Since becoming CEO of one of the largest multinational food and beverage companies in the world, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi has made bonding with key employees a top priority.
Apparently, that also includes bonding with their parents.
In a candid interview with Fortune at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, Nooyi revealed that when she first took over the company in 2006, she decided to write personal letters to each of her direct reports’ parents thanking them for “the gift” of their children.
“It dawned on me that all of my executives who worked for me are also doing a damn good job, but I’d never told their parents what a great job their parents had done for them,” Nooyi said. “I’d never done that.”
Coming from a close-knit family herself, Nooyi has long emphasised the importance of family and strong bonds as factors in her own success. Over her tenure, she’s worked to overcome obstacles such as intense scrutiny of new Pepsi products and the decline in soda consumption in the U.S. by focusing on strengthening the Pepsi team.
Nooyi believes new company leaders should work “to bond employees to the company” and focus on engaging them “with their hearts” as much as their minds in order to build loyalty and morale. And she’s not the only one to focus on the parents of her staff. Several companies, including Google and LinkedIn, now host annual Take Your Parents To Work Days, when parents are welcomed to the office to learn about their kids’ jobs.
However, Nooyi does admit that writing letters to your employees’ parents is not for the faint of heart. The letters “opened up emotions of the kind I have never seen,” she said. “Parents wrote back to me, and all of a sudden, parents of my direct reports, who are all quite grown-up, and myself, we had our own communication.
“And one executive,” Nooyi continues, “went home and he said to his mum, ‘You know, my boss is really giving me a tough time.’ And his mum told him, ‘Nuh-uh, not about her. She’s my friend!'”
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