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Success Story

Reimagining Total Rewards at Corteva after divestiture

November 11, 2019

After a complex merger of agribusiness giants, newborn Corteva needed an innovative Total Rewards strategy
Mergers and Acquisitions|Total Rewards|Employee Engagement

In 2015, Dow and DuPont announced a merger that would give birth to Corteva, a $14 billion pure-play agriscience business. One-third of the employees would hail from Dow, two-thirds from DuPont, covering an expansive global footprint of 70 countries. Developing a Total Rewards strategy to help grow talent and shape the future of an international company with employees of such diverse needs would be a challenge of global proportions.


Developing a Total Rewards strategy following a merger to help shape the future of an international $14 billion agribusiness.

As the only major agriscience company completely dedicated to agriculture, Corteva would become an organization combining the strengths of DuPont Pioneer, DuPont Crop Protection, and Dow AgroSciences, to harness the industry’s brightest minds and expertise earned over two centuries. But the merger that created Corteva would involve legal entity changes, licenses to operate, and complex plans that needed to be replicated worldwide.

“We wanted to get key internal and external input,” said Corteva’s Jennifer Sloan, Director of Global Total Rewards. “We felt strongly that bringing in an outside perspective would be one of the things that would make us a market-shaping company, we decided to bring in Willis Towers Watson to help us get some of that external input.” Willis Towers Watson would help Corteva implement innovative techniques in employee listening to create a compelling value proposition for a new company made up of both heritage Dow and Dupont employees.

Sloan worked with Willis Towers Watson’s Sean Connelly, Senior Director of Employee Insights, to ensure these new techniques in employee listening would achieve the following objectives:

  • empower data-driven decision making and enable operational excellence through digitization
  • shape the workforce of the future where employees would be more accountable for their own careers
  • develop a culture to engage a diverse workforce that is both inclusive and high performance, and align the reward strategy to reinforce it.

“When the journey began there was talk of doing a full blown conjoint analysis,” Sloan said, “but we didn't have systems that had everybody in the HRIS or the same financials, so running this kind of analysis was going to be difficult.”

Our Approach:

Willis Towers Watson-moderated real-time virtual focus groups to better understand employee needs.

How would Corteva find a cost-effective way to listen to the needs of thousands of employees around the world at an organization that felt like a startup to some? The answer would be real-time Willis Towers Watson-moderated virtual focus groups, a technology that allows hundreds of people to come together online to answer poll questions -- with an additional perk of allowing employees without access to a desktop computer to participate via smart phone.

The goal of the focus groups was to unlock insights from the feedback to help inform the team’s priorities. According to Sloan “we wanted to develop a strategic approach to delivering Total Rewards to drive employee performance and enable the market-shaping culture we all desired.” In addition, this approach needed to deliver on the employee value proposition through a program whose costs were competitive with those of peers and the market, and that reflected key internal and external perspectives.

We wanted to develop a strategic approach to delivering Total Rewards to drive employee performance and enable the market-shaping culture we all desired.”

Jennifer Sloan
Corteva Director of Global Total Rewards

During 10 days in the summer of 2018 nearly 1,600 participants in Brazil, Canada, France, India, South Africa and the U.S. were asked to respond to a variety of questions during a one- hour period and vote on responses to identify the most popular comments.

Questions included:
Why did you join Corteva?
Why did you stay?
Why might you choose to leave?

Willis Towers Watson delved into employee thoughts on the adequacy of time off programs, the company’s support and encouragement for their health and wellbeing, as well as their confidence in retirement readiness, among other things. Employee responses are confidential, yet you can see how others are responding to the questions instantly.

“The nice thing about a virtual focus group is that when asking a question, you’re not waiting two weeks or even the next day to get the data, you’re seeing it instantaneously,” Connelly said, “If 60% of people said their pay is not competitive, you can respond immediately and ask them to help you understand what's behind that.”

Because of the artificial intelligence and machine learning that's built into the process, moderators can not only engage in real time with those being polled, but they can also see which results resonate most with those in the virtual focus groups around the world.

For example, if employees comment:
There are internal pay equity issues.
There’s no pay transparency.
Pay is below market and I never hear from my manager what's behind that.

People in the virtual focus group will go through these comments and rate them. “They won't rate all of them, and they won't rate thousands of them, but they'll rate 2 at a time,” said Connelly. “By the time two minutes are up, we can see a rank order of the most popular comments all the way through.”

The results:

A new Total Rewards strategy with flexibility, global consistency and local relevance.

The insights from the focus groups combined with analytical approaches used to better understand global survey data is helping to inform and prioritize program changes and shape a new global Total Rewards strategy at Corteva.

According to Connelly, "we got a lot of positive feedback from the virtual focus groups. Participants said it was engaging and they liked getting a sense of what others were saying as well."

The focus groups gathered important insights including identifying the most important rewards programs and the overall leading edge programs. Feedback from leaders and employees alike highlighted a need to examine job leveling, compensation and career development.

  • Leaders expressed a need for greater focus on performance-based pay; believed talent markets differ and represent a mix of traditional and non-traditional industry sectors; wanted more transparency and communication with respect to compensation, opportunity and how decisions are made; and expressed the need for tools to support transparent communication with employees.
  • Employees wanted greater differentiation in rewards based on individual performance; more information about career opportunities and development, including a clear platform to advance careers; more transparency in pay decisions; the ability to have a cross-functional view of roles; opportunities to look outside their current role; and greater work place flexibility.

It all added up to a framework that would need a common language, flexibility, global consistency and local relevance. The long term Total Rewards strategy for Corteva would be aimed at producing results through programs with a personal touch that provide a foundation for growth, take employee experience into account and make the organization the industry envy. “We're really trying to shift the accountability of career ownership to the individual.” said Sloan. “But it’s a work in progress. Our career framework will not be implemented until early 2021.”

Aspirationally, compensation programs would be focused on driving results, recognizing individuals and providing a globally consistent approach to financial rewards. Improvements in benefits would be targeted in many areas, from wellbeing programs to simplified benefits navigation that will span globally and deliver on the rewards strategy.

“I say it's aspirational because it's going to take time,” according to Sloan. “You can't change all of your compensation and benefits plans tomorrow, nor did we need to. I think that was a lesson to make people understand as well.”

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