Transforming Lifestyle and lives

Organisations interested in turning HR from a support function to an enabling function can take a leaf from Lifestyle International Ltd that brought about an HR transformation that resulted in significant business benefits, making it one of the best places to work for.

Lifestyle People Oscar Awards were strengthened to incorporate both business and value-driven achievements

Lifestyle People Oscar Awards were strengthened to incorporate both business and value-driven achievements

The organized retail sector is still in its early days in India, making it a competitive talent market with a very specialized talent pool. In this environment, it is imperative that an organization has the ability to attract, develop and retain employees to ensure a steady pipeline of future managers and leaders. This reality, supported by visionary leaders, pushed Lifestyle International Pvt. Ltd to make a radical shift in the way it works – a shift from HR transaction to HR transformation. This change has created what we now call ‘life at Lifestyle’ and the transformation that has now made us India’s 10th Best Company to Work For and the No.1 in the Retail Industry for two consecutive years.

When talent doesn’t come to you, go to it

As an organization, it was quickly apparent that although we had created a distinction as a brand, we had to create a distinction in the people market. We had to attract the best talent – to be the best, we needed the best. To this end, a major shift came in 2005, when Lifestyle moved base from Chennai to Bengaluru. We believed that the fast-growing cosmopolitan city would be the ideal venue to attract the best talent from across the country.

Employer Branding = Sustainable Growth

Firstly, Lifestyle defined what it envisioned as its culture — a culture of openness, transparency, trust, integrity, respect, camaraderie and performance. These were basic human qualities that the management believed would create a culture, where employees are encouraged to grow with us, and talent outside the company aspired to work with us. With this definition, Human Resources shifted gears, from being a support function to becoming an enabling function – a function that enabled the growth of the business through strategic employer branding, leadership coaching and policy creation.

RED celebrations at lifestyle Store in Coimbatore

RED celebrations at lifestyle Store in Coimbatore

Human Resources at Lifestyle instituted programs that encouraged a culture of openness like open houses and skip-level and inter-department meetings. It created a performance-driven culture through the Landmark Development System and has now incorporated values into the system to further build a value-based environment. Significant time, money and effort were invested to create an effective training and development program, and a robust internal job posting process through Launchpad.

The company ensured every new employee is inducted into the company’s culture through a welcoming on-boarding program, Get Connected. The rewards and recognition programs – Lifestyle People Oscar and Max People Icon Awards – were strengthened to incorporate both business and value-driven achievements. A seamless grievance redressal program and a whistle blower policy were instated to ensure every employee is empowered and can operate in a fearless environment.

Celebrations were at the heart of the organization. The ‘I Love LS Campaign’ is celebrated every year to reinforce the reason people enjoy working for Lifestyle. Other events like Family Fiesta and Landmark Premier League are also organized to provide employees avenues to collaborate, showcase talents and celebrate togetherness.

Lifestyle employees with families at family fiesta

Lifestyle employees with families at family fiesta

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was also put high on the agenda, with CSR activities being organized in proximity to stores so that employees could actively participate in them and build a culture of social consciousness within the organization.

At the same time, transaction-based processes were automated to ensure that employees can manage many of the otherwise repetitive HR tasks themselves – empowering them and also allowing Human Resources to concentrate on building systems that strategically support the business.

HR in this transformed role acts as an advocate of organizational values and culture and ensures that employees contribution are aligned to business goals.

Hiring not just best-skilled, but the best fit

In a transaction-based HR setup, that onus is just to fill a position with an employee with the most suited roles. However, in a transformation-based setup the onus is on providing the best value to the business, by finding a person who fits into the DNA of the organization and his competencies enable the company to grow. Lifestyle has psychometric profiling and competency-based interviews to ensure that we choose the best fit not for the role, but for the organization and its culture as a whole.

Transformational advice

Key things HR should remember when leading an organisation through HR transformation…
■    Move from transaction to transformation
■    Create an open, transparent and performance-driven culture
■    Open communication channels from top-to-down and vice versa
■    Create an engaged environment
and nurture them
■    Enable self-development of employees
■    Recruit the right fit

With people’s growth comes business growth

For an organization to be successful, it is important that the best talent is retained and provided great opportunities and challenges. Lifestyle has embarked on the journey of talent segmentation to do exactly this — the aim is to ensure that high potentials are identified, engaged, developed and retained. In an industry like retail, where there is a definite talent crunch, it is important to ensure internal talent is groomed to go to the next level, adapt to the changing market and deliver to the highest potential.

Landmark Premier League is one of the many initiatives the organisation takes for its employees

Landmark Premier League is one of the many initiatives the organisation takes for its employees

Another ground-breaking program is LEAP (Landmark Education Assistance Program), where store employees, regardless of their previous educational qualification, can opt for a course a Diploma in Retail Management from AIMA, which would be considered as a graduation within Lifestyle, allowing our store employees to grow and break the glass ceiling that would otherwise inhibit their career growth.

Another important aspect of people’s growth in correlation with business growth is the internalizing of HR processes among leaders. The effort from HR is to make people management processes a part of every manager’s way of working. A brilliant example of this is the People Pulse engagement survey conducted at Lifestyle, every year. Managers of all teams are directly responsible for the engagement scores for their teams and hence they take the baton and ensure any areas for improvement are addressed and solved by the teams itself. In this situation, HR acts as a facilitator, rather than a doer, which is a major shift in the way the business works. Business leaders now understand that people management has a direct impact on their financial results.

We are partners to the business

A buzzword that is often heard in the market today and brilliantly explains the relationship of HR and business is ‘HR Business Partnering’. HR is no longer a function that does; it is a function that provides strategic inputs to the business depending on their requirements.

Each business at Lifestyle and each of the regions have HR Business Partners. These partners are trained and certified to provide the business with strategic advice on aspects like manpower planning, training and development and other areas. They have in-depth knowledge of the business and are better aligned to inputs from the business.

The value of a transformed HR is in the results

HR transformation has yielded great results for the business. In a high-attrition industry like retail, the company has successfully managed to maintain attrition rates that are half the industry standard. The company has seen double digit growth over the years and has seen lower attrition rates, which means that productivity per employee has shot up considerably.

Lifestyle today attracts talent from the top business schools, the best Fashion Management schools, and from across the top companies across the industries. The success the organization has seen is a true indicator of the importance of the strategic positioning of HR as a business partner. In a dynamic, competitive and burgeoning industry like retail, it is not only important for the business to adapt, but also for functions like HR and Finance to transform into business partners.

First published in STOrai July – August 2015 issue

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B Venkataramana

B Venkataramana

President – Group HR, Landmark Group India, B. Venkataramana shapes the HR practices of Lifestyle, Homecentre, Max, Splash, Spar and Citymax. A Postgraduate in Human Resources Management with over three decades of experience, he has instrumental in helping Landmark become a preferred employer, bagging several HR related awards. He has headed HR functions at brands like Reliance BPO, Henkel India, Brigade Solutions and Reliance Retail. He was recently named one of the Top 40 Most Talented HR Leaders in India by ET Now, Most Powerful HR Professionals of India by World HRD Congress and HR Leadership Award from a leading daily LOKMAT.
B Venkataramana

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