Features

John Argabright – Tetra Pak

Pets, professionals and Bollywood dancing: A VP innovates training

Many people became pet owners in the past few years—and many pets became coworkers, wagging tails or chirping during virtual meetings or broadcasts. So, for the 2023 Tetra Pak Learning Conference, John Argabright developed, where he is vice president of human resources, a session titled, “Learning from Cats and Dogs.”

Advertisement e-mails and online posts for the session included a card reading, “Your pet is invited to Learning Session; Note: we didn’t have their e-mail so please forward the Learning Conference details” and another with a QR and a picture of a dog stretching under the words, “And if my yoga skills impress you, find out what else I can teach you.”

John Argabright | Vice President of Human Resources | Tetra Pak

John Argabright | Vice President of Human Resources | Tetra Pak

As Argabright tells Vision in the summer of 2023, the purpose of the session wasn’t just to laugh—which they did because many attendees dressed up as a pet—but to reflect, be a better leader in critical moments and learn how to create cultural change.

For him, cultural change is imperative to help team members understand how to act and react when they must move forward despite certain risks and when they may not have enough time to complete a project. It also helps them learn how to present supportive feedback to colleagues and eliminate time-consuming ineffective processes.

Tetra Pak’s tagline is ‘protect what’s good’ and ostensibly that refers to the food—dairy products, juices, nectars, ice cream, dry goods, vegetables, pet food and more—the international company processes, packages and distributes.

“For me and the human resources team, protecting what’s good is enabled by a culture of curiosity and fun for our over 25,000 employees across 160 countries,” Argabright says.

Adventures in virtual learning across continents

Argabright credits Sally Atkinson, who launched the first conference in 2021—it has been gaining momentum each year. The purpose of these conferences is to bring together employees, increase their knowledge and advance Tetra Pak’s business strategies for 2030 of which cultural transformation is a key component.

“Sally and the team have been able to create new pillars in the organization where people can create, explore, and learn from each other and stay in lockstep with the fast-changing world,” Argabright says. “Leveraging and partnering with our communications function was key in terms of putting on professional learning sessions and also rallying people to attend a completely voluntary event.”

John Argabright | Vice President of Human Resources | Tetra Pak

With the data obtained through the learning software platform, he calls this year’s conference a particularly rousing success. Nearly 16,000 employees attended and recorded materials were viewed over 20,000 times, which he says is more than three times that of 2022. According to post-conference surveys, 97 percent of attendees found the sessions useful and relevant, and, on average, they scored sessions 4.55 out of 5.

There were over 50 sessions covering a variety of topics, such as creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace, geopolitics, China’s impact on the market, artificial intelligence and 3D printing. The conference had speakers, including university professors, Tetra Pak colleagues and executives, YouTube influencers, customers and suppliers—and even artificial intelligence avatars. The conference provides a space for creativity, learning, and fun that Argabright says he took full advantage of.

He says Tetra Pak may have set a world record with its “Learning from Holly-n-Bollywood” session, which included a moment where 587 employees virtually did Bollywood dancing.

“Apart from moving us one step closer to achieving our growth goals for 2030, the learning conference creates a space for not only deep technical learning but also the fun leadership kind,” Argabright says. “We had a lot of fun putting this together, and we’re already preparing for next year.”

The journey to sustained HR success

The conference is just one of many events and processes that the human resources team has put together over the past dozen years.

Argabright believes that building and transforming the HR model, infrastructure and processes have laid the foundation for the cultural change that is underway in the company.  Without this infrastructure, things like the learning conference would not have been possible., he says.

He credits Atkinson, Tetra Pak’s global learning director, and his team.

“We have been through a journey of HR excellence for over a decade and continue learning and growing,” Argabright says.

He adds that these efforts have led to the Tetra Pak human resource organization being recognized by the Hackett Group as world class in 2019. In 2023, LinkedIn recognized Tetra Pak in the US as one of the best workplaces to grow a professional career, and Fast Company named it one of the best workplaces for innovators.

John Argabright | Vice President of Human Resources | Tetra Pak

“We’re working to more quickly meet the needs of the market, but we’re keeping our eye on our core values that got us to where we are today,” Argabright says. “The company focus on cultural transformation is a long-term goal, but we have the hunger to change every day toward that goal, and we’re focused on helping our people grow while providing global flexibility.”

Apart from the learning conference, to help the company achieve its short and long-term goals, he is driving the cyclical activities of talent management, workforce planning, capability development, and performance management. The business strategy in processing solutions and equipment, with its 4,600 employees, set the frame for transformation projects he and his team drive. In short, he’s always busy, but he loves what he does.

“I’ve stayed with Tetra Pak because of the company’s culture and its ambition to always change for the better and be on the cutting edge of what’s next—and I love working with people across the globe, which is one of the main reasons that there is never a dull day and I’m always eager for the next challenge,” Argabright says.

View this feature in the Vol. V 2023 Edition here.

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