For years I’ve been preaching to HR and Talent Pros all over the country that the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to increase engagement and loyalty in your employees is to write their parents a thank you note. Now, the CEO of Pepsi, Indra Nooyi, has come out and admitted to doing this with her direct reports. From the Fortune article:
I became CEO in 2006, and it was a matter of some pride to my family, but not too much. So I went home to visit my mother in Madras, in India, and stayed with her. And she woke me up at 7 o’clock and said, “Come on, get ready.” I said, “I’m on vacation, how about noon today?” She said, “No, people are coming to visit, so get up.”
So she made me sort of dress up and sit there, and then a steady stream of third cousins, fifth cousins, 20th cousins, three-removed, all started to show up. And each of them would walk into the house. They would sort of look at me and say, “Oh, hello,” and then go to my mom and say, “You should feel so proud that you brought up this daughter, and you brought up your child so well.”
So, this was not about me. This was about what a good job my parents had done in bringing me up. 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. I’d never done that.
And I thought about my kids and I said, “You know what? If I ever got a report card on them, after they’re 18, I would love it, because in the U.S., once they turn 18, we don’t get report cards. We pay their tuition, but we don’t get their report card, right?”
…I wrote to them and I told them the story of my going to India and what happened with my mother, and I said, “therefore I’m writing to thank you for the gift of your son, who is doing this at PepsiCo, and what a wonderful job this person is doing.” I gave a — it was a personal letter for each family member.
And it opened up emotions of the kind I have never seen. 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, I remember, he went home and he said to his mom, “you know, my boss is really giving me a tough time.” And his mom told him, “Nuh-uh, not about her. She’s my friend!”
Okay, I know this will not work 100% of the time. There will be times, when an employee of yours has had a very bad relationship with their parents, and this kind of ‘engagement’ practice will not be welcomed. I would still argue, those times are rare. One of things this exercise forces a leader to do is to ensure they at least know their direct reports. IF that is the case, you would know which reports would not want this to happen, and you adjust accordingly.
Read the full article. Nooyi takes it one further step and talks about retention and talent attraction. Image you are in a heated talent fight for a certain type of person. The candidate interviews with your firm, as well as others, and you all make offers. Which company will the candidate choose? Nooyi has made calls to parents of candidates, telling the parents why this position, with Pepsi, is the best fit. Now, she has the parents also helping her recruit! Powerful stuff, visionary leader who really gets it!
Would your CEO write thank you letters to your employee’s parents?