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Why you should write thank you notes to employees’ mums

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They say your company becomes your family, but what happens when you involve staff’s families in your company?

CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi recently revealed in an interview with Fortune that she writes to the parents of each of her direct reports so they can experience pride in their children, and know they have succeeded as parents.

“I think a new company leader has got to bond employees to the company. We’ve worried about buying employees, we’ve worried about bouncing them when things didn’t work, but we’ve never focused on engaging them with their hearts,” Nooyi said.

Nooyi stumbled upon this unconventional idea when she went to India to stay with her mother and was greeted by an endless procession of her mother’s friends. It was then that it dawned on her that professional success was, perhaps largely, an indicator of how well a person had been brought up by their parents.

“I wrote to my employees’ parents, 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’.

“It was a personal letter for each family member. And it opened up emotions of the kind I have never seen,” Nooyi said.

Leveraging on the emotional engagement a child shares with one’s parents, Nooyi adds she understands why people may find the approach of leveraging on the emotional engagement between parent and child “uncomfortable” if implemented largely within an organisation.

But its success remains undeniably remarkable.

During the interview with Fortune‘s managing editor Andy Serwer, Nooyi recounted the story of a high-potential candidate her company really wanted to hire, who had also received an offer from a rival organisation.

“So I said, okay, I’m going to call his mum. So I call his mum, and she didn’t know who I was.

“I introduced myself and I said, ‘Let me describe the situation’, and I said, ‘Let me tell you why coming to PepsiCo is going to be the right career decision for your son’.”

Her connection with the prospective candidate’s mother paid off, and the company eventually landed their new hire.

With more employees being open to the idea of involving their parents in their careers, is Nooyi’s approach of writing directly to her employees’ parents an indication of the future of talent attraction and retention?

Do you think involving employees’ parents at work is a good idea? Write to me at

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