Factories, Face Masks and the New Back To School
There are a lot of expressions for agreement in the workplace.
You can be “on board,” or “get behind” or “buy into” something. It’s good to be “on the same page,” or “coming from the same place,” with your colleagues. In my role in Research and Development with The Hershey Company, we like to “lean in,” to a lot of things.
This year has been a particularly challenging one for many people for people at home, across the country and around the world as we all deal with the uncertainties of COVID-19. But I have to say that I have never been prouder than I am now to be a part of an organization that has not only navigated much of that uncertainty, but has also found a way to lean into the complexity and thrive.
It was both scary and exhilarating to be deemed “essential” at the beginning of this pandemic. Hershey is an important part of the food supply, and I know that many employees were proud to be in the plant and at retail to keep our iconic products on the shelves of our customers.
For me, it meant being away from my family in Hummelstown, PA as I worked with our team in Stuarts Draft, VA to start a new production line for Reese’s. I saw first-hand the sacrifices that employees made to keep working. And, I saw first hand how Hershey made it possible to maintain jobs and financial well-being for employees. Flexible hours, incentive pay, the ability to care for sick family members–Hershey leaned into the complexity of making it possible for us to continue to make moments of goodness for people everyone to enjoy the comfort and connection our brands represent.
When employees were worried about having enough hand sanitizer or soap or personal protective equipment, the company solved those issues by embracing the complexity of the situation and adapting. It’s part of what we do.
During the Great Depression, Milton Hershey launched the great building project to help keep the town employed. During the World War II, the company produced ration bars to give soldiers abroad an indulgent and nutritious lift. In March and April, Hershey made hundreds of donations to front line healthcare workers and first responders on the leading edge of the pandemic.
More recently, Hershey has stepped outside of its core capabilities and leaned into the complexities of producing a critical non-food item – disposable facemasks—to provide to employees, their families and local community organizations. In just eight weeks, experts in manufacturing, supply chain, and finance were able to lean into a difficult task of building a new capability and making it work. Today, that capability is being shared to help keep members of the extended community safe too as we tackle the next great challenge of getting children back to school.
I’m a bit partial to the challenges of sending kids back to school, you see, as I not only have two children eager to go back to class, but my wife Joanna is also a nurse at a local elementary school. As a family, we’re going to need to “lean in” on a number of fronts. Joanna will no doubt come into contact with sick children over the course of the coming weeks and months. I’m certainly uneasy with what the future may hold, I feel better knowing that Hershey is donating facemasks to her school to help keep her safe while she performs the essential role of a school nurse.
It also gives me confidence to know that as my job takes me away from home, that I will have the flexibility to lean into the complexities of working and caring for my family. And it makes me proud to know that across the company – whether it’s in manufacturing, corporate, sales or retail – that others will have similar support to navigate the challenges of balancing family, work, and school and doing it as safely as possible.
As we start on the next phase of this journey together, we’re all part of an historic legacy of adapting to challenging times and supporting the communities and people that we love.
We’re leaning in. It’s what we do.