Big Company, Huge Changes

April 19, 2016

How often do you hear about a big – like huge – company that’s been around for 100-plus years doing something really awesome and progressive for its employees?

Last week, 130-year-old Coca-Cola announced it was expanding its paid leave policy to include not just maternity leave for women giving birth, but also:

• Men whose partners are giving birth to a child

• Women who are adopting or fostering a child

• Men who are adopting or fostering a child

Gender doesn’t matter. Sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Every new parent gets six weeks of paid leave, and that’s on top of the current six to eight weeks of maternity leave offered to birth mothers who take short-term disability. Coke is proving you don’t have to be a relatively young tech giant (think Google) to make big, positive change for your people, which might be as surprising as it is exciting.

Coke Logo

Equally awesome is how it all came about. I happened to be in Atlanta at Coca-Cola HQ the day members of a group known as “Coca-Cola Millennial Voices” lobbied senior management for the changes. We work closely with two of the women who are part of that group, and I ran into one of them, our good friend Melina Baetti, that morning. She was buzzing with excitement. It was easy to see she and her fellow team members were a little nervous about their presentation, but truly passionate about their cause.

And as fun as it was to see her and hear about her day ahead, it was nothing compared to the beaming look on her face that afternoon when she told us this company – this 130-year-old company in the Deep South – not only accepted the recommendations, but truly embraced them. In fact, the only real question that may have arisen was, “How quickly can we announce this?”

We work with a lot of really great companies at Fast Horse, many of which do some amazing things for their employees and the world at large, and I’ve always had true affection for Coke and all our friends in Atlanta and across the country. But that day, and in the days leading up to last week’s rollout, I have gained so much heart and unending respect for The Coca-Cola Company. I hope its actions inspire other companies big and small to find ways to make lives better for the people who pour their hearts into their work.

And finally, to Melina, Sarah Dearman and everybody else on the Millennial Voices crew, congratulations on inspiring some truly monumental change. It was a job very, very well done!