Piotrowski: The role of finance in PepsiCo has certainly moved from recording transactions towards providing decision-making support. At Wimm-Bill-Dann, two years ago, we decided to enhance this by separating out our controlling and accounting teams from finance. Finance professionals are no longer required to run transaction processes, so they can instead focus on their decisionmaking support and performance evaluation, working with others to accelerate business objectives. The two teams still stay in sync, but this separation has allowed me to focus on what’s best for the future of the business.
Narsimhan: In PepsiCo India, the range of skills we are using is also increasing in width — the fast pace of the changing environment here, whether relating to the economy, the competition, the consumer, the market structure — this pace of evolution demands that companies are very swift in their response. Within this, the finance function must evolve and adapt to stay relevant.
THE TALENT CHALLENGE
Piotrowski: The biggest challenge we are facing is, without a doubt, access to capability and talent. I often joke that I came to Russia for two years, six years ago. [He was previously based in Poland.] This is a common theme in this country, a high percentage of expatriates filling roles as it is difficult to find people locally with the particular specialist skills we are looking for, for example, matrix organisation leadership skills.
However, I believe our specific issue is that the growth of the PepsiCo business is occurring much faster than our ability to grow talent — it’s not that there is no talent, it is that there is a war for talent, and people have many alternatives.
Narsimhan: I think the challenges around talent have several dimensions. One is to be able to train and grow people fast enough, in line with the new generation’s expectations and ambitions about good career prospects and personal development opportunities. Another is getting talent of a diverse enough nature. To pull together a bunch of talented people who are also diverse in their backgrounds, training, mind-sets and in gender? That is a huge challenge.
Narsimhan: PepsiCo has a robust set of people processes, in terms of hiring and talent management — hopefully leading to retention. We analyse the employee value proposition of qualifications, years of experience and so on. Then we measure time spent on a role, the speed with which we are able to rotate people through roles, diversity of experience in the local and international business and in the field versus corporate headquarters, and we also evaluate career velocity, how quickly we can promote people to higher levels.
All PepsiCo managers are evaluated on performance, with 50% of this evaluation based on business results and 50% on the talent they produce, meaning senior employees must take on objectives relating to the people they work with, how they interact with them, how they groom them and prepare them for bigger and better positions, alongside how they build teams with complementary skills. This approach sets the tone for people management across PepsiCo.
Piotrowski: PepsiCo is a process- and tools-rich company, and we leverage our global best practices in talent management, considering local market-specific elements. We regularly undertake “360 feedback”, where our staff assess their own and their colleagues’ capabilities, and we also use independent companies to assess particular features of our characters and our natural inclinations, identifying areas of strength and areas needing development.
Piotrowski: I’m a big believer in emotional intelligence. As a leader of a team of over 500 people, what I do with my hands is practically irrelevant compared to how I communicate. It comes down to understanding people on their level. Great leaders should also be prepared for work to surprise them, always be ready to do more, to rethink — don’t be too proud of what you’ve already delivered.
Narsimhan: Personally, I think it is very difficult to get a balance between dreaming a big dream and executing it on the ground. Anyone who can achieve this is an inspiration. I enjoy tasks where my ambition is larger than the available resources, forcing me to think more creatively.
Marcin Piotrowski, ACMA, CGMA, CFO of PepsiCo-owned Wimm-Bill-Dann in Russia
Piotrowski: We use set KPIs [key performance indicators] in order to assess talent in such areas as ability to progress to a more senior role in the organisation within a foreseeable period of time, readiness to be stretched with challenging assignments and the ability to be flexible. We typically ask for the opinion of management who interact with the individual, as an objective way of analysing potential.
In order to obtain a complete talent landscape, we assess the internal succession bench — the number of internal candidates ready to fill the role now, or within a year — as well as the existence of development plans, which, if executed, will shift our associates who are ready in two years or ready in five years to being ready now.