Purpose 360

The podcast that makes business matter

Multi-Generational Leadership for Good with Laura Kohler

True to our name, at Purpose 360 we believe purpose must be embedded throughout an organization to maximize impact. Kohler takes this ethos a step further – integrating the company and its purpose with the world.

Laura Kohler, Vice President of Human Resources, Stewardship and Sustainability at Kohler – a fourth-generation family executive – joins us for the second episode of Purpose 360 to explore the firm’s evolution as a privately-held company that believes better business and a better world go hand-in-hand. Kohler is an ever-present brand, with products in homes and businesses around the world. Yet, how many of us stop during our morning routine to think about the brand’s reason for being? The reality is, the organization behind our sinks, faucets and bathtubs is changing lives around the world.

The authentic use of collaboration, employee engagement and storytelling to drive business and social impact outcomes has been critical to Kohler’s growth over the past 144 years. Kohler takes a long-term view of purpose with Innovation For Good – the company’s award-winning innovation incubator – being their most recent initiative. Innovation For Good has fostered engagement between engineers and designers, created external partnerships with organizations such as the Gates Foundation, and empowered employees to volunteer worldwide.

The Kohler model is one to emulate. Here’s why:

  • Kohler celebrates and builds on its brand history. In Laura’s words, “take care of it, highlight it, and make sure people know what an important legacy you have” as you look forward on your social purpose journey. Creating awareness of the history of your brand can guide you into the future, garnering the attention of the “pivot generation” – millennials, Gen Z, and your new workforce.
  • “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This applies to both the individual employee and the company. If we can really say, “how can I make a difference in my work every day with my company? In my work, in my community, as an individual?” then we have the power to improve some of the world’s biggest problems.
  • Stewardship and sustainability drive engagement, and engagement drives productivity and retention. Disengaged workers are more likely to leave their place of work, driving massive drops in productivity that result in losses between $450 and $500 billion a year. People come to Kohler to be part of the stewardship and sustainability journey – and they stay.
  • Global storytelling v. local storytelling. “Authentic storytelling from the point of view of the person who experienced it is very powerful.” Don’t forget the power of local communication and internal (employee) storytelling as you amplify your global initiatives.
  • Finesse in change management. When driving change inside an organization, it is vital to communicate with the most engaged employees. They are your champions and influencers within the organization. If you provide your engaged workforce with a challenge and the tools problem solve, they can help your company navigate change.

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