By Frannie Coggeshall
Donovan Mattole, Head of People & Organization for Mars Retail Group, shares his insights on associate engagement, how it’s a key to the company’s success, challenges of opening global stores and methods of engaging associates all over the world. Headquartered in Mt. Arlington, New Jersey, the Mars Retail Group creates and builds retail businesses that build the brands of Mars, Incorporated. The iconic M&M’S WORLD® stores, located in New York City, Las Vegas, Orlando, and London, currently represent Mars largest retail business. MRG also operates the company’s Licensing and My M&M’S businesses, as well as the gourmet chocolate business that is sold under the ETHEL M® brand name.
[Frannie Coggeshall] Mars has a reputation for focusing on engagement and you have stated that associate engagement is a key to the success of your business. Why do you think the two are so closely related?
[Donovan Mattole] In both our M&M’S World and Ethel M gourmet chocolate stores associates work to provide a happy fun environment and put smiles on the faces of our guests. The engagement of our associates is integral to creating these special guest moments. MRG is part of Mars Chocolate and all of us are passionate about creating special moments for our consumers and our stores bring these moments to life.
“Every culture is different, but one thing we have found is that associates everywhere want opportunities for career and personal development; they want line managers who care about them and provide feedback; and they want to have friends at work.”
Every day in our stores we see guests creating these special moments – whether it is watching a couple get engaged or a parent and child spending a special day together. Our stores provide a “feast for the senses,” including our M&M’S characters who dance with the guests and smiling associates who hand out free samples of M&M’S. The enthusiasm and smiles of our associates are reflected by our guests. We see millions of guests each year and our success is directly correlated to our guests’ experience which comes about through our associate engagement. At a global Mars, Incorporated level, we utilize Gallup’s Q12 Survey to measure associate engagement and this measurement is critical.
What have you done to engage your talent and how will you continue the effort in the future?
We have been completely transparent with associates about our expectations that they be engaged. Importantly, we have also empowered them to be vocal and play a significant part in owning and driving their engagement. Every team has what we call an “Engagement Impact Plan” that focuses on the areas that associates feel are the most important to their engagement. We have champions and leaders for each team and these aren’t only managers or supervisors; they are associates of all levels who are exceptionally passionate about engagement.
We also spend a lot of time training associates and investing in their development. For example, every MRG associate attends our “Passion for Chocolate” class where they learn how Mars sources raw materials, how we make chocolate and Mars sustainability practices. They also all attend the “Essence of Mars” course which focuses on The Five Principles of Mars: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom. These are the foundation of our culture and our approach to business. They unite us across geographies, languages, cultures and generations. Our Five Principles are synonymous with Mars and have been guiding Mars associates throughout most of our company’s history. Every day, we do our best to put our principles into action through our work and our relationships with our consumers, customers, business partners, communities and one another. Associates love the classes that help them learn more about and appreciate our unique culture. They also recognize that not many other retailers make the same investments of time and resources.
Mars is a global company and we know M&M’S can be found in most countries around the world and that a couple years ago you opened an M&M’S World store in London. What are some of the challenges of opening a store in another country?
M&M’S World stores help build the M&M’S brand, the number one confectionery brand in the world. The M&M’S brand has global appeal and the stores allow millions of guests to experience the M&M’S in “3-D” so to speak. The main Personnel & Organization challenges are what every retailer faces when going into a new country — hiring associates, ensuring they are trained and ready to welcome the guests once we open, ensuring that all of our procedures and standards are taught and in place, making sure they have appropriate wages and benefits, etc. Our biggest challenge is always to make sure we capture the fun and excitement of M&M’S World and transfer all that enthusiasm and knowledge to a group of associates who may never have been in one of our stores.
Our store experience is also unlike other retailers’ – something we refer to as “retail-tainment”. We achieve this atmosphere through excellent training programs, investing in bringing new managers to spend time in our stores and through videos that showcase our guests’ experiences.
How is it different engaging employees here in the U.S. than in other international locations?
Every culture is different, but one thing we have found is that associates everywhere want opportunities for career and personal development; they want line managers who care about them and provide feedback; and they want to have friends at work. Our goal is to be sensitive to cultural differences, and at the same time to ensure that our stores everywhere are engaging. We will provide development opportunities whether or not this is a standard retail practice in the countries we choose to operate in.
Speaking of international, can you tell us a little more about your international plans for the future?
I’m unable to share details, but I can tell you that our goal is to continue to help bring the M&M’S brand alive around the world and we are very excited about our future!
Donovan is the Head of People & Organization for New Jersey based Mars Retail Group, which is part of Mars Chocolate, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mars, Incorporated. The iconic M&M’S WORLD® stores, located in New York City, Las Vegas, Orlando, and London, currently represent Mars largest retail business. MRG also operates the company’s Licensing and My M&M’S businesses, as well as the gourmet chocolate business that is sold under the ETHEL M® brand name.
Prior to this role, Donovan was based in Portland, Oregon, where he was the Sr. Director of People & Organization for Banfield Pet Hospitals (a division of Mars Petcare), responsible for field based human resources, associate relations, and human resources business partnering. Before joining Mars, Donovan worked for consumer goods manufacturer, Nautilus, Inc, as the Director of Human Resources, responsible for associate relations, talent acquisition and talent management globally.
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