How The Dow Chemical Co. Influenced
Greatness Throughout its Company
In an ongoing quest for greatness, the standards of The Dow Chemical Co. are continually raised and met. By combining the human
element with best business practices, Dow has
been able to thrive for over 119 years with over
50,000 employees in more than 180 countries.
The company is a global leader in innovation,
technology and corporate culture. Strategic
employee recognition plays a key role.
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
As an industry leading chemical company
headquartered in Midland, Mich., Dow faces
challenges similar to those of most major
multinational corporations. “Our mantra is having
the best people and the best people will make a
difference,” says Johanna Söderström, corporate
vice president of human resources and aviation. “In
order to get the best people we have to outsmart
the others. We have to be attractive and we need
to find ways for our people to want to stay,”
Söderström continues. “Employee recognition plays
an important role, it’s really about knowing your
Stagnant to Successful
Curtis Kesler, the recognition and appreciation
program manager at Dow at the time the program
was implemented, describes the company’s earlier
recognition solution as stagnant.
“We had a formal recognition tool that
was oriented primarily around monetizing the
appreciation experience,” says Kesler. “So it was
only vouchers or it was only cash. There was no
long-term strategy in terms of driving a different
culture. We had a program that was stuck. It
wasn’t moving forward.”
Kesler describes some of the challenges in
helping employee recognition become ingrained
in a culture, “Our employees’ lives aren’t the same
in every location. We have lab environments.
We have office environments. We have plant
environments. We have people out working in
the middle of agricultural fields. Internationally,
we have employees in Germany, France, Belgium
and the Netherlands that live in one country, but
work in another. So when it comes to recognition
A Global Strategy with Local
To take corporate culture to the next level,
Dow conducted companywide satisfaction
surveys, paying particular attention to what was
working and what wasn’t in specific regions.
These surveys helped Dow hire and engage
global recognition leader O.C. Tanner to create
recognition strategies that would thrive in local
cultures around the world but still be a part of one
cohesive Dow recognition platform. “Every single
person has an individual motivator,” says Kesler.
“There was a need to move forward with a global
strategy, but with implementation that took more
of the local culture into consideration.”
“O.C. Tanner has helped us reach employees
wherever they are,” Kesler explains. “A great
example is mobile recognition. Obviously people
are on the move all the time, and we’re moving at
the speed of life. So introducing mobile has been
incredible. It’s a nice resource to have.”
According to Dow, once the company
understood employee needs at a more human
level, they were able to recognize with a higher
purpose. By successfully understanding how to
connect the head and the heart of employees,
they’ve shown the world how to grow a corporate
culture that acts as a magnet for top talent.
Over the past two years, Dow has seen
participation in its unique employee recognition
platform, Accelerate Great, increase by more than
18 percent. In 2015, there was a Dow recognition
moment every three minutes around the world.
“Employees are more open to collaboration,
they’re more open to innovation, they’re more
open to helping others around them succeed,
and therefore succeed themselves,” says Kesler.
“When employees feel validated and feel a part of
the bigger picture, and a part of the strategy, we
all work harder. We do more. We put more effort
into everything we do and we do better work. That
impacts the shareholders. That impacts corporate
initiatives. That impacts the bottom line. It’s very
good business sense to make sure that we have an
Organization: The Dow Chemical Co.
Headquarters: Midland, Mich.
Primary Business: Multinational chemical manufacturer
HR Challenge: To transform a stagnant employee recognition program that was
based mostly on monetizing the appreciation experience and implement a long-
term strategy that ingrained employee recognition in the organization’s culture.
CASE STUDIES IN HR EFFECTIVENESS