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David Kersten

David Kersten

Marketing and Technology


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Trendsetters: David Kersten Discusses Emerson’s Transformation to a Purpose-Driven Organization through #OneEmerson

Ask David Kersten, VP Corporate Marketing of Emerson, about his company's legacy, and he'll proudly tell you that St. Louis, Missouri-based Emerson is entering its 125th year and boasts an unbroken string of 61 annual dividend increases. He'll add that Emerson's management process and rigorous discipline makes it a paragon of consistency, a reliable investment and secure source of employment.

However, David Kersten will also emphasize that as the business landscape continues to shift, Emerson understands the need to make significant changes, so the company can succeed for the next 125 years. He says, "The era of the conglomerate is coming to a close, making way for the age of the activist." In fact, Emerson was poised to engineer a significant transformation-- moving from five disparate businesses to two focused business platforms-- while continuing to provide the solutions customers demand and the positive financial performance shareholders expect.

Success hinged on 75,000+ employees, accustomed to working in siloed businesses, coming together across 200 locations worldwide as One Emerson. This meant aligning the organization around one common set of values to enhance Emerson's culture as a purpose-driven organization, while providing a road map for work as collaborative teams, united in common strengths and shared aspirations for growth.

However, defining a meaningful, unified value set across such a large organization was just the first step. According to Kersten, "The bigger challenge was how to engage and energize employees still coping with sweeping effects of organizational changes to personally embrace these refreshed values as a critical factor in not just Emerson's success but in their own lives and careers."

Emerson's objective was to imbue its transformation with humanity and purpose as it aligned a skeptical global audience on shared, meaningful values worldwide. "We knew that we could succeed," says Kersten, "but only if we were able to engage employees and impact change together."

To ensure employee engagement from the start, 13,999 employees across the globe-- (74% of those invited) -- participated in a quantitative online survey to define the qualities and beliefs that give Emerson its unique pulse and fuel its drive to leave the world a better place. From there, Nielsen and Emerson engaged 109 leaders in a qualitative survey, working to refine the final language that would serve as the guiding values for the company. Finally, Marketing partnered with Human Resources and Korn Ferry to define the primary behaviors to be rewarded and the list of competencies to teach. All data gathered were consolidated and used to develop a single, unified set of values across the organization.

To break through the logically-inclined engineering culture and introduce the values in a meaningful way, Emerson engaged the children of employees to tell the company's values story. This approach created an emotional connection, while bringing a sense of truth, authenticity and warmth across all touchpoints.

Once the values were defined, Emerson Marketing and Human Resources pioneered unprecedented, cross-functional global teams to organize a five-month cascade of "values launch" activities worldwide. The important message of unified values was delivered in more than 33 languages during in-person meetings and reinforced across a variety of media.

Telling the values story internally was just the beginning. Emerson Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Button Bell also spoke at numerous marketing and business conferences on the importance of having an authentic culture that feels true to a company's DNA. This message has been amplified across Emerson's social channels, inviting others to participate in the values-focused conversation.

By emphasizing the legacy traits of past success and outlining the new ones needed to ensure future success, this set of values has united and inspired all employees to believe and behave as One Emerson – increasing the collaboration that drives greater solutions capability across the entire organization. The success of Emerson's bold transformation from conglomerate to focused enterprise hinged on convincing 75,000+ employees to come together as One Emerson and support the difficult decisions and hard work required to make that vision a reality that is visible to customers and outside partners. The values were developed specifically to help guide the organization's behaviors and actions toward customers, partners and one another as they navigated this change. More than that, the values were an opportunity to help enhance the company's purpose-driven culture.

David Kersten joined Emerson this spring amid the company's transformation to One Emerson. Prior to this new role, he spent 7 years at Honeywell as Vice President Global Communications and Marketing. He also enjoyed a long tenure at Dell in a variety of marketing and strategic roles throughout the world from 1998 to 2010. The early part of his career was spent at NCR.