Sometimes you need to break a few eggs – What Betty Crocker taught me about compliance

When considering local leaders and how to put them front and centre of ethics and compliance activities, we have much to learn from Betty Crocker.

The history of the cake mix has been well documented (who knew and by whom?) and the story goes that sales of cake mix failed to take off in the 1930’s because the “just add water” approach diminished the role of the American Housewife; it failed to involve her.

It’s the same with much of our ethics and compliance work.  Managers and leaders are too often talked about as the “route” or “conduit” to engaging with employees, as if they are passive entities through which we pass messages; a means to an end.  In fact, they are more like a pressure valve, with the capability to slow down and even stop communications – or to speed up and focus the activity. When we are passing on performance statements or general company announcements, then potentially a certain amount of passivity is fine. When we are talking about culture and compliance activities, it most certainly is not.

When it comes to E&C, what happens to our messages if we fail to involve our local leaders and treat them merely as a route to market?

Back to cake mix.  The story goes that after psychologists and focus groups got involved, the need for housewives to “add two eggs” revolutionized the industry.  By the end of the 1940s there were hundreds of companies making mix, led by Betty Crocker. In terms of time and effort, adding two eggs did not turn this into a labour of love – but the end result was something that could be proudly served to family and friends.

More recently, this concept of ‘value by involvement’ has been a key tenet of IKEA’s strategy – ‘I love it, because I built it.’

Finding simple ways to allow managers to get more involved can and should achieve a similar result in our area; getting them to do some simple research, think about the context of the message for their teams, or add in some personal reflection.

When it comes to E&C communication, what are our two eggs?

Today if you ask most people if they baked the cake from scratch, they will say yes – even if they used a mix. The cake mix redefined the concept of baking.  In the same way, we want our managers to be so involved in our E&C communications that they feel, even if they didn’t create the materials from scratch, that they have played a key role in bringing them to life.

Campbell Barr Chris Campbell

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