HR Management & Compliance

Soft Stuff (Rubber Chickens, Anyone?) Gets Results


Speaking about his unique recognition programs, Yum! Brands Chairman and CEO David Novak says, “Soft stuff gets hard results.” He ought to know, as he’s in charge of recognizing 1.4 million associates in more than 40,000 KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurants in 125 countries.

Novak is the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling book Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen. He offered his thoughts on leadership at a recent SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition.

No Recognition for 47 Years

Novak tells the story of a visit to talk to route salespeople about merchandising and display visibility. One by one, the people in the group were raving about Bob and what a great job he did. Bob was crying. Why? In his 47 years with the company, he never knew that people felt that way.

That experience helped Novak decide that he was going to make recognition a priority and do it in a fun way. For his KFC people, it involved a rubber chicken. With Pizza Hut, it was the cheese head.

People love it, and, silly as the rewards may seem, employees are moved emotionally, Novak says. People told Novak that the rubber chicken approach was fine in the United States, but that it wouldn’t work in the UK or Asia. “Not true,” Novak says. “Soft stuff gets hard results.”

Leadership Training

Novak started teaching a 3-day leadership program in 1998 with a handful of European managers. He scaled the program to where he has now trained 4,000 managers. How can he afford to spend so much time on that?
“People first, results will follow. It has the biggest payout of anything I do,” Novak says.

When he realized he had only reached 4,000 of his 1.4 million employees, he felt the need to write a book.

Leadership tip: If you found a hotshot replacement for yourself—what would that person do that you are not doing? “Do it yourself before someone else takes your job,” says Novak.

He notes that in line with Yum!’s corporate responsibility target—world hunger—all the proceeds from the book and his speaking engagements go toward eliminating world hunger.


Rewards and recognition are important—but so are salaries. And if you don’t have the guts to speak about them openly and frankly, you’re going to be in trouble. Learn more.


Listening Would Have Paid Off

Celebrate other people’s ideas—so they want to bring more to you. And then, listen to them, Novak says.

When he was at Pepsi, sales were down, but all clear products were doing well. So, he said, what about a clear Pepsi? Customers thought it was a great idea.

Now, feeling like a genius, Novak went to the bottlers because he had to sell them on the idea. They didn’t like it. The product, they said, didn’t taste like Pepsi. Novak replied, “We don’t want it to” and introduced it at a premium price. It was profitable and was named one of the 10 top new products of the year.

Unfortunately, no one ever bought it a second time—because it didn’t taste like Pepsi. One year after being named a top 10 best product, it was listed in the top eight failures.

If he had listened, he could have avoided all that, but he was “hell-bent” on doing what he wanted to do.

Magic Johnson, Passer

When Magic Johnson revealed that he was HIV positive, he was worried about public perception. Pepsi said, “We’re 100 percent behind you.” When Johnson was asked what it was like during his high school years, he said he was scoring 70 points per game—and no one was happy. So he became the best passer in the league.

“It’s the power of me to we,” says Novak.

Tiptoe or Cannonball?

Novak tells of sitting by a pool. One person entered the cold water daintily, but a little kid cannonballed in, causing ripples all over the pool. That’s your choice, says Novak. You can stick your toe in, or you can jump in and cause ripples.

Whether you tiptoe or cannonball, you can’t avoid tricky discussions about salary. And now you don’t have to.

Salary Communication for Managers: How to Be a Smarter, More Confident Compensation Communicator  

Live webinar coming Wednesday, October 22, 2014
10:30 a.m. to Noon Pacific

You can do all the discouraging and rule-making you want. Employees are going to talk about salaries and pay rates!

In fact, a study from The Corporate Executive Board’s Compensation Leadership Council found that 68 percent of employees believe their employers share too little information about compensation. As a result, they seek out that information from alternative sources, such as recruiters, salary benchmarking websites, and coworkers. Those sources result in a negative perception on employee pay.

Both supervisors on the front line and HR managers have to know how to deal with employee pay questions, complaints, and raise requests. Without such skills, your organization is subject to higher turnover, reduced productivity, and lack of workforce focus on the mission. 

Join us on October 22, when our presenter, a seasoned compensation consultant, will discuss the tools and techniques managers need to communicate about compensation with employees. You’ll learn:

  • Materials and information sources that inform your managers about compensation practices
  • How to handle talking about different kinds of compensation, from base pay to bonuses and beyond
  • Ways to explain how pay rates, packages, and market rates are determined
  • Role-playing techniques to help build managers’ confidence when asked tough compensation questions
  • How to determine which pay topics to be transparent about, and which to leave out
  • And much more!

In just 90 minutes, you and your managers will learn how to be smarter, more confident compensation communicators. Don’t miss it—claim your spot today!

Download your copy of Paying Overtime: 10 Key Exemption Concepts today