Key Influencers: Observable Trends

Key Influencers: Observable Trends

Posted on 13. Nov, 2009 by in Blog, Top 100

By John Sumser

Here are a few of the things I’m discovering as I interview people for the Key Influencers project. I’ve recently crossed the 180 interview threshold.

The unconfirmed word on the street is that in the Fortune 500, 130 of the Chief HR Officers (or whatever you call the person with that title) are alumni of the Pepsi HR system. I’m discovering an interesting bias in the market that involves these folks. That’s an astonishing track record. (The next closest is GE with about 40). It even looks like there’s a market (recruiting) to support it.

Pepsi alums seem to:

* Be really goal oriented and focused,
* Not particularly believe in SHRM,
* Believe in job rotation,
* Give really big assignments to young leaders,
* Care about outcomes not processes
* Look at company wide human capital trends not department specifics
* Expect the HR Function to perform at a certain level
* Network with each other,
* Know about the careers of other Pepsi alums

Another trend involves ‘schools of HR thought’. These are spheres of influence that coalesce around a particular theory.

Some segments of the profession align themselves with particular schools of organizational design and psychology. There are a number of faculty at USC, Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Wharton who command interesting followings. There are smaller contingents in Chicago, DC and San Francisco.

There’s a real question about whether or not best practices actually work. HR is so diverse by industry and region that a really good idea in one setting can be a disaster in another. For instance, the treatment of attrition has an entirely different meaning in consumer facing (restaurant, hospitality and retail) than it does in information systems /component/page,shop.browse/category_id,7/option,com_virtuemart/Itemid,6/vmcchk,1/”>cialis 40 mg and biotech.

In one case, you want to increase retention in specific jobs. In the other, you want to increase retention in the company while decreasing it in specific jobs.

There don’t seem to be many magic bullets. That’s because great HR is focused on business results and not the measurement of internal processes.

Here’s my favorite example of the week.

A very large informationish institution on the East Coast is reorienting its recruiting function. From now on, 75% of the work /component/page,shop.browse/category_id,7/option,com_virtuemart/Itemid,6/vmcchk,1/”>cialis 40 mg of the 300 members of the recruiting team will be internal. They are going to compete head to head with the executive search firms who have been raiding their talent coffers.

The company has given its recruiting team a mandate to find capable internal players for any opening and to pursue them as aggressively as a competitor would. The recruiters don’t need the boss’ permission.

The net effect is to create opportunistic career paths while never allowing people to rest on their laurels. The company believes that this is the key to massive productivity improvement and deeper levels of agility.

The idea is potent enough to spread without someone collecting so-called best practices. What’s interesting about the HR Industry is that excellence is happening in pockets rather than across the board. The success stories that make the most sense are not being transmitted. It’s a problem with the current information structure of the space.

6 Responses to “Key Influencers: Observable Trends”

  1. Russ Moon

    13. Nov, 2009

    Thanks John and valuable, you are forging a new path in mindset.

  2. Blake Moser

    13. Nov, 2009


    Thanks for sharing these observations. I find them very interesting. I’m pursuing my masters in HRD at the University of Texas at Tyler, and one of my professors Dr. Andrea Ellinger is going to have Dr. Alan Church of the Pepsi HR system talk with us next week. I’m looking forward to it, especially after your post.
    Furthermore, the observations you make about characteristics of the people from the Pepsi system seem to come from the basis that they apply HRD/OD philosophy rather than being from the traditional HRM school of thought. Organization-wide interventions to increase employee productivity and company effectiveness. It’s great that Pepsi has embraced HRD.

  3. Marsha Keeffer

    13. Nov, 2009

    Love the idea that internal recruiters are going after people in the org just like the externals – brilliant way to reinforce the value those employees bring.

  4. Tim Sackett

    13. Nov, 2009


    Your list of characteristics that Pepsi HR Alum bring to the table is an exact definition of Nex Gen HR Pros we need in all industries. I know Pepsi does an excellent job from leveraging diversity as well – which helps bring this type of thought to the forefront. It is an organization that doesn’t tend to have group-think throughout its HR org.

    Great Post.

  5. Larry Wilson

    13. Nov, 2009

    Great insights. An emphasis on implementing best practices can steal time and resources from a focus on critical business results. Even within the same industry a practice that worked in one location may not work in the next.

    How do we expose the pockets of excellence to a wider market? Your blog is a start. Thanks.

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