Terri Zandhuis Makes Human Resources Even Sweeter

As Krispy Kreme’s HR all-star, Terri Zandhuis is helping to grow the doughnut giant’s business as big as its brand loyalty

Terri Zandhuis spent ten years at Bank of America as senior vice president and human resources executive. It was a mammoth organization that had resources galore, defined processes, and procedures refined over time—a well-oiled machine down to the bolt. The brand was so strong that it helped synchronize both internal and external business culture, including a few acquisitions Zandhuis would help implement during her decade with the bank.

Terri Zandhuis
Terri Zandhuis, Krispy KremePhoto: William Crooks

In her present role as chief people officer at Krispy Kreme, brand recognition takes on an entirely different meaning. “When I tell people where I work, a smile immediately comes across their face,” says Zandhuis, who has been with the company for the past three years. “That isn’t the kind of reaction people have when you tell them you work for a bank. There’s a certain kind of magic here that I think is rare for other brands.”

Zandhuis readily admits that Krispy Kreme’s reputation dwarfs the actual business because the name immediately connects to consumers’ best memories by word association alone. When Krispy Kreme doughnuts are involved, the mind (and taste buds) do all the heavy lifting for company loyalty.

Zandhuis has tasked herself with equipping HR with more capabilities to grow Krispy Kreme’s business and ensure that all parts of the business remain sweet.

Pure and Sweet

If there is a pure HR executive Krispy Kreme had in mind, it’s Zandhuis. “I’m one of those few people who knew they wanted to get into HR right out of the gate,” she says. Starting at the Federal Reserve Bank, the young HR professional would amass a résumé full of well-known names: Bank of America, eBay, and AOL to name a few.

She would build out expertise in campus recruiting early on and widen her generalist HR role and passion for building culture as she continued her journey. “I place great value on my experience starting as a recruiter,” Zandhuis says. “The skill sets I developed in those roles have served me through my entire career: diagnostics, questioning, learning, and taking that information and applying it to understand what makes people successful in an organization.”

Terri Zandhuis
“One thing that has universally aligned this effort has been the passion for our brand. People who work here love Krispy Kreme and, in their own way, are protective of ensuring its continued success.” Photo: William Crooks

The acquisition of Krispy Kreme by JAB Holdings in 2016 included a CEO change, and in new CEO Michael Tattersfield, Zandhuis saw a unique opportunity. “Mike was instrumental in the Krispy Kreme acquisition,” she says. “He feels passionately about this brand and believes that everything we do internally and externally mirrors our reputation. We’re not just making doughnuts. We’re making people smile. Everything we do reflects the joy that is Krispy Kreme.”

The Next 82

Imbuing an eighty-two-year-old brand with a purpose and direction to last another eighty-two isn’t a small initiative. “Coming in and understanding the capabilities we needed to bring into the organization included some very ambitious ideas from a strategic element,” Zandhuis explains. “We are implementing e-commerce, digital, and delivery initiatives to enhance our customer experience.”

“We’re also taking a look at our consumer packaged goods business,” she continues, “because it’s so vastly different than the religious experience you get from a hot Original Glazed doughnut that comes right off the line in one of our doughnut shops.”

Zandhuis also said there has been focus on what she calls “building the rails”—rebuilding the foundation so that the HR organization is able to keep pace with Krispy Kreme’s goal of growing its business as big as its brand.

“Rebuilding HR capabilities is part of that effort,” the chief people officer says. “When I came here, I found that through no fault of their own, the HR organization had become somewhat disconnected from what the company was trying to do. It was important to come in and make sure that we understood that strategy is the context for everything we do.”

The Perfect Mix 

Working to reimagine culture at Krispy Kreme has been one of Zandhuis’s most rewarding experiences. Along with other leadership, the executive team created its twelve-ingredient Leadership Mix, which guides the desired behaviors of the organization.

“We wrestled with every single word and syllable as a team,” Zandhuis says. “Our CEO committed to a high-touch rollout and education for our Krispy Kremers on the purpose of this mix and how it’s going to inform and influence what we do and how we work together.”

Terri Zandhuis
“We’re not just making doughnuts. We’re making people smile. Everything we do reflects the joy that is Krispy Kreme.” Photo: William Crooks

The Leadership Mix was rolled out in 2019 and in 2020, HR continues to build out its agenda, utilizing processes and systems that are based in those twelve ingredients.

One of Zandhuis’s biggest challenges in her short time at Krispy Kreme has been navigating the opening of new company offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, in tandem with its forever-home in Winston-Salem. “One of the challenges we ran into is the fact that Winston isn’t necessarily a high-growth market,” she explains. “We needed to set up another hub, and there are over one hundred people moving to Charlotte every single day.”

The abundance of talent and opening of offices created a quite literal “tale of two cities” that required the HR team to reconcile veteran employees in Winston-Salem while still driving momentum forward with new employees who have only been with the company for as long as it has had offices in Charlotte: two years.

“One thing that has universally aligned this effort has been the passion for our brand,” Zandhuis says. “People who work here love Krispy Kreme and, in their own way, are protective of ensuring its continued success.”

As Zandhuis continues to work to help lay the groundwork for growth at Krispy Kreme—be it a new HRIS implementation or a new learning management system—the chief people officer says her organization is well on the way to embodying all twelve of its ingredients.

“We all know Krispy Kreme for their iconic Original Glaze doughnut, a product that has been bringing joy to consumers for decades,” says Scott McCleary, senior benefits consultant at NFP. “At NFP, we embrace the opportunity to bring joy to Krispy Kremers by working closely with Terri’s team to ensure their benefits plans are as original as they are, meeting a wide range of their unique personal needs.”

One of the twelve ingredients, “Inspire Customer Wonder,” might be a little easier at the sprinkle-topped home of doughnuts, but Zandhuis is there to ensure that the mix is perfect, and all Krispy Kremers are accounted for.

Be Sweet

While Krispy Kreme’s “Be Sweet” initiative began as a local community-based effort, it quickly morphed into something much larger and far-reaching. Be Sweet is the company’s comprehensive effort to bring to joy to its people, planet, communities, and food through new and evolving efforts. Last year, the company launched a partnership with Serious Fun Children’s Network, an organization that provides camp experiences for seriously ill children to help them see beyond the limits of their medical conditions and experience all that life has to offer.

Krispy Kremers are also offered twelve-dozen free doughnuts every quarter to share with organizations of their choice. “We want to empower our Krispy Kremers to give to the places that are nearest and dearest to them,” Terri Zandhuis says.

The company is also looking from a broader lens at how its sustainability efforts, ingredient sourcing, and packaging can be more aligned with the values of the company. It’s all part of Be Sweet, and the initiative continues to grow.

“People expect tremendous things from their companies—from the impact of their products to the way they connect to the community to the way they support employees and their families. HR and benefits leaders know it takes more than smart programs to get people fully engaged in their organizations. You must also have effective communication to bring programs to life and drive action. As a national leader in HR and employee benefits communication, Segal Benz helps leading organizations use communication to drive business results. We are honored to partner with Krispy Kreme and be part of their impressive work.”  —Jennifer Benz, SVP Communications Leader