How Does Kraft Heinz Recruit and Retain Top Talent? Q&A With Lisa Alteri, Chief People Officer


Balance is crucial. As a company we’re fully invested in a transformation agenda, which means we’re looking for curious, creative and forward-thinking people.

From Heinz ketchup to Oscar Mayer deli, Kraft Heinz is a leader in popular food brands, led by its top talent. Lisa Alteri, Chief People Officer, Kraft Heinz, shares her views on the technologies that enabled the company’s digital transformationOpens a new window and the talent the company recruits and retains while fostering a culture of meritocracyOpens a new window .

In this exclusive with HR Technologist, she talks about creating an amazing candidate experienceOpens a new window and reinventing HR as a strategic function. A thought leader in her field, Alteri discusses how to leverage new technology for onboarding, induction, and more.

Key takeaways from this interview on how to recruit and retain top talentOpens a new window :

  • Top tips for budding people officers to recruit top talent
  • Insights on the various components of Kraft Heinz’s HR tech stack
  • Trends to follow on recruitment and retention in 2020 and beyond

Highlights of the Q&A With Lisa Alteri of Kraft Heinz

Here’s the edited transcript from our exclusive interview with Kraft Heinz’s Chief People Officer, Lisa Alteri:

Lisa, can you tell us about your career path so far and what your role at Kraft Heinz entails?

I have not followed a linear career path. I have never thought in a linear fashion, in school I concentrated in Finance and Accounting, but took classes in philosophy, religions from around the world and more English and literature classes than any finance major is required to take.

I was so curious and always anxious to learn new things that helped me to better connect the dots.

However, when I went to college, I chose to study Finance and Accounting, never thinking eventually my path would lead me back to the grocery business. Then, I moved into manufacturing and operations finance at Kraft Foods, with stints in corporate finance and as a sales controller.

After doing this for several years, I made my first cross-functional move to the Kraft Foods sales organization. All told I spent 14 years in sales, progressing through several leadership roles across the country heading up sales for many of our largest retailers as well as progressing through multiple Business Unit leadership roles.

In October 2018, I made the latest cross-functional move into Human Resources, as U.S. Chief People Officer for Kraft Heinz. I’ve seen a lot in my 22 years with Kraft Foods and now Kraft Heinz. Because of the variety of different roles, I’ve had and the cross-functional rotations I’ve made, I know this business well. This has been so important in my role as chief people officer for the U.S, a role that oversees more than 19,000 employees.

My experience and understanding of the business provide a level of trust and credibility across the enterprise that has allowed me to elevate the function, giving HR an even more influential seat at the table.

As the chief people officer of a legendary brand, can you throw some light on which technologies enabled the company’s digital transformation journey? Can you share a few highlights?

Our company produces some of the world’s most iconic and beloved global brands, led by employees that are curious, creative and venturesome! Our team has been working hard to ensure the company has an amazing employer brand. We wanted to distill to employees and prospective employees, what it means to work at Kraft Heinz. To do this, we started with the proposition that communicating with current and prospective employees would not be monolithic.

We wanted to communicate in different ways in order to reach everyone. For recruiting, we’ll use everything from word of mouth to community job boards to AI-powered research and assessment tools that identify prospective employees with specific attributes we need. There is no one size fits all when it comes to reaching current and prospective employees. When it comes to digital, we use social media a lot, and even have our own internal social media app, called Ketchapp, to reach employees.

In order to make all these efforts coherent, our visual identity as an employer must be instantly recognizable. Our employer brand draws on the rich heritage of the company, with product icons that the everyday consumer can identify by outline alone. We bring those icons to life with a vibrant color palette and bright creative elements, adapting to fit the relevant brands and products in each country or zone.

Learn More: Why Every Talent Leader Needs a Digital Transformation Roadmap: Q&A With PwC’s Sarah McEneaneyOpens a new window

How does a company like Kraft Heinz recruit and retain talent, while fostering a culture of meritocracy? What are the lessons you can share from your experience for budding people officers to learn from?

Balance is crucial. As a company, we’re fully invested in a transformation agenda, which means we’re looking for curious, creative and forward-thinking people. We pride ourselves on promoting from within our organization because we are a culture of ownership and meritocracy. We’re working hard at developing our talent, improving capabilities and ensuring everyone feels welcome at our table too. That said, we are also interested to bring more of the outside in, and ensuring we have fresh perspective. It’s important to have a good balance of both. 

Each company aims to create an amazing employee experience starting with the candidate experience. Can you elaborate (with examples) on how Kraft Heinz made an impact on the candidate experience?

It starts with understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our current approach. We survey every individual who visits our campuses to understand how we made them feel, where we can improve, and what we need to tweak.

We’re also focused on improving our candidate relationship management system so that we establish and evolve relationships with candidates over time. For example, even if a candidate is not a good fit for a position at one point in time, we want to create a relationship not a transaction, because there’s a chance there may be a better fit down the line.

Another example is the amount of attention we’re devoting to the candidate’s in-person experience with the company. From the moment the person walks into our building, we want the candidate to clearly understand Kraft Heinz’s values. We value creativity and curiosity; how do we demonstrate these values from the moment the candidate starts interacting with us? This is what we’re working on right now.

Chief people officers are reinventing HR as a strategic function essential to an organization’s success. What are your top 3 tips for the next generation of HR leaders?

Our role is to be strong business partners, operational experts, thoughtful role models, the culture carriers, and guardians of the organization. Our job is to support and to provoke. That’s a tall order, and we must resist the pressures to become purely executional and transactional. It’s a very dynamic landscape. HR professionals really must understand the company’s overall business strategy and business needs. We need to provoke discussion and conversation, make tough decisions and become fully integrated into the business. Businesses don’t create value, people do, and our role is to partner with the business to match and deploy the best talent to breathe life into our strategic plans.

At the same time, HR leaders are in an unprecedented fierce competition for talent. It remains the #1 concern for Chief Executives, as there continues to be a severe mismatch between skills we need as companies, and the skills we readily find on resumes. As the gig economy continues to grow larger, HR leaders need to focus even more on creative, differentiated ways to find and retain their best talent, and that often means becoming more tech-forward, and more externally wired.

Learn More: How to Retain Top Talent with Employee Recognition: Q&A With Cord Himelstein of Halo RecognitionOpens a new window

A promising area to leverage new technologyOpens a new window is onboarding and induction. Can virtual or augmented reality be an effective tool to induct new staff?

It absolutely can. We’re discussing a few options now that would integrate these new technologies. They can help increase the speed of delivering HR services as well as addressing the most requested perk of prospective candidates: flexible work arrangements.

However, we need to balance this with ensuring we never lose meaningful human connectivity. Nothing can fully replace the experience of visiting the company and meeting employees. In addition, we must ensure that these new technologies do not contain a systematic basis. Diversity of employees is of crucial important to us.

What has been your experience working with the various components of your HR Tech stack? What tips do you have for HR leaders investing in new HR tech?

We’ll invest in new tech especially if it can help us connect the dots of the HR experience. We have great work going on in global learning and development, in benefits and rewards, in diversity and outreach, in the talent management process. New tech that can help us weave all this together is going to get our attention.

Can you give us a sneak-peek into the upcoming projects at Kraft Heinz? What trends you are tracking in this space as we look towards 2020?

Kraft Heinz is embarking upon a transformation agenda, and there is nothing more important to HR than to be a part of that transformation. As we focus on growth, creativity, and curiosity, we need to find the best talent faster than anyone else. As I said above, this will entail a mix of promoting from within and finding talent outside the company. At the same time, we must find and assess talent in a bias minimum environment, so that we never compromise our focus on diversity. Looking forward to 2020, I see a lot of movement in the sector of talent insights, helping companies like ours find talent with greater specificity and context than ever.

Learn More: How to Improve the Recruitment Process: Q&A with Steve CadiganOpens a new window

Neha: Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your valuable insights on how to recruit and retain top talent. We hope to talk to you again.

About Lisa AlteriOpens a new window :

Lisa Alteri is the Chief People Officer, US Zone since October 2018. She is a 22-year veteran of Kraft Foods and brings a wealth of experience and strong industry partnerships. She provides leadership and guidance for all areas of human capital management to the Company’s 19,000+ employees within the US Zone.  

About Kraft HeinzOpens a new window :

For 150 years, we have produced some of the world’s most beloved products at The Kraft Heinz Company (Nasdaq: KHC). Our Vision is To Be the Best Food Company, Growing a Better World. We are one of the largest global food and beverage companies, with 2018 net sales of approximately $26 billion. Our portfolio is a diverse mix of iconic and emerging brands. As the guardians of these brands and the creators of innovative new products, we are dedicated to the sustainable health of our people and our planet.

About HR TalkOpens a new window :

HR Talk is an Interview Series with the top executives at HR Technology companies and HR Departments who are redefining the way HR functions. Join us as we talk to them about their solutions, their insights about HR as a function and some bonus pro-tips on making HR Tech work better or you.

If you are a people expert and wish to share your insights, write to [email protected]

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