Sustainability in Action

Beginning New Jobs While Navigating a Global Pandemic

Starting a new job is always challenging, but starting a new job while navigating the first global pandemic in a century? That presents a new level of challenge.

O-I Glass is among the leading global manufacturers of glass packaging for food and beverage brands. When the Covid-19 crisis unfolded, it deeply impacted our 25,000-plus employees around the globe in so many ways – forcing office employees to work remotely and our plant floor employees to adopt stringent Covid-19 mitigation safety precautions that changed how they work.

As the pandemic persists, so do many of our strategies to keep our employees and their families safe. Employees new to O-I during this time have had to adapt to a new work reality, where they may have never met team members in person, or perhaps have never seen them without a mask. What can their experiences teach us about thriving and building relationships during the unknown?

Building Collaborative Relationships

Kelly Cristina Bento, a Logistics Supervisor in the São Paulo Plant in Brazil, started with O-I in December 2020. As logistics supervisor, she managed a remote team working virtually because of the pandemic. Her new position also called for her to oversee purchasing for all new and returnable materials.

kelly bento o-i glass
Kelly Cristina Bento is a Logistics Supervisor in the São Paulo Plant in Brazil.

“Everything was new,” she says. “It was during COVID-19, and I didn’t know how long the pandemic would last or what could happen to me, my family, and everyone else around me.” But she was eager to find opportunities to learn new things and accepted the challenge.

Kelly’s work ordinarily would require face-to-face meetings to manage her team and in-person visits to customers and suppliers, so finding ways to manage these job requirements in virtual settings took work and creative problem-solving. As a young Black female leader in an operations area of mostly male leaders, she looked for ways to connect with her colleagues and build strong working relationships. Discovering O-I’s Afro Glass Employee Resource Group, she plunged into virtual participation with the group. She now serves as Co-Leader.

“Our Afro Glass Employee Resource Group aims to equalize black representation in the company, especially in leadership positions,” she says. “Historically in Brazil, the access for Black people to management positions is very difficult. So this group gives visibility to this problem, promoting debates and awareness that we are an inclusive company.”

Kelly’s natural ability to build collaborative relationships helped her shine in her new role, despite the challenges of starting during the pandemic.

“You need to know what your goals are and align your expectations with what the company is offering,” she says. “Understand that the adaptation time is not easy, but it passes quickly. Knowing where you want to go is the best guide to understanding if this is the right job for you.”

Delivering Results in a Virtual World

Sammy Holaschutz joined O-I as Recycling and Development Leader in February 2021. Sammy is well-known for his high energy and “can do” approach to tackling challenges. He has a passion for recycling and believes recycling glass is an everyday activity.

sammy holaschutz recycling systems
Sammy Holaschutz is O-I’s Recycling and Development Leader. He works remotely from his Texas home.

Sammy described his initial reaction to starting as a virtual employee as wildly positive. “The welcome from my colleagues and the level of open dialogue I felt from the very beginning was fantastic,” he says. “The company’s recycling and sustainability goals were clearly communicated, providing a strong foundation to start working.”

Tasked with a monumental job of creatively finding new processes to keep recycled glass in the manufacturing stream, he knew he’d have to collaborate with people across various functions. He made relationship building a priority.

“I had to start paving my way, virtual work or non-virtual work. I had to develop recycling systems and decide who would be part of the team,” he says. “So you reach out. And the beautiful part of my experiences was that everybody was willing to meet and talk.”

One project that Sammy co-led is already delivering results. Glass4Good is a pilot glass recycling program rolling out at plants with an added social impact component.

“You have to do the work,” he says. “At O-I, we’re interested in doing everything we can to divert glass out of the landfills.”

An Extrovert Finds Ways to Develop People and Teams Remotely

Joan Gomes was thrilled to begin her new job as an Assistant Engineer in Research and Development at O-I’s Perrysburg, Ohio, headquarters. She was crushed when the state went into lockdown, which meant she would be working remotely without the chance to meet her team face-to-face.

joan gomes engineer
Joan Gomes is an Assistant Engineer in Research and Development at O-I, based at the company’s Toledo, Ohio, headquarters.

“I had just moved to Ohio,” she says. “I thought that my new job would be one way to meet new people and I was really disappointed for a day or two.”

But that didn’t slow her down. Within days, Joan was reaching out to her team and colleagues to get to know them virtually. She discovered that other people were just as open to talking with her as she was with them. Her co-workers were happy to talk about non-work-related topics also. To facilitate building her network, she asked her hiring manager if she could collect everyone’s birthdays and work anniversaries and start acknowledging them in the group Teams chat as a way of making connections and strengthening her new relationships.

People loved it. Joan started arranging and inviting her team members to virtual games and other fun activities.

“Doing those things helped me develop new connections,” she explained. “In early months after joining O-I, I learned about the Onized Club, a community within O-I that organizes family, cultural and social activities throughout the year. I thought this would be a great opportunity to connect with people outside my team or R&D organization.”

When the Onized Club Executive Council needed a Commissioner of Communications for 2021-2022, Joan took it on. “After that, more people began to know my name and what I did at O-I.”

“I really like talking with people,” she says. “I’m an extrovert, and I enjoy helping pull others out of themselves.”

For Joan, developing people and teams and engaging with her colleagues is part of her job. “It’s essential to pull the team together and keep people engaged,” she explains. “And in doing this, I fulfill my own needs, but at the same time, I fulfill others.”

‘Connected Work’ Model

O-I employees show high-performance tendencies no matter where they are located – one of the several proof points that have led to O-I’s introduction of its innovative new “Connected Work” model of the future.

O-I’s strategy is centered around People Leading Performance. Kelly, Sammy and Joan demonstrate how our people embrace our values and behaviors, even as new employees working in new ways during the pandemic.

Leaders took a close look at employee feedback and have started laying out the “Connected Work” model to empower employees to work where they can best perform. The model is meant to provide teams with the resources and flexibility to collaborate, innovate and perform their best work in the most suitable environment. This hybrid approach is a natural progression to our company’s transformation. We look to implement a test and learn phase in 2022 once the pandemic allows.

According to André Luiz Said Guilherme, O-I People & Culture Manager in Brazil, leaders found themselves navigating a new approach: “For us, it was a mindset change, going from focusing on hours of work to managing to performance, which is the way of the future.”

The pandemic has showcased how our teams continue to perform under pressure, building collaborative relationships to deliver results, all while continuing to engage each other.

Allen Mireles
Allen Mireles
Allen Mireles is a wordsmith based in New England with an abiding passion for sustainability and helping build a safer and cleaner planet. An experienced writer, she has deep experience in both traditional and digital marketing and public relations and has written for a broad range of industries and media. As an avid gardener and camper, Allen loves nothing more than being outside appreciating our natural world.
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