Kohler’s 2022 Believing in Better Report: Enhancing Quality of Life at Kohler

December 08, 2023 02:30 AM AEDT | By 3BL
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Originally published in Kohler's 2022 Believing in Better Impact Report

A career at Kohler is more than a job. To support this, we look holistically at what helps our associates show up at their best to do their best. It’s more than creating career opportunities where they can learn, grow, and achieve their full potential; it’s also about how we help our associates feel a greater sense of belonging and help them live a better, more fulfilled life—with the richness of an experience that connects to their own values, beliefs, and purpose.

As a global employer, we look to our guiding principles and beliefs to help us create a safe and welcoming environment that fosters creative collaboration between people of different cultures, races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and religions. This starts with ownership and accountability at the highest levels, including the Kohler Leadership Team (KLT), all global people leaders, and the strong collaboration of our HR team in partnership with our BRGs and global associates.

In 2022 our HR team was led by Kohler’s Senior Vice President-HR, Stewardship, and Sustainability who oversaw talent acquisition; leadership development; benefits; diversity, equity, and inclusion; compensation; engagement; well-being; and associate learning programs. In late 2022 a new role was established, Chief Sustainability and DEI Officer, which now oversees environmental sustainability, diversity; equity, and inclusion; stewardship; Innovation for Good® ; ESG; and the Kohler WasteLAB® . The Senior Vice President–Human Resources continues to oversee talent acquisition, leadership development, benefits, compensation, engagement, well-being, and associate learning programs. We are a data-oriented company that closely tracks metrics around talent acquisition, retention, and diversity, with that data reported to our Chair & CEO and the KLT every month.

LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT

Our belief that each associate is a leader means we’re intrinsically focused on building learning and development opportunities that activate and empower our associates to boldly innovate across our organization. We’re fostering an environment where our associates can learn, thrive, and achieve their life and career goals.

Self-Driven Learning

We have invested in technology to expand access to learning opportunities. In 2022 our associates engaged in over 139,000 hours of learning.

More than 11,000 of these engagement hours occurred on LinkedIn Learning, an online platform offering video courses taught by industry experts in business, creative, and technology skills, along with more in-depth learning and certifications. This platform is offered to all associates worldwide where LinkedIn is available. In 2022 more than 250,000 videos were viewed. For Kohler associates in China, we provide access to the Zhiniao learning platform in the absence of LinkedIn.

In 2022 the Kohler Capability Accelerator, in partnership with the University of Virginia, supported 83 Kohler associates in completing data analytics or marketing training. We are continuing this partnership to extend specialized training to more Kohler associates.

Associate Learning 139K hours of learning were completed by our associates in 2022

Leadership Development

We want to develop leaders who are inclusive and able to attract and retain our associates. We believe that a respectful, inclusive workplace is nonnegotiable, sparks creativity, and enhances a sense of mutual trust— creating the foundation of a great workplace. Kohler’s custom leadership-development program, the Bold Leader Development Series, was created in 2022 and supported as a strategic initiative from the KLT. Designed for leaders from all Kohler operations around the world, this training is modeled after “Leading Boldly,” our simple, focused framework to define leadership at all levels of the organization. Starting in 2023 this leadership training will roll out to all 3,600+ Kohler people leaders across the globe. With our belief in and commitment to DEI, the Bold Leader Development Series training focuses on integrating DEI into all aspects, with a featured module on inclusive leadership, in addition to key content around:

  • Self-leadership,
  • People leadership, and
  • Business leadership.

Meaningful Career Growth

We look at career progression holistically, meaning we offer our associates the kind of personalized experiences they need to grow their career through formative career opportunities, peer learning, and formal training.

  • We provide tools to help our associates learn, grow, and achieve their full potential with Kohler.
  • We actively identify associates with leadership potential.
  • Our signature Bold Mentoring program offers opportunities for one-on-one connection and learning.

To help our associates maximize their performance and potential, we actively support and encourage ongoing career, performance, and development conversations. Associates start the year working with their leaders identifying and aligning goals which connect directly to business strategy. As time goes on and progress is made, leaders guide, coach, and support associates as needed. Beyond the day-to-day, we’re thinking long-term by identifying succession plans at all levels of the company and reviewing those against our associates’ interests to drive meaningful and purposeful career development.

96% of global administrative salaried associates completed year-end reviews as part of our Maximizing Performance and Potential process

EMPOWERING AND RECOGNIZING OUR ASSOCIATES

Kohler employs a listening strategy to track engagement, understand associate feedback, and take action to learn, improve, and grow stronger together. As part of this listening strategy, we periodically conduct surveys of our associates. In 2022 our global engagement score came in at 82 (+1 since 2021) and nearly all survey questions improved from the last time they were asked. All in, this puts associate engagement at Kohler above the average score for the top 25% of companies (per Glint benchmarks), which is a key result we remain focused on. We also hold listening sessions, as appropriate, based on events that occur around us, and we organize in-person gatherings to celebrate our associates.

In 2022 Kohler held the annual summer gathering in Wisconsin for the Quarter Century Club to celebrate our longest-tenured associates. Approximately 1,400 employees attended, each of whom has worked with Kohler for at least 25 years. Our annual associate picnic in 2022, which was attended by nearly 8,000 associates, was a weekend-long event with activities such as a zipline, kids’ yoga, rides, and games.

In 2022 the Kohler Quarter Century Club welcomed 213 associates from across the globe, raising the organization’s lifetime membership to 11,504 associates.

Bold Recognition

12K global peer-to-peer recognitions in 2022

Another way we recognize our associates is through our global peer-to-peer recognition platform Bold Recognition. In 2022 we had 12,000 recognitions that highlighted the great work of associates around the world. For our offline population, we also use printed Focused Recognition Cards.

CARING FOR THE WELL-BEING OF OUR ASSOCIATES

At Kohler we prioritize the health and well-being of our associates and foster a culture that values people and puts their safety first, all while upholding a respectful workplace environment. Our goal is to be an employer of choice that supports our associates not merely in their careers but in their whole lives.

Comprehensive Benefits

Our benefits packages are designed to provide protection for the health, financial security, and income of our associates, including mental health and well-being offerings that support a healthy lifestyle. We strive to offer support for all associates and are continually making our benefits more inclusive.

Our comprehensive benefits packages for all full-time and many part-time associates in the U.S. include medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage for associates and their dependents, and are made affordable for associates through low contribution requirements. We also provide life insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, accident and critical illness insurance, access to an employee assistance program (EAP), and a wellness incentive program to our fulltime and other benefits-eligible associates, along with tuition reimbursement for associates pursuing higher education in the U.S. and Canada.

We help provide for financial security through our 401(k) plan that includes a company match, the Kohler Pension Plan that is offered to the majority of associates in the U.S. in most business units, and retirement-planning support available at no cost to associates.

We recognize the importance of our work and family lives and provide paid parental leave in the U.S. and other countries. We also have a discount program for eligible childcare centers and offer flexible spending accounts for associates to pay for childcare expenses. Support for family planning is also available for U.S. associates.

In 2022 we increased our benefits in reproductive health care to reimburse U.S. associates for the costs of travel to obtain medical care they cannot legally seek in their state of residence. We also announced that Kohler will include gender-affirming medical care on our insurance coverage as well as coverage for associates’ domestic partners. These benefits are available to full-time and many part-time associates in the U.S.

Our benefits vary across our locations around the world. We may provide a range of health benefits, EAP services, life insurance coverage, disability benefits, retirement savings, and pension benefits to associates. Additionally, at many of our locations outside the U.S., we offer on-site food service, meal allowances, and food coupons for meals prepared at home.

Wellness and Mental Health

Kohler is committed to supporting the mental health and overall well-being of all associates while creating an environment where associates can bring their whole self to work.

  • Enhanced Global Benefits: In 2022 Kohler enhanced the global benefits available through our EAP to provide mental health support and work/life resources to Kohler associates globally. The enhancement expanded mental health support to 22,000 associates and their family members. 
  • #IWILLLISTEN Mental Health Walk/Run: In 2022 the Global Benefits team and the HeadsUp BRG collaborated to expand the annual #IWILLLISTEN Mental Health Walk/Run to all associates worldwide, which raised awareness of mental health challenges. Kohler associates participated at in-person events in the U.S. and U.K. or as part of a virtual global walk.
  • Global Invitational Challenge: In 2022 our wellness program, Kohler Choose Well...Live Well, offered the Global Invitational Challenge to all associates around the world. Over the course of four weeks, Kohler associates participated in a steps challenge to encourage fitness and an active lifestyle.

Mental Health Support

22K associates around the world and their families benefit from Kohler’s expanded benefits

Relief Fund for Kohler Associates

Kohler associates share a long history of giving generously of their time and money to support fellow associates when they face the unexpected. The Kohler Associate Relief Fund helps associates who are facing a financial hardship. The program is administered by the Emergency Assistance Foundation. It is funded primarily by Kohler Co. with support from associates. Associates who wish to contribute can make a voluntary ongoing gift or a one-time gift. Associates facing personal hardship or the effects of a disaster can apply for a grant from the fund. Since launching in 2020, the fund has awarded 15 associates a total of $24,644.

Kohler Associate Relief Fund $24.6K awarded to 15 associates since 2020

Workplace Safety

Workplace safety is a key value for Kohler, with a focus on protecting associates from harm. We have been a charter member of the U.S. National Safety Council since 1914, and maintain robust health and safety standards through our Kohler Safety Management System (KSMS), which covers 100% of our associates, activities, and workplaces across all our businesses. The KSMS ensures that we follow all applicable government regulations in the U.S. as governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and adhere to all applicable local laws and regulations regarding workplace health and safety in the countries where we operate. Examples of other strategic safety initiatives include the development of effective safety leadership, proactive associate participation in the safety process, enabling safe behavior through comprehensive associate training, reduced workplace safety risk through periodic site inspections, and incident-reporting analysis to prevent reoccurrence.

Charter member of the U.S. National Safety Council since 1914

Kohler’s environmental, health, and safety (EHS) processes are overseen by our Senior Global Director of EHS & Security, who implements our global EHS strategy to establish safe, healthy, and collaborative workplaces that comply with regulatory standards and requirements. Site performance and compliance with our health and safety standards and policies are monitored through regular assessments and internal audits of EHS compliance.

The KSMS is based on current industry best practices for a fully integrated health and safety management system and was established to ensure sustained continuous improvement in safety performance, both by reducing risk of injury and ensuring regulatory compliance. We engage key stakeholders in conducting a comprehensive periodic review to continually improve the KSMS.

The KSMS also acts as a mechanism to obtain enterprise-wide feedback on our health and safety performance through assessments that are validated by our associates. The resulting feedback is used to inform evaluations and improvements, and best practices are leveraged across the company.

Identifying Risks and Hazards

To identify hazards and assess risks to our associates, we follow an auditing process and risk assessment analysis. Internal audits and third-party certification, where appropriate, ensure the high quality of our methods of hazard identification, evaluation, and control.

At each Kohler facility, whether it be a manufacturing or a hospitality site, Kohler’s enterprise EHS function is responsible for reviewing potential risks, taking into account:

  • occupational hygiene,
  • work-related hazards, and
  • illness-related risk.

These vary by location and are closely monitored, with processes in place to safely navigate each hazard.

To continually improve our EHS performance, we set annual performance metrics each year. Our annual injury prevention plans require associates to participate in safety by identifying hazards and hazardous situations. The plans also require corrective action to mitigate hazards that are identified. To prevent a safety incident from recurring, our incident management process includes:

  • prompt notification,
  • quality root-cause analysis (RCA), and
  • timebound sharing of learnings.

Each Kohler site has a qualified RCA facilitator who is supported by a regional RCA expert on enterprise staff. Enterprise EHS reviews each RCA and its corrective and preventative action plan.

Communication and Training

We issue monthly and annual reports to ensure stakeholders’ understanding of Kohler’s EHS strategy, expectations, annual targets, and overall performance.

During the onboarding process for Kohler associates and contracted employees, they receive occupational health and safety training. Additional training is provided according to site-specific risks and in keeping with regulatory compliance. Refresher training may be more frequent in response to recent RCA findings and changes in applicable regulations.

Associate Participation

All Kohler sites maintain a safety committee that includes management and associate representatives, and all associates are represented by their on-site safety committee. Where appropriate, site safety committees allow for cross-functional and union representation.

If an associate believes a condition is unsafe, they are expected to report the potential hazard and have several options for doing so. In addition to an open-door policy, a written reporting process is also in place. All Kohler associates and contracted employees can raise concerns and provide other input through:

  • daily safety meeting input,
  • their supervisor,
  • their site manager or another manager,
  • the EHS office,
  • HR, and
  • anonymous hotline. Associates are informed on a yearly basis about the expectation to report hazardous situations as well as our methods for protecting them from reprisal. As a matter of policy, associates have the right to refuse and remove themselves from work situations they believe to be unsafe.

Read the full 2022 Kohler Believing in Better Impact Report here.


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