4 Ways PepsiCo’s CEO Energizes (and Retains) Her Employees

August 16, 2017

Most CEOs wouldn’t write letters to their employees’ families, but Indra Nooyi isn’t most CEOs—and that’s just one of the ways she’s doing things differently to retain her best employees.

One of only three women CEOs in the Fortune 50, Indra took the helm of PepsiCo in 2006 and created a new mission for the company: Performance with Purpose. A major part of that mission is empowering (and retaining) its people.

“How do we create an environment in PepsiCo where everybody can bring their whole selves to work? That attracts talent, recruiting and retention, and helps drive our top line,” Indra said in an interview with FastCompany.

Read on for a few of the techniques that Indra uses to encourage employees to grow—and stay.

Acknowledge employees—and their families—in creative, personal ways

In a recent LinkedIn article, Indra describes an ah-ha moment that came when she visited her mother in India after she was named CEO. Friends and family had showered her mother with praise, congratulating her for doing a great job raising Indra.

Seeing this, Indra decided to start writing letters to the parents of the company’s executives, thanking them. Soon after, she started sending letters of appreciation to employees’ spouses, too.

Finding a way to thank employees—really thank them—is an incredibly powerful method of letting them know you see their contributions and are grateful.

Give employees a clear, explicit purpose

In Indra’s eyes, Performance with Purpose goes beyond corporate social responsibility and beyond the mission of the PepsiCo Foundation. It’s about using the company’s huge global footprint to create valuable change in the normal course of business.

Today, the mission has three prongs: making healthier foods, protecting the planet, and empowering people. For example, Indra is steering her team to rethink PepsiCo’s classic products—Doritos, Cheetos, Lay’s chips—to be less greasy, less salty, and more appealing to a health-conscious consumer. On the environmental front, the company’s potato farmers have reduced water consumption by 50% in the past five years.

Giving employees a clear sense of shared purpose is a wonderful retention tool, since more than half of all professionals in the US want to work for a company whose mission and vision matches their personal values. That’s something that companies of any size company can do to keep its people motivated and energized.

Let employees have more autonomy and influence within the company

Indra gives her workers the latitude to solve problems creatively. On a trip to the Frito-Lay plant in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Indra toured the factory and learned that the employees there—knowing they had the autonomy to do so—did something unexpected and ingenious: when the local landfill ran out of space, the plant workers came up with ways to recycle their plastic waste into crates, outerwear, and other useful goods.

Employees around the world are empowered to invent local flavors for the Lay’s potato chip brand. So long as the chips retain their signature crunch, employees can make them taste like seaweed in China, tikka masala in India, and cuttlefish in Thailand.

Purpose and innovation wouldn’t mean much without the authority to execute. Within a $63 billion company, Indra empowers her teams to act like mini-entrepreneurs—and to carry their ideas to fruition. When workers feel like they can make a real difference, they’re more likely to stick around.

Make sure employees can “bring their whole selves to work” with inclusive benefits and opportunities

Indra is clear that the more a job enables employees to live their lives, the better PepsiCo’s retention rates will be. This includes flextime, day care centers, and generous maternity and paternity leave. But her philosophy also goes beyond these things.

“We want to create an environment in PepsiCo where every employee can bring their whole self to work and not just make a living but also have a life,” she said in another interview. “We want to make sure that everybody in the world has a chance to come to work at PepsiCo, not just those lucky enough to get an education. Women and girls in particular are discriminated against in many, many countries.”

Indra, who grew up in India, maintains a sharp awareness of those cultural differences. In Saudi Arabia, where laws prevent women and men from working together, PepsiCo has built gender-segregated factory floors in order to hire women while respecting the country’s strict regulations.

Championing causes like these and encouraging employees to have a healthy work-life balance can help you attract more diverse talent and retain the valuable employees you already have.

You don’t have to be Indra to motivate your employees like this—you don’t even have to be a CEO. HR and recruiting professionals can work to retain and inspire employees simply by thanking them, trusting them, and establishing a sense of purpose.

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.

* Image by Asa Mathat, Fortune Live Media

Topics