is expected of them.
  • They have the materials and equipment to do the work right.
  • In the last week, workers have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

“Here’s something you must understand: Companies that get kudos from employees as great places to work also out outperform other companies. There’s no secret here,” he says. “You inspire people, and they give back.”

He says that when employers show employees they care about them, then employees deliver greater customer service, and that boosts the bottom line.

The key, Unkovic says, is that it’s not hard for any manager in any sized company to deliver the same kind of leadership that Mars offers. That’s why Mars is offering some suggestions on how to engage workers – and it all starts with a cup of coffee, he says.

“The coffee shop has a culture that a company can replicate. People will converge in a place that makes them feel good. The line managers should also be there, because it’s not just about taking a break but about connecting in a very relaxed way,” he says. “People need a physical and mental break, and this is a place where you can connect with someone you don’t know and discuss different topics. That is where the magic happens.”

Some other suggestions from Mars:

  • “Casual Mondays.” Once a month, help people look forward to Monday by letting them dress casually.
  • Celebrate milestones. Create a positive atmosphere by pointing out professional and personal achievements, such as work anniversaries or birthdays.
  • Inspiration boards. Let workers put up articles, quotes, pictures or other motivating items that inspire them.
  • Get a fresh perspective. In addition to setting up an office coffee shop, think about holding meetings outside or having brown bag lunches in a collaborative setting.
  • Set up a work/family photo album. Let workers post photos of office events, projects and other key moments of success. This helps them feel positive about what they do, which can translate into a better business performance. “People spend a majority of their waking hours at work so why not make it about more than just the daily grind,” says Bobby Chacko, global chief marketing officer for Mars Drinks.
  • Help ease them into collaborative experiences. Don’t just use the breakroom as a gathering place for a cup of coffee or snack. By having various spaces around an office that offer snacks, you encourage them to gather face-to-face to have quick conversations or breaks.

“This goes way beyond just having a cup of coffee,” Unkovic says. “You’re providing a link between people. If you want to keep your employees, you’ve got to be very intentional about it.”