There aren’t many things that can improve upon a ski vacation in the Colorado Rockies – especially after a year of restricted movement – unless you happen to be wearing a Hormel Foods jersey while shooshing down some of the best slopes in the United States.
That was the case recently for Joe Peine. The plant manager of Dold Foods (Wichita, Kan.) was one of the first Pride of the Jersey honorees of 2021. Dubbed the “We Were Made for This” jersey, the 2021 version of the well-established recognition program is designed to celebrate those who exemplify the Cultural Beliefs of Hormel Foods and have made significant contributions to the company’s commitment to operate safely and successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In March of last year, we began to track every team member who showed signs of symptoms or illness. Since then, you have conducted hundreds of phone calls with team members and their family members, participated in and spoke up on many corporate meetings, helped improve our COVID pay programs and gone out of your way to provide meals and groceries to families in need,” said Dan Zielke, the former HR manager for Dold Foods, as he announced the winner. “By doing this, you have demonstrated that our company holds our team members close and goes above and beyond to ensure they know they and their families are valued.”
Joe was honored at a staff meeting. Clint Walters, vice president of operations for Refrigerated Foods, brought the jersey to Kansas. The Dold Foods staff agreed the first recipient should be Joe.
“I was not expecting it. I didn’t even know the jersey was coming,” Joe says. “I guess a lot of it had to do with remaining calm, cool and collected during the pandemic, sharing new cases and new protocols, and committing to communication and leadership through that.”
‘We are going to take care of our people first,’ they said. That’s set us apart – in the best way possible.Joe Peine, Dold Foods Plant Manager
Joe’s been with Hormel Foods for 20 years. Right after finishing his bachelor’s degree at University of Wisconsin, River Falls, he signed on with the Austin (Minn.) Plant. He spent 13 and one-half years at the flagship location before being promoted to his current position with Dold Foods seven years ago.
Leading through the pandemic, he says, is “certainly up there” when it comes to challenges he’s faced in his two decades with the company. What took the arduous task up a notch was the fact that Joe and the team at Dold Foods had just come off a large expansion of the plant. At long last, there is a bit of normalcy returning.
“We still have COVID challenges, but it’s not nearly as draining,” he says, owing the ebb to good communication, solid processes and vaccinations.
That’s giving Joe more opportunities to be with his wife and four children, ages 8-16. Family time is a priority for him; one of the ways he leads by example, he says. If others at the plant see Joe adjusting his schedule to get to one of his kids’ activities, they will know he and the company believe it’s important to do that. He credits Hormel Foods in this regard. “It’s a great company that supports family initiatives,” he says.
When there are no personal commitments, Joe’s workday is roughly 12 hours long. He likes to reserve weekends for his family, although he stops in or connects with the Dold Foods team most Saturdays. That’s where technology helps. “It’s made everything much more convenient,” he says.
The Peines are active, enjoying time by their pool, hiking and running. Even when not swimming, Joe and his wife use their yard as a backdrop for conversations and relaxation, weather permitting. When he’s talking about a good day at work, it is one in which everything went well. “Nobody got hurt, no product was lost, and daily operational goals were optimized,” he says. “When things are clicking on all cylinders.”
That happens often for this leader, and the support he gets from the top is among the reasons. A global pandemic shed an international light on that.
“It was clear that our CEO, Jim Snee, and our corporate leadership were going to take a different approach [from other companies],” he says. “’We are going to take care of our people first,’ they said. That’s set us apart – in the best way possible.”