HR Policies & Procedures, HR Works Podcast

HRWorks Sits Down with Keurig Green Mountain Coffee

Keurig Green Mountain Coffee, known as a “Best Place to Work,” offers all employees 52 hours each year for volunteer work; plus, the company runs additional companywide volunteerism opportunities. Steve Bruce, host of BLR’s popular podcast, HR Works, recently interviewed three Keurig Green Mountain employees about the volunteer programs. Here’s a transcript:

Steve:

From Keurig Green Mountain this morning we have Leslie Pippin, the volunteer manager; Colleen Popkin, senior sustainability manager, who oversees Keurig’s employee source trips; and Caitlin Leonard, the marketing manager for an employee perspective. So, glad to have you with us today.

Leslie:

Good Morning.

Colleen:

Good Morning, Steve.

Steve:

So, first off, why are employee engagement and volunteerism so important at Keurig?

Leslie:

I’ll start us off. Here at Keurig Green Mountain, we love to engage our employees in many ways. As you mentioned, we have two unique programs. One is through volunteerism, and another element of our engagement is through our source trips, which have been culture cornerstones here from the beginning of our business at Keurig. These are two unique elements, as we’ve mentioned, that really seem to engage and empower our employees to promote positive, social, and environmental change. Employees not only feel empowered and fulfilled at work, but they also experience our values and action and develop a better passion for the work we do together.

Colleen:

Yeah, that’s right Leslie. This is Colleen, if I could jump in. The other aspect of employee engagement that I want to mention is that it’s not only a means to achieve HR objectives, but at Keurig, we’ve also found that engaged employees help us to validate that our sustainability agenda is relevant to our business, and it also helps us build support internally for our work.

Leslie:

In addition, research shows having an engaged workforce is no longer just a nice to have. In Cone’s 2016 employee engagement study, they found 74% of people say their job is more fulfilling when they have provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work.

Steve:

OK, thanks for that. Let’s get more specific. How about the volunteerism program that I mentioned? What ways are Keurig employees able to become engaged in volunteerism there?

Leslie:

So, here we have a program called CAFE, which is our Community Action for Employees. And this program offers all of our full-time employees here at Keurig to volunteer 52 hours throughout the year, and they get paid for this on an annual basis. So, this allows our people to consistently spend time giving back throughout the year in any way they want to, from volunteering by themselves at a local soup kitchen to cleaning up a park as a team.

In addition, some of our employees get to participate in a companywide volunteer event. This is a unique event to our company and it’s our annual river cleanup. We do cleanup along rivers, and we do some restoration projects along these riverbanks. We do this throughout all of our communities and where we operate. And, so, this year marks our 13th annual event that we just actually wrapped up here in Vermont.

In 2016, we had about 470 of our employees participate in the annual cleanup, and again, that was across all of our sites, and this group last year removed 23 tons of trash. And that can range from a variety of things that we can find in the rivers and along the riverbanks. And, in addition, our group found 372 tires, which seems to be our employees’ passion, is to find out how many tires they can pull.

So, as I mentioned, we just wrapped up our 13th annual event in Vermont. And the unique part about our Vermont activity is, through our partnership with American Rivers, we’ve put our employees in canoes. So, they’re going along the Winooski River pulling the debris, the trash, the tires, anything they can find. Colleen, actually, and Caitlin were both with us this year. I’ll let them tell you a little bit more about what they got to find, but we found some pretty interesting things this year.

Caitlin:

Deer skulls.

Colleen:

I pulled out a tire axle.

Leslie:

We found some grocery carts; we find license plates. You name it, we find it. So, that’s another great way we get to engage our employees is through their interesting finds.

Steve:

Well, that sounds like not only just a worthwhile project, but it could be fun, and it could be fulfilling. So, what percentage of your workforce takes advantage of this CAFE program?

Leslie:

In 2016, we had 55% of our total workforce participate in at least one of our volunteerism programs. This totals over 56,000 hours volunteered last year. By comparison in how we do compared to other organizations, the average rate of participation in paid employee volunteer programs is 30% at other organizations.

Steve:

Wow, that’s a very impressive figure. What are some of the activities that individual employees have done with their CAFE time?

Leslie:

Well, we think it’s really important to offer all of our employees the opportunity to explore their individual passions. Which is why our employees have a free range to choose where they use their CAFE time throughout the year here at Keurig. That’s why we offer companywide activities like I mentioned, the annual river cleanup. We also encourage employees to serve their communities in ways that are most meaningful to them.

For example, we have employees that will participate, as I mentioned, in soup kitchens, but they’ll also go to food banks and help distribute food. We’ve had groups go out and plant trees. We actually had a group recently go out as a team, there was 20 team members, and they planted over 3,000 trees at one of our local organizations that’s called the Intervale Center here in Vermont.

And, so, we find that employees love to be able to go out and really provide activities that are really passionate to themselves, but also what is great and meaningful to them as a team. With all of our volunteer projects, it’s our goal to partner for mutual success, so by allowing our employees to really present new opportunities, we’re able to strengthen those relationships in a lot of the organizations where we partner in driving change in the communities and where we work and live.

We also encourage our employees to engage others in their passion projects. So we give our employees an opportunity to communicate and share the opportunities that they learn about in their group. And, so, we send companywide messages about upcoming volunteer opportunities and giving the opportunity for groups to come around and rally together to join in the volunteer activities that are happening in their operating areas.

Steve:

Well this is great. Caitlin, I understand you have some interesting projects you’ve worked on. Would you share a few of them?

Caitlin:

Sure, Steve. So, I’ve traditionally used my CAFE time volunteering in the social services and the hunger and food system sectors. Those are both dear to my heart. So, for the past few months, I’d say it’s been my most fulfilling experience so far being a volunteer delivery driver for Meals on Wheels in Waterbury, Vermont. To be able to provide hot meals to people in need in their homes has been really heartwarming for me. And, oftentimes, I’m the only one they see all day, so it’s not only bringing them a hot meal, but it’s a friendly smile, it’s a conversation, it’s a check on them. So, it’s a feel-good part of my day that I just am so grateful to be able to do as part of the Keurig employee engagement.

And as a busy mom working full-time in marketing, it’s often tough to find volunteer time outside of traditional work hours, so this is just a wonderful perk and one of the ones that really drew me to Keurig Green Mountain as a company.

Steve:

Well, thanks for everything that you’re doing and for everything the whole team is doing. Do you find that employees are most passionate when they’re able to help out a community local to their home or workplace?

Caitlin:

We do. Contributing to the local needs within a community really helps to create positive change for our employees. And they get to see it but also experience it firsthand, which is a really great motivator for our employees. We have groups of employees volunteer in their communities all the time.

I know I’ve brought up a couple of examples, but another one that we have here in Vermont is a group of our tech-savvy employees out of our IT area started working with a nonprofit locally called Technology for Tomorrow. Technology for Tomorrow teaches senior citizens and other community members how to use the Internet, smartphones, and just other technology. And this has really engaged our employees to use the skills that they have and they use every day and giving it back right into their own community.

Tomorrow’s Advisor will look into how Keurig Green Mountain engages employees with “source trips.”