HR Insider May 30 2012

Coke's Secret Hiring Formula

By Damian Ghigliotty

It would be easy to feel content about working for Coca-Cola Co.

The company's flagship Diet Coke brand pushed rival Pepsi to third place in market share in 2010 and PepsiCoChief Executive Indra Nooyi continues to take flak for her strategy of expanding into healthy foods. Indeed, the Purchase, N.Y.-based snack and soda maker has announced 8,700 layoffs as part of a broader restructuring.

Coca-Cola meanwhile has said it plans to create 100,000 jobs in the next 10 years, with plans to hire in the U.S., China, India, Germany, Mexico and Brazil. The company has hundreds of openings in sales and marketing, human resources and finance as well as positions in sales and marketing, merchandising, supply-chain distribution and warehouse operations for the company's U.S. bottling business.

The Atlanta-based soda giant employs about 146,000 people who work directly for the company and another 550,000 people who work for its franchise bottling partners. Coca-Cola provides the ingredients for those bottlers and they handle packaging and distribution.

To find out more, FINS corresponded with Ceree Eberly, Coca-Cola's chief people officer. "We are building long range talent plans in key growth markets anticipating the skills and roles needed for the future and acting on them now," Eberly wrote. Below are excerpts from her email exchange with FINS.

DG: How would you describe Coca-Cola's workplace culture?

CE: Truly global and local at the same time. When you do business in more than 200 countries, the culture in the workplace is naturally going to reflect aspects of the culture and practices in that country. We always embrace those differences and celebrate them. So, you can't describe the Coca-Cola Company's culture as the same thing everywhere we do business.

What is the same are our values: leadership, collaboration, integrity, accountability, passion, diversity and quality. There's also an enormous sense of responsibility in being the stewards of the world's best-known and most-loved brand.

In my 22 years with Coca-Cola and having lived in three continents working for the company, employee commitment has always been striking to me. Wherever you go, whatever the language, whatever the economic or political circumstance at the time, Coca-Cola people are always proud to be associated with this business, our bottling system and our brands. That commitment to build on 126 years of success is at the heart of our culture.

DG: How do you view diversity in hiring?

CE: Our workplace diversity strategy is based upon a simple premise: that our company should be as diverse as the markets we serve. We need to ensure that we can understand and connect to the needs of our consumers and our customers. We also need to ensure that we continue to innovate in everything we do. Having a diverse population and increasing our diversity through hiring is the foundation for being successful against both of these focus areas.

DG: How do you hold onto your best people?

CE: Our goal has been to provide more effective, simpler and consistent services to our employees for a better employee experience. Most large multinational companies have made this transition as well and we are several years into our journey of implementation. We must be equipped to help our leaders deal with a global, connected world full of economic uncertainty and ambiguity and develop the next generation of leaders.

It's pretty simple--making sure the business has the right talent, the right leaders, with the right capabilities, engaged in a winning culture and workplace that drives and rewards exceptional results.

DG: How does Coca-Cola recruit new talent?

CE: Our methods include college recruiting, veteran's associations, posting to job sites, college alumni associations, employee referrals, occasional use of search firms and directly searching for specific talent using our in-house search team. We strive to reach a talent audience that reflects the diversity of our consumers and customers across our local markets globally.

DG: What recruiting approaches have proven to be the most effective?

CE: Employee referrals and our in-house search team. Employee referrals provide a consistently high quality of hire, a phenomenon experienced across many industries, while our in-house search team is able to efficiently network sources of talent that provide outstanding quality and diversity to match our specific needs.

DG: In terms of personality and experience, what do you look for in new hires?

CE: Our company believes certain personal competencies including teamwork, innovation and the ability to produce results are key factors to our success. Candidates who excel at these competencies tend to be the best fit with us.

Another important factor in determining the right match is having common values--from feeling responsibility for a sustainable environment to appreciating the moments of happiness our brands deliver, having certain values in common result in the most successful hires.

DG: If someone has prior work experience at PepsiCo on their resume, is that a plus?

CE: Experience in the fast moving consumer goods industry is often a plus in many jobs, although specific technical expertise that we also need can in fact come from almost any industry depending on the type of expertise needed.

DG: Does Coca-Cola recruit top talent from PepsiCo?

CE: We look at the total market and have not targeted other specific companies. Occasionally a hire does have a background that includes our competition, but we are more interested in the fit of the person with our company, and that leads us to many different sources of talent inside and outside of fast moving consumer goods.

Write to Damian Ghigliotty at

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