How Family Firm Mars Engages its People

Did you know that 90% plus enterprises around the world are family owned?

Liz Clayton-Jones engagement partner at family firm Mars gave a tour de force performance at the 34th Engage for Change breakfast at the Groucho Club.

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Mars was formed in a kitchen in 1911. Today it has 78,000 people making confectionary. It was built around five principals: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom.

Every decision large and apparently insignificant is taken with the principals in mind. With corporations’ life cycles in rapid decline it’s interesting to ponder the power of values or principles as Mars calls them in terms of sustainability.

Intriguingly mutuality and freedom are cited as key to setting boundaries and making it safe to speak up.

Much is said about the arrival of employee engagement but firms like Mars have been doing it since the get go – essentially employee engagement is about treating people with respect and encouraging new ideas from everyone.

Liz’s main points were:

  • It’s been a ten year journey. Back then Mars was in the bottom quartile of Gallup’s poll. Today it’s in the top quartile – there needs to be management stability which of course a family firm can provide as its not at the beck and call of outside investors
  • There needs to be a well understood strategy to make the principals stick. In their case
  • Hold management accountable for the principles
  • Recruit and promote line managers that have the skills to engage others (watch out for Engage for Change’s ‘Leaders’ presence’ L&D programme being piloted)
  • Celebrate success rather than finding fault
  • Identify and kill barriers like old goals not being struck off as new goals emerge