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Corp Comms and Strategy Execution: Q&A with Beth Walters, SVP Communications at Jabil

An internal competition helps with strategy implementation and boosts employee engagement

Beth Walters, Jabil’s Senior Vice President, Communications & Investor Relations

Jabil is one of the world’s largest contract manufacturers with 180,000 employees, 90 plants in 24 countries, 2014 revenues of $15.8 billion, and its headquarters in St Petersburg, Florida.

A highly diverse group of employees, dispersed around the world, and from a range of professional backgrounds mean that the corporate communications team has an important role to play in keeping all employees engaged in the firm’s corporate strategy, and in helping them play their part in implementing it (see this post for more on the role corp comms can and should play in strategy implementation).

Friendly Competition

So, among other tactics, Jabil’s communications team created a global competition for employees. The competition promotes an employee culture of innovation and continuous improvement and encourages all employees to share best practices. As Beth Walters, Senior Vice President, Communications & Investor Relations says, the comms team also wanted, “to ensure that Lean Six Sigma is top-of-mind for every employee every day.”

Below is a Q&A with Beth about the competition, the role of the comms team, and the results they’ve seen.

Q&A With Beth Walters

  1. What is the “Deliver Best Practices” competition?

    The goal of the annual, global continuous improvement competition is to challenge Jabil employees anywhere in the world to share and promote innovative new methodologies and process improvements that benefit Jabil’s employees, customers, local communities, and the environment.

    It also recognizes the dedication and talent of the company’s global workforce.

  2. How does the competition support the company’s objectives and improve employee performance?

    The competition highlights innovative but practical ideas from employees for implementing continuous improvement practices in their day-to-day work. By publicizing the projects and involving all regions in the competition, the communications team promotes the peer-to-peer exchange of ideas and increases overall employee performance.

    In the past seven years, Jabil teams have submitted more than 5,000 projects in four broad categories: Customer Satisfaction, Human Development, Operational Excellence, and Social & Environmental Responsibility.

    Originally, the submission process was manual but, in 2012, we developed and launched a dedicated proprietary system called eKaizen. This eKaizen system also serves as the data repository of all Lean projects for the company, making them available to employees to learn from.

  3. How does the competition work in practice?

    What makes this competition different is that it promotes the idea of group contribution. Projects are submitted by teams, and winners and finalists are recognized as teams, rather than individuals. The teams advance through “plant,” “sub-regional,” and regional rounds before advancing to the preliminary and final rounds of the global competition.

    If they make it to the final two rounds, teams send a representative to Jabil’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, to present their projects to Jabil’s executives and to spend a week getting to know colleagues from other Jabil teams and sites.

    The teams are scored by the judges based on Lean Six Sigma project criteria, such as how they identified the need for this project and the root cause of the problem, how they approached its solution as a team, how they “sustain” the solution, how they have shared this project with colleagues, and how the company’s culture helped with a successful innovation.

  4. What is Communication’s role in promoting and sharing the competition?

    The competition is managed by a team of four communications team members (including one full-time program manager) overseeing all aspects of the program from content development and promotion to logistics,and every detail in between. The team coordinates the application process, making sure each facility is aware of the rules and entry dates, manages the ambassadors program, and organizes all five judging rounds.

    The comms team promotes the program through our internal channels by sharing promotional videos and materials with all employees, and communicates with all levels of the organization from Jabil’s officers to site management.

    To encourage participation, the comms team relies on “points of contact” (updated annually) located at each facility (frequently a plant Lean manager). In 2011, the team enhanced the internal promotion of the program by forming an “ambassadors program” and last year included 15 past finalists from the global competition that supported 70 points of contact from all facilities worldwide.

  5. What successes have you achieved through the competition?

    By leading or participating in projects, employees will directly improve Jabil’s operations through improved customer satisfaction, enhanced quality and efficiency, and in the way it bolsters employee engagement. Employees feel they make professional and personal improvements, such as acquiring new skills and knowledge, improving their teamwork, and getting greater visibility for their projects among their peers and senior executives.

    This year, for the second consecutive year, the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) has nominated Jabil as a finalist for its Lean Division Best Practice Award 2015. Two projects from this past year’s Deliver Best Practices competition will compete among others for top honors at the IIE Annual Conference & Expo on May 30. Last year, Jabil Shanghai’s project, a 2013 Deliver Best Practices winner, won 1st place in this prestigious Lean competition.

    In April 2015, this communications program was recognized by the International Association of Business Communicators with a Gold Quill Merit Award for “Special Internal Events.”

    Jabil blog image

    2015 Competition Promotion on Jabil’s internal communications channels: launch presentation, intranet, eKaizen, and video.

    The feedback has been very positive, from both Jabil’s executives and our employees – to quote just a few:

    “This awesome competition recognizes the absolute best and most impactful ideas throughout the company. It’s grown to be an annual celebration of incredible creativity and innovative thinking,” said Mark Mondello, Jabil’s Chief Executive Officer. “For me, the day in which we formally listen and select the winners from our exceptional group of worldwide finalists, is one of my favorite days of the year!”

    “This is an incredible honor for Jabil, our Lean Six Sigma Program and the Deliver Best Practices competition,” said Walt Garvin, Vice President Global Lean Six Sigma. “It’s a testament to the continuous improvement culture being implemented at our sites around the world.” 

    “I think Deliver Best Practices is more than just a competition. It is a platform to share Jabil’s culture. It really provides a chance for us to be proud of working for such a great company.” –Taichung Design’s 2014 Participant

    “Good companies tell you how they collect employee suggestions. Great companies tell you how they use them. Jabil is a Great company”. –Auburn Hills’ 2012 Participant.

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