The J.M. Smucker Co. FAQ

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29 English questions out of 29

22 March 2019

What is health insurance like at The J.M. Smucker Co.?

Pros

I first reviewed Smucker on April 17, 2016 with a review titled "Ushering in a new era" (Google ‘glassdoor smucker ushering in a new era’ if you’d like to read it). The reason I am writing this follow up is because a lot has changed in the last three years and, unfortunately, it’s mostly been for the worse (we’ll get to that later). As far as the pros: 1) My coworkers are great - Smucker really does attract some great people. Like anywhere, you have a mix but in general most of the rank-and-file are smart, hard-working, nice people. I have many personal and professional friendships I’ve made with my colleagues. 2) The campus facilities are still very nice (furniture, meeting rooms, gym, daycare) although they jacked up the pricing at the cafeteria and have all but eliminated catered lunch meetings (except for the executives on the fourth floor). The company is doing small symbolic things around campus to show that we are “tightening our belt” and being “environmentally sustainable” - such as eliminating paper cups a few years ago, and, just recently, paper towels from the bathrooms. I’m sure they’ll eventually get around to eliminating the fleet of private jets we have for the executives’ benefit, right? 3) Benefits are still very good - thankfully “right spend (Smucker branding for zero based budgeting)” has not lead to any cutbacks in benefits. 401(k) continues to get matched at 7% (thankfully no longer in Smucker stock), health insurance is adequate (high deductible plans with an HSA matching contribution), and salaries are about average. 4) You don’t really have to work super hard - I get my job done in 40 hours a week and have a decently normal paced day. No one expects you to be available 24/7 and weekends are free. Your mileage may vary but this is my experience as a corporate worker. 5) The company is more flexible when it comes to working from home but it is still applied unfairly and inconsistently - work culture is pushing the company toward embracing work from home even though you can tell they would prefer otherwise. 6) Technology has gotten so much better. They finally ditched Lotus Notes, got us on to Office 365, Workday, HR Home, One Drive, Skype for Business, etc. We’re not talking revolutionary stuff here but it’s a pro only to highlight how behind the times we were. I shudder to recall how much of a regular employee’s day was spent fighting our old technology (I can’t tell you how many hours I used to waste deleting old emails so I would have enough storage space in my inbox). 7) In terms of the business outlook, I suppose we are better suited than our peers who rely on canned soup and dry cereal but the entire CPG industry just can’t seem to grow as consumer preferences change. I am not personally invested in Smucker stock if that tells you how I really feel, however. 8) The company seems to have at least recognized that the culture was becoming a toxic shadow of its former self and it tried to take corrective action. A few years ago we did a Gallup Employee Engagement Survey (where we depressingly scored below average) and they held a follow-up Appreciative Inquiry Summit. What changes, you ask, came out of this AI Summit? The CEO moved his office to a more visible location on the third floor and then they gave the AI summit team some award and declared mission accomplished. Yeah, not quite.

Cons

Well I hit on a quite a few cons above so I will elaborate on some new ones here. 1) Career progression is still a joke. There is still zero guidance and formality. Promotions from within appear to be fewer and fewer and turnover is high as many people have been leaving for outside opportunities. The company supposedly has tried to correct the widespread pay inconsistency that had accumulated over the years but they are still so secretive that I suspect the inequity is still alive and well. I have been told that now every position has a salary range (shockingly this DIDN’T exist before or it was so half-baked that it was useless in practice) and there are more formal ways of determining where an employee falls on the range and how managers should adjust your compensation at raise time. They will not, however, disclose what grade/step you are in and how/what you can do to earn more money and grow within your role. The only way I can grow my salary year-over-year is to try to maximize my bonus which only leads to shorttermism (make the number, ignore long term investments). 2) Performance evaluation time is a huge waste and everyone knows it. Again, doesn’t matter how you perform, you will likely get 3s on your PA, a salary increase to keep up with inflation, and then you move on with your life. No matter what you do, no matter how well you perform, you will get about a 2-3% raise every year. So basically the message is: phone it in, do well enough to keep your boss relatively happy, and don’t stress yourself out - it’s just not worth it. 3) The Leadership team is weak. I like Mark Smucker and think he’s a nice guy but let’s not kid ourselves, if he was born “Mark Smith” then he would not be CEO of the company. Steve Oakland leaving to become CEO of Treehouse was a huge loss and in a world where nepotism didn’t exist, Steve would be our CEO today. Mark’s leadership team consists of a combo of legacy Smucker people and Big Heart people and they all seem like “Yes men and women” who don’t really have transformative ideas. They are so out of touch and seemingly more concerned about pleasing Wall Street (how is that working for Kraft-Heinz?) than actually having a vision and mission and confidently leading the company toward it. 4) The company is controlled by consultants. The leadership team has totally outsourced all the hard choices to various consulting firms. What have the results been? Massive layoffs, an increase in bureaucracy, and implementation of zero based budgeting. 5) We are constantly in crisis mode. We are in a never-ending cycle of reorgs followed by rounds of layoffs. Then we have another bad quarter and rinse and repeat. Yes, we all wish that CPG companies were of yesteryear where they could just be mediocre and by the sheer momentum of shelf space, population growth, and inflation, your sales grow ~2% a year automatically. Those years are over and the jury is out if we can figure out a way to be successful in this new world. 6) Hypocrisy. I know, hypocrisy in corporate America, aren’t you shocked?! Sarcasm aside, people notice when rules aren’t applied evenly. Why does the R&D meeting (aka a week long vacation in Scottsdale, Arizona for VPs and above that costs over $1 million a year) still exist when hundred of people have been laid off over the years and tens of millions of dollars cut from other budgets? It’s so beyond tone deaf and the fact that it is viewed as untouchable just goes to show you that when push comes to shove, the executives aren’t serious about sharing the pain of cost cutting.

Advice to Management

A lot of my advice should be obvious based on the critiques above (eliminate the R&D meeting/private jets, be transparent about salaries, improve the PA process, expand work from home, etc.). A consistent complaint in these Glassdoor reviews for YEARS has been lack of formal career pathing yet it goes completely ignored and leaves people no choice but to leave or #BeIndifferent. Maybe put some focus on retention and actually providing ways to advance and employee engagement would improve. I think fundamentally the company needs a vision of what it wants to be and needs the leadership team to be focused and have the credibility to lead us there. Brands are not dead. CPG companies are not going away. There will be companies that fail to adapt and then die and then there will be those that come out of this era as winners. I do not have confidence that Smucker will be a winner. Trying to be Kraft-Heinz-Mini has only had the effect of ruining the culture, driving away talented employees, and spinning our wheels for a few years as cost cutting was a primary focus. Yes, I know we’re in good categories (coffee, pet) relative to our peers. Yes, I know we are pushing platform innovation (1850, Jif snacks). It just doesn’t seem like enough to make this company what it once was. The reason I have written this very long review is because I care and I want this company to succeed. In order for that to happen, however, there needs to be some fundamental introspection and change.

401(k) continues to get matched at 7% (thankfully no longer in Smucker stock), health insurance is adequate (high deductible plans with an HSA matching contribution), and salaries are about average.

22 March 2019

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22 March 2019

Does The J.M. Smucker Co. pay for a gym membership?

Pros

I first reviewed Smucker on April 17, 2016 with a review titled "Ushering in a new era" (Google ‘glassdoor smucker ushering in a new era’ if you’d like to read it). The reason I am writing this follow up is because a lot has changed in the last three years and, unfortunately, it’s mostly been for the worse (we’ll get to that later). As far as the pros: 1) My coworkers are great - Smucker really does attract some great people. Like anywhere, you have a mix but in general most of the rank-and-file are smart, hard-working, nice people. I have many personal and professional friendships I’ve made with my colleagues. 2) The campus facilities are still very nice (furniture, meeting rooms, gym, daycare) although they jacked up the pricing at the cafeteria and have all but eliminated catered lunch meetings (except for the executives on the fourth floor). The company is doing small symbolic things around campus to show that we are “tightening our belt” and being “environmentally sustainable” - such as eliminating paper cups a few years ago, and, just recently, paper towels from the bathrooms. I’m sure they’ll eventually get around to eliminating the fleet of private jets we have for the executives’ benefit, right? 3) Benefits are still very good - thankfully “right spend (Smucker branding for zero based budgeting)” has not lead to any cutbacks in benefits. 401(k) continues to get matched at 7% (thankfully no longer in Smucker stock), health insurance is adequate (high deductible plans with an HSA matching contribution), and salaries are about average. 4) You don’t really have to work super hard - I get my job done in 40 hours a week and have a decently normal paced day. No one expects you to be available 24/7 and weekends are free. Your mileage may vary but this is my experience as a corporate worker. 5) The company is more flexible when it comes to working from home but it is still applied unfairly and inconsistently - work culture is pushing the company toward embracing work from home even though you can tell they would prefer otherwise. 6) Technology has gotten so much better. They finally ditched Lotus Notes, got us on to Office 365, Workday, HR Home, One Drive, Skype for Business, etc. We’re not talking revolutionary stuff here but it’s a pro only to highlight how behind the times we were. I shudder to recall how much of a regular employee’s day was spent fighting our old technology (I can’t tell you how many hours I used to waste deleting old emails so I would have enough storage space in my inbox). 7) In terms of the business outlook, I suppose we are better suited than our peers who rely on canned soup and dry cereal but the entire CPG industry just can’t seem to grow as consumer preferences change. I am not personally invested in Smucker stock if that tells you how I really feel, however. 8) The company seems to have at least recognized that the culture was becoming a toxic shadow of its former self and it tried to take corrective action. A few years ago we did a Gallup Employee Engagement Survey (where we depressingly scored below average) and they held a follow-up Appreciative Inquiry Summit. What changes, you ask, came out of this AI Summit? The CEO moved his office to a more visible location on the third floor and then they gave the AI summit team some award and declared mission accomplished. Yeah, not quite.

Cons

Well I hit on a quite a few cons above so I will elaborate on some new ones here. 1) Career progression is still a joke. There is still zero guidance and formality. Promotions from within appear to be fewer and fewer and turnover is high as many people have been leaving for outside opportunities. The company supposedly has tried to correct the widespread pay inconsistency that had accumulated over the years but they are still so secretive that I suspect the inequity is still alive and well. I have been told that now every position has a salary range (shockingly this DIDN’T exist before or it was so half-baked that it was useless in practice) and there are more formal ways of determining where an employee falls on the range and how managers should adjust your compensation at raise time. They will not, however, disclose what grade/step you are in and how/what you can do to earn more money and grow within your role. The only way I can grow my salary year-over-year is to try to maximize my bonus which only leads to shorttermism (make the number, ignore long term investments). 2) Performance evaluation time is a huge waste and everyone knows it. Again, doesn’t matter how you perform, you will likely get 3s on your PA, a salary increase to keep up with inflation, and then you move on with your life. No matter what you do, no matter how well you perform, you will get about a 2-3% raise every year. So basically the message is: phone it in, do well enough to keep your boss relatively happy, and don’t stress yourself out - it’s just not worth it. 3) The Leadership team is weak. I like Mark Smucker and think he’s a nice guy but let’s not kid ourselves, if he was born “Mark Smith” then he would not be CEO of the company. Steve Oakland leaving to become CEO of Treehouse was a huge loss and in a world where nepotism didn’t exist, Steve would be our CEO today. Mark’s leadership team consists of a combo of legacy Smucker people and Big Heart people and they all seem like “Yes men and women” who don’t really have transformative ideas. They are so out of touch and seemingly more concerned about pleasing Wall Street (how is that working for Kraft-Heinz?) than actually having a vision and mission and confidently leading the company toward it. 4) The company is controlled by consultants. The leadership team has totally outsourced all the hard choices to various consulting firms. What have the results been? Massive layoffs, an increase in bureaucracy, and implementation of zero based budgeting. 5) We are constantly in crisis mode. We are in a never-ending cycle of reorgs followed by rounds of layoffs. Then we have another bad quarter and rinse and repeat. Yes, we all wish that CPG companies were of yesteryear where they could just be mediocre and by the sheer momentum of shelf space, population growth, and inflation, your sales grow ~2% a year automatically. Those years are over and the jury is out if we can figure out a way to be successful in this new world. 6) Hypocrisy. I know, hypocrisy in corporate America, aren’t you shocked?! Sarcasm aside, people notice when rules aren’t applied evenly. Why does the R&D meeting (aka a week long vacation in Scottsdale, Arizona for VPs and above that costs over $1 million a year) still exist when hundred of people have been laid off over the years and tens of millions of dollars cut from other budgets? It’s so beyond tone deaf and the fact that it is viewed as untouchable just goes to show you that when push comes to shove, the executives aren’t serious about sharing the pain of cost cutting.

Advice to Management

A lot of my advice should be obvious based on the critiques above (eliminate the R&D meeting/private jets, be transparent about salaries, improve the PA process, expand work from home, etc.). A consistent complaint in these Glassdoor reviews for YEARS has been lack of formal career pathing yet it goes completely ignored and leaves people no choice but to leave or #BeIndifferent. Maybe put some focus on retention and actually providing ways to advance and employee engagement would improve. I think fundamentally the company needs a vision of what it wants to be and needs the leadership team to be focused and have the credibility to lead us there. Brands are not dead. CPG companies are not going away. There will be companies that fail to adapt and then die and then there will be those that come out of this era as winners. I do not have confidence that Smucker will be a winner. Trying to be Kraft-Heinz-Mini has only had the effect of ruining the culture, driving away talented employees, and spinning our wheels for a few years as cost cutting was a primary focus. Yes, I know we’re in good categories (coffee, pet) relative to our peers. Yes, I know we are pushing platform innovation (1850, Jif snacks). It just doesn’t seem like enough to make this company what it once was. The reason I have written this very long review is because I care and I want this company to succeed. In order for that to happen, however, there needs to be some fundamental introspection and change.

2) The campus facilities are still very nice (furniture, meeting rooms, gym, daycare) although they jacked up the pricing at the cafeteria and have all but eliminated catered lunch meetings (except for the executives on the fourth floor).

22 March 2019

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17 August 2020

Does The J.M. Smucker Co. offer sponsored degrees?

Pros

One of the top paying plants in Memphis if not THE top paying plant.

Cons

Horrible scheduling, random changes, lots of politics, inadequate equipment. They tell you all about tuition reimbursement but what they don’t tell you is you won’t have time to got to school. No school will go along with that work schedule. Work life balance is horrible if you are ok with the work-sleep-work lifestyle then by all means apply. But if you prefer to work an 8 hour shift so that you can have a life outside of work this job is not for you .

They tell you all about tuition reimbursement but what they don’t tell you is you won’t have time to got to school.

17 August 2020

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20 June 2018

What is the retirement plan like at The J.M. Smucker Co.?

Pros

Great 401K benefits. Overall good company culture.

Cons

Sometimes I do not feel the Smucker culture day to day.

Great 401K benefits.

20 June 2018

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3 October 2020

Does The J.M. Smucker Co. offer parental leave?

Pros

Flexible work schedule and generous maternity leave. Fun brands to work on and competitive pay for the area. Collaborative work environment. Gym and fitness center on site.

Cons

Lack of clarity from leadership. Regionally isolated headquarters. Slow to move on trends.

Flexible work schedule and generous maternity leave.

3 October 2020

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29 English questions out of 29