A lot of people have asked me if I wanted to move into sales or marketing or general management. My answer is always an unequivocal “no”. It’s not because I am risk-averse or because company policy does not allow it (in fact, PepsiCo actively encourages it). It’s because I believe that human resources, or HR, is one function that gets a 360-degree view of the business and is the closest to getting general management experience.
Pavan Bhatia, Executive director, HR, PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd
Think about it. In sales, one is predominantly dealing with salespeople and sales issues. Similarly, in marketing you are dealing with sales and marketing issues. HR is unique; it deals with cross-functional issues and cross-functional people on a day-to-day basis.
I recall when most of us started our careers in industrial relations (a trend that unfortunately is going out of fashion for some reason), we were expected to know each and every aspect of the plant. For example, to design a variable pay scheme, we were expected to know details about each line, capacity and the number of hours it takes for start-up, among others.
Similarly, there were several other reasons, such as signing a long-term settlement with the union where you were expected to not only know the business, but also lead the discussions. This is one reason why I believe that every HR professional should go through a plant assignment. Even in corporate office assignments, such as compensation and benefits, staffing and training, one has to be involved with all aspects of the business.
Understanding different employees, their needs, aspirations and motivation on one side, and looking at the business from different angles is what makes the role really exciting and unpredictable. No surprise, therefore, that more and more people from other functions are opting for a role in HR.
So the next time you want to develop someone for a CEO’s role, make sure you give them critical experience in HR.