How Campbell’s Soup’s former CEO turned the company around. WHEN DOUGLAS CONANT CAME ON THE SCENE, CAMPBELL’S MARKET VALUE AND EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT WERE A MESS. HERE’S HOW HE GOT THINGS BACK ON TRACK.
BY RODGER DEAN DUNCAN
When Douglas Conant took over as the president and CEO of Campbell’s Soup in 2001, the company’s stock was falling steeply. Of all the major food companies in the world, Campbell’s was the rock bottom performer. Conant’s challenge was to lead the company back to greatness.
It looked like a daunting task. In Conant’s words, the company had “a very toxic culture.” Employees were disheartened, management systems were dysfunctional, trust was low, and a lot of people felt and behaved like victims.
How Campbell’s Soup’s former CEO turned the company around. When Conant first entered the scene, employee engagement was extremely anemic: for every two people actively engaged, one person was looking for a job. “You can’t expect a company to perform at high levels unless people are personally engaged,” he says. “And they won’t be personally engaged unless they believe their leader is personally engaged in trying to make their lives better.”