A little while after Indra Nooyi was named the CEO of PepsiCo, she traveled home to India to visit her mother. The morning after she arrived, piles of visitors began pouring into her mothers’ home. They walked past Nooyi and straight to her mom where they congratulated her on her daughter’s accomplishment. They praised her for her ability to raise a daughter who would become CEO. This, Nooyi reflected, made sense. Her mother and late father’s guidance were responsible for so much of who she would become, and of her success.
As a result of that experience, Nooyi decided that all of the mothers and fathers of her executives reporting to her deserved the same praise. “It occurred to me that I had never thanked the parents of my executives for the gift of their child to PepsiCo,” she recounted in an interview. So, after that trip, Nooyi initiated a practice that she continues today. She personally writes letters to the parents of her top 400 executives describing how the values they instilled benefit PepsiCo, saying “Thank you for the gift of your child to our company.”
Find & Hire People Who Align With Your Company Values
The power of what Indra Nooyi does, and the power of all beloved companies, is that they find people whose upbringing and values align to what they want their company to stand for. And then they enable them to bring that version of themselves to work. For Nooyi, those letters of thanks came naturally—a result of hiring leaders who share company values.
Selecting who will, and will not, become members of these companies is job number one. Wegmans, the beloved grocery store on the eastern seaboard of the United States, actually slows down its growth to enable them to find people who fit their core values. The Container Store, a mainstay on Forbe’s “Best Companies to Work For” treatise, only hires 3% of all employees who apply.
But after that, the focus is to help them to prosper. To enable them to achieve, and be true to how they were raised. Isadore Sharp, the founder and CEO of The Four Seasons Hotels states that: It is our work to give people “a sense of purpose and the courage to believe in themselves.”
Show Humanity at Work
Our humanity—our “humanness”—now more than ever, needs to show through in how we do business with customers and each other. With the stratospheric increase in high tech solutions to ‘take care’ of customers, the need for high touch has also escalated. Technology alone will not solve everything. Customers need a healthy dose of both. They need a blend of high tech to enable high touch, as I discussed with a recent guest on my livestream, Deborah Westphal, author of a book on this subject entitled Convergence.
Yes, an app can let you know the arrival time of your repairman, but it is the man and his handshake and how he cares for your home as he walks in that shows the kind of mother he’s got. Yes, you can book your ticket online, but it’s the gate agent’s concern in making your connection that shows if she’s been honored—so she can honor you. Yes, you can pick up your rental car without even talking to a human, but a smile from that guy or gal checking you out can improve that experience. And they give you comfort, when given the authority to let it slide if your car return is a few minutes late.
High tech without a human connection may make interactions more efficient, but it’s important to know when to blend humanity and caring into customer experiences.