Jonathan Taylor is beverage giant Coke’s vice president of human resources for China, Mongolia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. But the 38-old United Kingdom native came to this role only after spending years in health care and gradually traversing the globe.
Taylor’s career began as a nurse in the United Kingdom. In 1988 he moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to work as a nurse for the Saudi royal family in one of their hospitals. After a year in Saudi Arabia, he took off to Hong Kong. There he joined a company offering medical services to multinationals. Taylor initially specialized in emergency air-ambulance flights, but he eventually broadened his responsibilities to help clients pick health care benefits. He also consulted on employee assistance programs.
In 1999, he joined Coca-Cola’s HR department. He assumed his vice president title in January.
Not only did Taylor’s career path dovetail with HR duties, but nursing skills themselves cross over, he says. “Working with emergency-care and geriatric patients helped me develop communication skills when working with people—all skills sets that I use to help me in my current role working with employees,” he says.
There are concerns that young Chinese managers are moving up through corporate ranks too quickly and passing through an education system whose weaknesses include too much memorization.
Taylor, though, sees Chinese youth blending IQ and EQ—raw intellect and “emotional intelligence”—in a way that will allow them to rise to the top of multinational corporations.
Among his tasks, in fact, is helping young Chinese managers rise up through Coke. The company’s leadership development programs include two China-specific initiatives that seek to groom frontline and middle managers. These supervisors are among Coke’s roughly 600 China employees in corporate fields such as marketing and finance. (There are another 15,000 or so people employed in separate bottling operations in the country.)
Even as he aims to grow leaders from within, Taylor is on the lookout for talented people from other companies and even other industries. In the view of this trained nurse, surviving and thriving in fast-changing China requires people with the sort of unconventional background he brought to Coke. “In a market such as China,” he says, “you need to bring in fresh perspectives.”