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Juan Ignacio de Elizalde, director general manager of Coca-Cola Iberia: "Young people are the heart of companies".

The director general participated in the program for alumni Career Experience, in which he discussed topics such as branding, talent and new generations.

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Alumni from the University of Navarra and other attendees learned about branding, leadership and new generations at a Career Experience with Coca-Cola held at postgraduate program in Madrid. PHOTO: Pilar Martín Bravo.
30/05/19 16:46 Beatriz Diaz

"The new generations, such as millennials or centenials (generation Z), have different perspectives, look at the world differently and challenge companies and the way we work". This statement by Juan Ignacio de Elizalde, director general manager of Coca-Cola Iberia, reflects some of the topics that were addressed in a new session of the Career Experience program, which is co-organized by Career Services y Alumni of the University of NavarraThe event was held on May 23 at postgraduate program in Madrid.

Young talent was present at the dialogue moderated by Roberto Cabezas, director of Career Services, and attended by around fifty participants, most of them alumni of the University. Young people have burst into companies and have become "the heart of the workforce," according to Juan Ignacio de Elizalde. These new generations "are looking for a certain immediacy, they like more autonomy and, at the same time, they are also more impatient. As a company, it is up to us to transform ourselves for the better, because working in this way is more productive, orderly and flexible," says director general.

Another characteristic of millennials and centenials is their continuous search for challenges, which encourages them to change work more frequently. Many companies claim that retaining talent is complicated, and others consider the battle to be lost. How does Coca-Cola manage this? "We have a very low level of voluntary turnover. Part of the merit goes to the direct managers, who are the ones who have the greatest impact on engagement, and also because of the projects we offer. They are very varied and provide many opportunities to continue growing and developing," explains Juan Ignacio de Elizalde.

But it is not only companies and the way of working or recruiting that are changing, but also the new generations have revolutionized the market, as they are betting on those brands that have a mission statement with which they identify, and not so much for the product they offer. At final, they are moved by more transcendent motives. For this reason, the way of marketing has also changed, and the model on which Coca-Cola is based allows them to continue to connect with young people. They call it the model "PET": "The 'p' has to do with purpose ('purpose'), that is, what we offer goes far beyond a product or a package, we provide a purpose with which they identify. reference letter The 'e' stands for experience (''experiencia''). Today's young people are not just looking for the physical, they don't want the most beautiful watch or the biggest car, they want an experience, something they can empathize with and that generates memories. For example, meeting their favorite artist. The 't' is''talkability'', that is, the possibility of sharing this experience. We know that they are going to take a selfie and post it on social networks, and that this will generate a dialogue between friends".

Leading a global company that connects

How to make a mark leading a company like Coca-Cola, which covers a global market and is more than 130 years old? Juan Ignacio De Elizalde has been part of the company since 2003, and has gone through positions of responsibility in countries such as Argentina, Mexico and Chile, and in the Northern Europe division (Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Iceland). Since 2017, he has been director general for the Spanish and Portuguese markets.

He assures that the way he would like to leave his mark is by implementing a transformation at the level of people and culture: "The challenge we have is how we generate a team that is curious, that likes to look outside, learn from other people and from other regions of the world; how we generate a team that is willing to experiment, to launch a product to the market, and is comfortable with learning to fix what didn't work and keep moving forward; how we generate an empowered team that feels ownership of the business and does things as if they were his or hers; and how we generate a team that is inclusive. We want to leave a team that, with all these ways of operating, is prepared for the future."

Coca-Cola remains today in the top 5 as the most valuable brand behind Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft, i.e. it is the only non-technology brand. Last year, it launched more brands in Spain than in the previous 20 years. Explains the director general that they used to launch a product every five years. "That is now unthinkable. Today, if we launch it in a year and a half, we have already missed the train. Now what we do is work as a technology company. We launch the product version 1.0, we learn quickly and adjust what needs to be adjusted, and we relaunch it. But that's a mindset change. If you have an organization that is used to not failing, and that considers that if the product fails it is a blemish on its work... You can't move forward like that. It's an important change," says Juan Ignacio de Elizalde.

Coca-Cola's success has to do with its renewal and at the same time with its traditional values. "Coca-Cola is built from its origins on values such as diversity, inclusion, work as a team... Our brands talk about connecting. A Coca-Cola is about sitting down and sharing a moment with friends, it's a social brand. For example, at advertising in the 1920s, a woman appeared for the first time on television at cafeteria alone drinking a Coca-Cola. At that time it was seen as bad for a woman to be in that status. That was the framework of reference letter at that time. Today we have incorporated the same values in our DNA and in the way we work, although the means by which we connect with the new generations and the experiences we offer them are different," says Juan Ignacio de Elizalde.