How to Keep Employees Happy — the HoneyBaked Way

The holidays are busy for food brands. Jo Ann Herold, chief marketing officer of The Honey Baked Ham Company, explains how to keep employees happy.

The holidays are usually go-time for Food and Beverage brands, and that can make it one of the most stressful times of the year. The Honey Baked Ham Company, an iconic food brand with over six decades of history, is no exception to the holiday rush. The company does approximately 80% of yearly sales in just eight days in the fourth quarter. Jo Ann Herold, chief marketing officer at The Honey Baked Ham Company, gave her perspective on how the brand stays focused and what her staff does to keep the entire team engaged during the season. Herold reminds other chief marketing officers that they may be responsible for sales and strategy, but they are also “the heart of the company.” Herold added, “we work with the CEO and the head of human resources to make sure we communicate our values throughout the company.”

HoneyBaked sells food products and gifts both online and in retail, but Herold says that the company itself is focused on celebration. This culture of celebration doesn’t just extend to the customer’s holiday events but also in how they treat their employees throughout the year. Herold added, “We celebrate an employee of the month, birthdays, anniversaries and other events. We are very much focused on bringing the heart and the love to our Ham-Fam.”

“HoneyBaked, as a company, is focused on celebration.”

Jo Ann Herold, chief marketing officer, The Honey Baked Ham Company

Plan, Execute and Enjoy

Marketing planning and production for most holiday-centric food brands happen during the summer and early fall. HoneyBaked spends the summer doing cleanup and heavy lifting to prepare for the season. Herold’s team reviews performance early in the year and promptly begin planning their integrated marketing campaigns for the remainder of the year. Since much of her team’s work is complete and in-market by the holiday season, she shifts her focus to promoting and sharing the creative assets and performance with the company’s leadership and team members to get everyone excited about the marketing efforts.

While many marketing teams might sit back and rest on their laurels during this time, Herold and her team take advantage of their downtime and volunteer in busy local retail stores. It not only builds goodwill with the people in the trenches, but they also get a chance to hear from consumers directly. They can then share that feedback with operations and leadership as quickly as possible. Partnering with HR, marketing and operations, HoneyBaked also helps create a swag box for all the company’s general managers before the holidays to let them know how much they appreciate them.

Finding Purpose in Work

A global culture study from the O.C. Tanner Institute in 2019 studied the modern workplace and the influence culture played on employees in the workforce. When leaders connect their employees to purpose, they are 747% more likely to be highly engaged and 49% less likely to burn out. (O.C. Tanner, https://www.octanner.com/global-culture-report.html)

“It’s about purpose…” Herold comments, “at HoneyBaked, we know we have an important purpose in consumers’ lives. They come to us at one of the most important moments in their lives. We have to remind ourselves that what we do is bigger than just a transaction; we are a part of communities and lives.” Connecting what employees do to something bigger than just their day-to-day jobs gives meaning and a sense of pride to their work. Herold believes this helps to avoid the burnout that many employees can feel during the middle of the busiest season of the year.

“We have to remind ourselves that what we do is bigger than just a transaction; we are a part of communities and lives.”

Jo Ann Herold, chief marketing officer, The Honey Baked Ham Company

The marketing team will also pull customer gift messages from shipping and operations and share them with the whole team. Ash Duvernois, Director of eCommerce & Digital Marketing at HoneyBaked, shared that “it gives the team another chance to really see they have an impact – from new baby gifts, celebrations, sympathy gifts – it can all be very emotional.”

Giving Recognition Where Due

Another essential facet of HoneyBaked’s company culture is to recognize those people in the company that are doing great work. Global studies from the O.C. Tanner institute have shown that 79% of people who quit their jobs cite “lack of appreciation” as their reason for leaving. Herold encourages other marketing executives to ensure that recognizing people’s successes are promoted throughout the company. She works with her marketing team to deliver a weekly internal email promoting team members that is also shared with the entire leadership. “Make sure to carve out those moments to celebrate the team and each other. CMOs need to set time aside to recognize people.” She believes that leaders must make sure that their teams know how truly grateful they are of them. Herold says that the chief marketing officer’s job is not all about the bottom line and driving sales — they must appreciate what the team does and all of their hard work during the busy season. They must acknowledge that nothing would be possible without the help of the team.

“Make sure to carve out those moments to celebrate the team and each other. CMOs need to set time aside to recognize people.”

Jo Ann Herold, chief marketing officer, The Honey Baked Ham Company

Celebrating the Wins and Sharing with the Team

Many companies can get tunnel vision during the busy times of the year with just fulfilling orders. Still, HoneyBaked works hard to make sure they are continually delivering on excellence for their customers and their team. They have an internal group called H.E.A.T., or Holiday Excellence Action Team, which is focused on ensuring the highest level of customer service. They also pass the goodwill from happy customers throughout the organization.  These team members will be working in the store directly or getting reports out in the field with customers to share their positive and, if necessary, not so positive experiences.

Herold believes that sharing these wins and opportunities for improvement during the holiday season is essential to keeping people motivated and excited. “We try to share what we hear from consumers with the whole team or sometimes even on social media.”

Happiness the HoneyBaked Way

The holidays will always be a stressful time for food and beverage brands, but HoneyBaked proves that marketing executives, with just a little care and focus, can help ensure their teams are happy. Connecting everyone to a purpose that is higher than just their individual task keeps employees engaged when they may feel overwhelmed. Herold believes that HoneyBaked hires “great people that love serving others,” and this helps to keep their culture of celebration alive. She reminds leaders that, “happiness is a practice and a mindset.” They must stop and take stock of how much they have to be grateful for this holiday. There is much more to celebrate than just soaring sales. After all, a happy team member is worth their weight in golden Honey Baked hams.