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Ep 476: Digital Talent At Pepsico


With high-profile layoffs in some large technology companies, it is perhaps easy to forget that digital transformation is still driving a massive need for tech talent in employers all over the world.

Despite the current economic headwinds, long-term trends are in play that require specific operating and employer brand strategies, particularly in companies that are not traditionally seen as being digital.

My guest this week is Blair Bennett, Senior Vice President Global Talent Acquisition at PepsiCo. Digital transformation is creating a significant need for tech talent in their business. In our conversation, Blair talks about the strategy they are putting in place to hire the people they need.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The size and scale of talent acquisition at PepsiCo

• Market trends and challenges

• Digital transformation and bringing in new capabilities

• Repositioning talent acquisition strategy

• Personalising candidate experience in competitive talent markets

• Automation in the TA operating model

• EVP and employer brand for specific talent cohorts

• Talent intelligence

• Geographical targeting and segmentation

• The role of technology

• The long term demand for digital talent

• The future of personalisation in talent acquisition

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcast.


Hired (0s):
Support for this podcast comes from Hired. Hired empowers connections by matching the world’s most innovative companies with the most ambitious tech and sales candidates. With Hired, companies can see what candidates want up front with visibility into competing offers and recruiting metrics. Hired’s unique offering includes hired assessments and diversity goals, a feature to more easily discover qualified underrepresented candidates. By combining technology and the human touch, Hired’s goal is to provide transparency in the recruitment process and to empower each of their partners to employ their potential and keep their talent pipeline full.

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Matt Alder (1m 19s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 476 of the Recruiting Future podcast. With high profile layoffs in some large technology companies, it is perhaps easy to forget that digital transformation is still driving a massive need for tech talent in employers all over the world. Despite the current economic headwinds, long term trends are in play that require specific operating and employer brand strategies, particularly in companies that are not traditionally seen as being digital. My guest this week is Blair Bennett, Senior Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition at PepsiCo.

Matt Alder (2m 2s):
Digital Transformation is creating a significant need for tech talent in their business. In our conversation, Blair talks about the strategy they are putting in place to hire the people they need. Hi, Blair and welcome to the podcast.

Blair Bennett (2m 19s):
Hi, Matt. Thank you so much for having me on.

Matt Alder (2m 22s):
It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you just introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Blair Bennett (2m 29s):
Yeah, sure. Absolutely. I am Blair Bennett. I am lucky enough to be with PepsiCo and lead our global talent and acquisition organization. That means I have a fabulous team of recruiters who are working across the globe and helping us to bring the best talent into what, of course, we believe is the best food and beverage company out there there.

Matt Alder (2m 59s):
Well, absolutely. Can you tell us a bit about the size and scale of your recruiting effort?

Blair Bennett (3m 4s):
Yeah, so we actually have an operating model that includes both our recruiting teams, in the markets, and in the businesses, as well as our global business services. Our function consists of centers of excellence. We have our attraction and engagement team, which is focused on making sure that our external perspective candidates can learn everything about our company. We also have our executive recruiting team who’s working on all of our vice president and above positions around the globe. Our campus recruiting team, who of course is helping us to pipeline our future leaders through our campus programs globally, as well as our professional teams who are supporting our roles, management, frontline supervisors, and everything in between.

Blair Bennett (4m 0s):
We’re really covering the gamut.

Matt Alder (4m 5s):
Absolutely. I’m sure you’re looking at all kinds of different roles in all kinds of different locations, which I suppose makes you the perfect person to ask this question to. Tell us about the challenges and trends you are seeing in the market at the moment.

Blair Bennett (4m 22s):
Yeah, it’s such a great time to be in talent acquisition, Matt, because there is so much going on and I think that it’s both from an internal perspective, but also as you know, externally what some of the trends are. When we think about what we’re really paying a close attention to, it is big rocks like digital talent, diversity, our candidate experience, how the economy and the macro trends are really impacting the workforce. If you think about our business where we make, move, and sell product, we’re oftentimes looking for the best of the best in sales, in marketing, in supply chain.

Blair Bennett (5m 3s):
Very recently, with a massive digital transformation at the company, we’re also really focused on bringing in new capabilities that maybe haven’t been at the forefront of our talent agenda, but they certainly are now and as we look to the future.

Matt Alder (5m 19s):
Tell us a little bit more about that, because you wouldn’t imagine that PepsiCo was a technology company or a digital company, and obviously digital transformation’s affecting all companies, but talk us through a bit about how it’s affecting your business.

Blair Bennett (5m 34s):
Yeah, certainly. I think it is one of those things where we find that sometimes a lack of awareness around the breadth and depth of PepsiCo’s offerings for tech talent is obvious. We’re trying to get out there and tell our story a little bit more, Matt, so that people can understand that we’re one of the world’s leading food and beverages company, so we’re across more than 200 countries. People are enjoying our products more than a billion times a day. You think about our iconic brands like Lays, Pepsi, Gatorade, Quaker, these are products that are really the fabric of everyday life.

Blair Bennett (6m 14s):
When we think about the way that we’re deploying our product, we say make, move, and selling our product, it really is dependent on having the right technology. It’s dependent on collecting the right data so that we can make great informed business decisions that help our customers and help us deliver great innovation to our consumers. We have a great talent proposition when you think about the breadth of our company and the brands that we bring to everybody’s table.

Matt Alder (6m 48s):
Absolutely. How are you positioning your TA strategy to get there and and win that talent for the business?

Blair Bennett (6m 56s):
We’re looking at everything from the end to end experience that we provide our candidates so we wanna really make sure that as we are attracting candidates into the pipeline that I mentioned, that we’re telling our story, that we’re helping people understand that our tech teams are really incubators right here for innovative thinking, for problem solving. There’s examples of things that we’re doing, Matt, that we wanna make sure everybody knows, whether it’s rolling out our electric fleet of trucks, whether it’s creating fully compostable bags with our off the Eaten Path brand.

Blair Bennett (7m 36s):
We just opened up a plant in Mexico that has zero freshwater consumption. We’re doing great things for the planet and for our communities. First of all, we wanna make sure that talent sees that, that they recognize the role that they can play in that. We also wanna make sure that our teams recognize that we’re hiring, not dozens, but hundreds of positions like software and data engineers, or we have robust hiring that happens within our research and development centers or e-commerce teams. I think marketing that, making the awareness there, and then also being able to provide that candidate experience that would be expected for this type of talent, that obviously is highly competitive.

Blair Bennett (8m 26s):
Thinking about how we provide a more personalized experience, how we put human touch in that experience, how we provide the transparency that this talent is looking for, and work at a speed where we can match the market, and move quickly to get this talent into the company.

Matt Alder (8m 46s):
Tell us a little bit more about how you are doing that. What kind of changes are you making? What’s been going well? How do the challenges look moving forward?

Blair Bennett (8m 55s):
Yeah, definitely. I think some of the things that we’ve been looking at is, first of all, structurally, is our talent acquisition operating model. One that allows our recruiters to really be that strategic talent advisor. We did a lot of work over the last few years to make sure that some of our back office transactional work is either automated or is being worked through our partners in our shared service. That’s really allowed our recruiters to get more in touch with what’s happening in the marketplace and offer that more strategic partnership to our hiring managers. I think the other thing that we’ve really looked at doing Matt, is ensuring that we have the right employer brand, that we’re looking at our employee value proposition as it relates specifically to different cohorts of talent.

Blair Bennett (9m 48s):
We’ve divided our attraction and engagement team into some like looking at the cohort. How are we bringing our employer brand to life for digital talent? How are we bringing our brand to life for more diverse talent? How are we bringing our brand to life for our early career talent? Being really strategic about how we’re talking to talent, and then I think also, we have global hubs where we’re attracting this type of talent. Getting very specific around what’s the talent availability? How are we from a recruiting team structured to be able to reach that talent?

Blair Bennett (10m 33s):
How are we doing hiring days? How are we working with our COE partners in total rewards and in HR to really be able to pivot when we need to around things to help attract this talent. We’re taking a real end to end approach to make sure that, we, as a talent acquisition team can move as quickly as the business needs us to move to attract this talent.

Matt Alder (11m 0s):
You mentioned the way that you are looking at your employer brand and how it resonates with different segments of talent. You obviously also are a global business and you mentioned global hubs there. Do you have to look at the employer brand in a talent segmented, geographically segmented way at the same time?

Blair Bennett (11m 23s):
We do. What we try to do, Matt, is have a global employer brand that then can be activated in the local market or to a specific cohort of talent. We wanna have something that consistently matches our EVP. If you think about why people join PepsiCo, we know that our iconic brands are a major attractor to the company. We know that our purpose agenda and how that’s embedded in everything that we do is an attract to the company. We know that career opportunity is something that people want when they join a company like PepsiCo.

Blair Bennett (12m 7s):
It’s certainly an offering that we stand by and stand true to. You can see that in so many of our career stories and associate stories. We know that transformation and digitalization is something that candidates are looking for in a company to be innovative. We really stand by those pillars which help to differentiate PepsiCo to talent, and then we have the ability to activate that in different ways. Dial up or dial down some of the messages that can specifically reach, whether it’s a local market in Thailand or it’s an early career campus career fair.

Blair Bennett (12m 50s):
We take a very targeted approach to the audience that we’re trying to reach, but we do align it to those pillars that we know are attractors to us as a global brand and a global company.

Matt Alder (13m 8s):
Talking about digitization, digital transformation, and the way that it’s changing businesses, it’s also changing talent acquisition as well. Is technology – recruiting technology, HR technology – playing a big part in your strategy moving forward?

Blair Bennett (13m 24s):
It is, absolutely. Yeah. We think about it in the context of where can technology enable our process to be more efficient and help us move the candidate along with the speed that they expect, but we also wanna marry that up with the right level of human touch. How are we offering that along the candidate journey, whether it be through awareness or your screening or your decision? We really try to take this approach of there are times where technology can assist, call interview, automated interview scheduling.

Blair Bennett (14m 5s):
Massive time saver for our recruiters, and then that allows them to focus where it may be most important in the screening or assessment process that they’re then giving that human touch to the candidate to bring them along in the journey in the right way.

Matt Alder (14m 24s):
Personalization is such an interesting topic at the moment in talent acquisition and you’ve got some good examples there about how the human and the machine meet to deliver that personalized experience. Where do you think it might go next? What do you think the ideal personalized talent acquisition experience should look like?

Blair Bennett (14m 43s):
This is such a great question and one that we think a lot about. I’m not sure, Matt, that we’ve cracked the code on this yet, but it’s certainly something that as we’ve gotten our technology foundation in place, that we wanna use as a next step in pushing ourselves to get further in this personalization journey. You think about things like how do you include preference into the process, right? Your candidate can choose what type of communication do I want? Do I wanna text? Do I wanna call? Do I want an email?

Blair Bennett (15m 24s):
I think there’s simpler concepts like that. They’re not easy to execute, but they’re simpler, right? Then you get into more complex things that we’re thinking about. At PepsiCo, our mission is to create smiles with every sip and bite. How do we bring that concept of smiles into the candidate experience where you’re really recognizing, are there moments of true interventions that will matter the most to that particular candidate at the right time? That’s a little bit more complex. I think that that’s something, we were recently out in California, meeting with some startups, and getting an understanding of what’s happening in the landscape of talent acquisition innovation.

Blair Bennett (16m 10s):
It is to put a focus on some of these finer points of the candidate experience with that personalization right at the center of it.

Matt Alder (16m 20s):
As a final question, just on the future for digital talent, such an interesting time because companies like PepsiCo have a huge demand for digital talent. Lots of organizations have demand for digital talent. At the same time, some of the high profile technology companies are laying people off and the picture looks quite different. If we look forward a few years, do you think that the insatiable demand for digital talent and new technology skills is something that’s gonna continue at the same pace that it is today?

Blair Bennett (16m 57s):
I do, I do. I think that we’re here for the long run in what companies are looking for to bring new capabilities into their talent ecosystem. I think where this starts to change a little bit, Matt, is it won’t be specific to certain roles. You’ll have your very technical software data engineers, but when you really think about, I mentioned we hire a lot of sales and marketing teams, we’re looking for people who have more digital competency in the roles moving forward than maybe what they needed in the past. I think that the definition of digital talent is getting broader and broader.

Blair Bennett (17m 42s):
I don’t think that the competitiveness or the desire for attracting this talent is going to diminish anytime soon. I think it’s only gonna increase. I think that’s why it’s important that we’re thinking about our talent ecosystem all the way from how we’re training, how we’re developing, how we’re getting talent. We have some programs where we’re reaching talent as early as community college to help them get certifications to open up some talent pools. We’re doing some hiring in our front lines to make sure that we’re bringing talent in that can be focused on more the automation type of work.

Blair Bennett (18m 27s):
that goes all the way to our executive teams where as we assess talent, thinking about how they can help take us into this digital future. I think that it’s really touching every single point of our talent ecosystem and that will continue. I think that talent’s gonna start to appreciate that they can come into a company like PepsiCo, they can have this impact and use their skills, and they can also find career pathing and career opportunities because of our size, because of our scale, and because of the opportunity to help us create the future of consumer product goods.

Matt Alder (19m 11s):
Blair, thank you very much for talking to me.

Blair Bennett (19m 14s):
Thank you, Matt. It’s been a pleasure.

Matt Alder (19m 17s):
My thanks to Blair. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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