Employee Engagement at Campbell’s Soup

By Kevin on January 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

The year 2000 was a very bad year for Campbell’s Soup.

The company that began in 1869 and sold soup in 120 different countries hit upon bad times. Sales weren’t just slowing, they were declining. They lost 54% of their market value in just one year. Campbell’s executives were told that their employee engagement levels were the worst ever seen among the Fortune 500.

So the board of directors hired a new CEO, the mild-mannered Douglas Conant, to turn things around.

What do most CEOs do in dire situations? They sell off divisions, they buy smaller companies, they move into new markets, they hire investment bankers to evaluate “strategic options”.

But that wasn’t Conant’s style. As he was quoted in a Forbes magazine article, “To win in the marketplace…you must first win in the workplace. I’m obsessed with keeping employee engagement front and center.

So quarter after quarter, year after year, Conant made sure that employee engagement was one of the top initiatives throughout Campbell’s.

Not everybody got the message. In fact, Conant fired 300 of his 350 managers who just wouldn’t adapt to the new program. For most of the openings, he promoted from within those who understood the importance of culture and its impact on the bottom line.

By 2009, Campbell’s Soup had achieved an astounding 23:1 engaged to disengaged employee ratio. More importantly, in the decade that saw the S&P 500 stocks lose 10% of their value, Campbell’s Soup stock actually increased by 30%.

In other words, “keeping employee engagement front and center” helped Campbell’s to achieve 4x greater results for investors.


Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and keynote speaker. Get more success and tips from his newsletter at kevinkruse.com and check out keynote video clips. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

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