Kellogg VP Priscilla Koranteng: “Why diversity and inclusion is an investment that leads to true competitive business advantages”

In my opinion, the goal must be to harness the power of diversity in the workplace, the marketplace and the communities in which we work and live. Diversity and inclusion is an ongoing commitment and investment that leads to true competitive business advantages. I had the distinct pleasure to interview Priscilla Koranteng. Priscilla has been […]

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In my opinion, the goal must be to harness the power of diversity in the workplace, the marketplace and the communities in which we work and live. Diversity and inclusion is an ongoing commitment and investment that leads to true competitive business advantages.

I had the distinct pleasure to interview Priscilla Koranteng. Priscilla has been Vice President, Global Talent and Chief Diversity Officer, Kellogg Company, since August 2019. She is an accomplished human resources leader with more than 20 years of talent management and diversity and inclusion experience at large multinational organizations. Before joining Kellogg, Ms. Koranteng was Global Head of Talent Enablement and Chief Diversity Officer at DXC Technology (formerly Computer Sciences Corporation — CSC ) Ms. Koranteng was responsible for shaping and driving DXC’s talent agenda, diversity, philanthropy, performance management, and executive talent acquisition.

From 2014–2017, she served as CSC’s Global Head of Human Resources and transformation leader for the company’s insurance and healthcare industry portfolio covering a scope of over $7 billion and 30,000 employees.

Prior to DXC, Ms. Koranteng spent four years as Vice President, Global Human Resources at T. Rowe Price, a global asset management firm. She also held human resources leadership roles with Booz Allen and JP Morgan Chase.

Ms. Koranteng earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Linguistics from the University of Ghana, studied Strategic Human Resources at Cornell University and holds a Master of Science in Analysis Design and Management of Information Systems from the London School of Economics, United Kingdom. She is an author of several books and a sought after speaker on the subject of human resources transformation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Priscilla! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My backstory is every immigrant’s story of hope and resilience.

Last year, I started my career at Kellogg Company, fondly calling it, “From Saltpond to Battle Creek.” Battle Creek, Mich. is home to Kellogg’s World Headquarters and it’s a long way from where I grew up. The contrast couldn’t be greater to Saltpond, Ghana, where I attended a seven-year girls’ boarding school, Mfantsiman Girls. Mfantsiman was an under-resourced school with no luxuries to speak of. This experience has given me a great perspective on life and the foundation for my leadership style.

I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Ghana Legon. Driven by the passion to learn more and experience the world, I moved to London and earned my Master of Science degree in Analysis Design and Management of Information Systems from the London School of Economics.

Since moving to the U.S. about eighteen years ago from England, I have had the great privilege of building my Human Resources (HR) career in some of the world’s most well-known, multi-national organizations including J.P. Morgan Chase, Booz Allen Hamilton, T. Rowe Price, and DXC Technology.

Today, I am honored to be in a position to lead and work with others to create diverse and inclusive environments where people can thrive. I am also a proud mother of three, an author with a passion for inspiring others, and simply, a person full of gratitude.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I was in Europe recently and, after a day of presentations, my colleague and I were alone in a ballroom practicing our presentation for the next day. There were a couple of people also in the room setting up the audio/visual equipment for the morning. They started quietly playing music in the background. After rehearsing our slides, we had a little fun and paused to sing with the music. The team must have noticed, so they turned on the disco lights and began playing our favorite hits. Talk about teamwork and collaboration — it was such a great way to have a little fun at work.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

From its earliest days, Kellogg has been a purpose-driven organization, a company with a heart and soul. Our founder, W.K. Kellogg, was an early conservationist, leading philanthropist and an original wellbeing visionary. Through our Kellogg’s Better Days commitments, we’re nourishing with our foods, feeding people in need, nurturing our planet and living our founder’s values. W.K. was a pioneer in employing women in the workplace and reaching across cultural boundaries. The company continues his legacy more than 100 years later by making diversity and inclusion a top priority.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re working on multiple projects, including one that’s aiming to build our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) learning experience. Our ongoing efforts to have an open, inclusive environment where everyone’s ideas, views, and perspectives are sought and valued is the cornerstone of our company’s commitment to D&I.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Companies thrive when they have a people-focused agenda — it creates an environment where employees feel they belong. This goes beyond a policy statement; it requires honest conversations and genuine interest in employees’ needs.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

It’s essential that an organization’s goals, values, and expectations are clear and well communicated to everyone. Leaders also need to be intentional about inclusion and belonging — creating an engaged and productive workforce that feels accountable, excited about the organization’s future and driven to achieve its goals. Be visible as a leader, model those values, make yourself available, and celebrate team achievements.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? (Please share a story or example for each.)

In my opinion, the goal must be to harness the power of diversity in the workplace, the marketplace and the communities in which we work and live. Diversity and inclusion is an ongoing commitment and investment that leads to true competitive business advantages.

At Kellogg, we know people are our greatest asset — it underpins our Deploy for Growth Strategy — and we’ve seen firsthand the business advantages of fostering an inclusive culture and diverse workforce. As far as examples go, here are five:

  1. Believe in the power of diversity and use it to drive growth. It’s proven that more diverse companies achieve more revenue growth and drive greater innovation than companies that don’t emphasize diversity. It’s important, to begin with, a diverse leadership team — diversity of thought, ethnicity, gender, ability. Leaders should also feel empowered to bring the best thoughts and ideas to the conversation and influence strategy by infusing more innovative ideas. From a talent management and D&I perspective, we see the result of this strong diversity through the succession planning process.
  2. Diverse consumers and stakeholders are at the core of any organization, regardless of industry. By understanding their needs, backgrounds, preferences and demonstrating an openness to inclusion, companies can better connect with consumers. For example, in 2018, Kashi began a collaborative partnership with a group of accomplished Gen Z’ers who share the brand’s passion for creating nutritious food and who have shown strong leadership in health. Referred to as the “Kids Crew,” they helped develop the Kashi by Kids line of healthy, ready-to-eat cereals and snacks.
  3. Data and analytics matter. Building a culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging requires an understanding of a company’s human capital metrics — hiring, career mobility, retention, development, and rewards. Leveraging predictive analytics can be helpful in minimizing and mitigating the risk of attrition. For example, if there is an increase in minority turnover, exit interviews will not help you find the underlying cause of the problem. In fact, by that time, you’ve already lost productivity or revenue as a result of attrition.
  4. Leadership behavior and accountability is the most important driver of success for diversity and inclusion within the organization. Leaders that model inclusive leadership behavior drives engagement and high performance. We’ve also seen organizations strive for more diverse boards that also drive accountability. For example, the Kellogg Board of Directors is committed to the diversity of our leadership succession plans, as is our CEO and executive leadership team.
  5. Heart and soul are everything. We’re more than a business at Kellogg — we’re a company with heart and soul, driven by a diverse and inclusive community of passionate people making a difference. We are committed to nourishing the world with our foods, feeding people in need, nurturing our planet and living our founder’s values. For example, in Pakistan, Kellogg employees saw an opportunity to link the concept of Sadaqah to Pringles. They created the world’s first “Sadaqah Ready Pack” that included a greeting card and two packs of Pringles in special packaging. The campaign differed from other brands’ Ramadan marketing in that it was themed around the act of sharing, rather than just gifting. The campaign was a huge success — it quadrupled sales compared to 2017 in over 90 stores in five major cities in Pakistan.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As I mentioned, my background drives my passion as a leader and I have two personal goals I am firmly committed to:

  • Educate as many girls in Ghana as possible. I have established the Janju Foundation, which I hope to use as a platform to provide assistance and motivation to girls who are working hard at school to achieve a better life. Two years ago, I established the Janju Excellence Prize at Mfantsiman, a girls’ secondary school. This prize is to serve as a motivation for girls who pursue excellence by overcoming their obstacles. I hope to do even more.
  • Secondly, support women through coaching and development. It’s important for me to find the time to give back. I have a large network of women that I coach. I use my social media channels as my motivational platform, and through that, I have privately coached many women on careers, family life, work-life balance, and entrepreneurship.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

My favorite quote is something I’ve learned over time: “When all you have in your hand is hope, hope speaks every step of the way.” This is something that I believe to my core and is a culmination of my experiences throughout my personal and professional journey.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My father’s persistence and encouragement were the foundation that propelled my enthusiasm to succeed. Second, my manager at J.P Morgan, Tricia Williamson. She believed in me and gave me multiple opportunities to shine and I carry those lessons with me today.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I love the Thrive Project and am inspired by Arianna Huffington — I would love the opportunity to have a breakfast or lunch date with her. Having an attitude of gratitude is something that I carry with me all the time and Arianna amplifies this for me. She is a woman who has inspired my journey in the U.S., and I continue to follow her work.

Oprah Winfrey is another person I’d love to meet. I am so grateful for the work she is doing with girls in Africa. I’d like to let her know that those girls are me, and her hard work will yield amazing results for generations to come. I’d love to share my story with her and also learn about her amazing career and what drove her to continually grow and succeed.

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