A walk into any of the Lifestyle stores across India and one thing that you would find strikingly common are the smiling faces of the floor personnel at the store. Always ready to help and at the same time allowing you enough privacy to browse through the merchandise at leisure, the message conveyed is clear – the HR policies at the Landmark Group are well in place for their employees to be behaving with such dignified level of professionalism. We take a look.
Aptly setting the context, Venkataramana B., President (Group HR), Landmark Group shares: “Our focus on nurturing employees to foster personal growth and development as well as offering job-specific training plays an important role in equipping them to face day to day challenges at work. We have an internal job process named ‘LAUNCHPAD’, which provides all employees the opportunity to apply for internal vacancies before talent from outside is sourced for any vacant positions. This programme enables employees to choose their areas of interest and switch to different roles within the organisation. This practice has allowed the organisation in retention of employees and has provided employees with growth opportunities within the organisation itself.” With this particular option, the issue around attrition is well taken care of. Elaborating further, Venkataramana shares: “We place high emphasis on controlling attrition and retaining employees. Over the years, we have been working on all factors causing attrition and have been able to bring down the attrition rate drastically year on year. The annual attrition percentage has dipped from 90 percent in 2008 to 48 percent in 2013-14. The industry average is around 80 percent.”
Motivating the employees
With umpteen options now available for employee motivation programmes, no company today can take refuge in the excuse that there is scarcity of time and finance. HR experts have walked the extra mile to design and customise programmes to suit the company’s need. At the Landmark Group too, the HR team has taken utmost care to leave no stone unturned to ensure their employees are well pepped up to carry on their assigned tasks. Shares Venkataramana: “Our key focus areas have been to align employees with the vision and values of the organisation. The aim is to inspire and motivate people to put thought, feeling and passion in their work.” The group has gone ahead to introduce various programmes such as ‘Play in a Day’, which is based on the street play methodology. ‘Corporate Theatre’ is an innovative and informal learning methodology that is being used to educate, enlighten, entertain and engage the employees. Then there is ‘Value Campaign’, which celebrates one of their four values every month. Each value has a colour associated with it and every week a value is celebrated with various engaging activities like ‘Wear your colour’, ‘Value on your desk’, ‘Value on your canvas’, etc. According to Venkataramana, this activity has helped in drilling down the value and exploring the various dimensions of what the value entails.
Adding further on the various activities carried out for the staff, he says: “‘I Love Landmark Group’ is a campaign connecting employees of Lifestyle, Max, Splash and Home Centre, which includes activities such as Click with style – photo booth, collage competitions, fashion shows, T-shirt design contests, etc. This gives employees an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity combined with their love for Landmark Group.”
To ensure that the floor staff is charged up and geared to take on the day ahead, at the store, managers address employees at all levels as part of the morning briefing in a common forum to discuss update on business, strategy for achieving the daily sales target, market scenario and competition. The floor is then open for questions, ideas and suggestions. This is an important ritual each morning and is never given a miss.
A pat on the back to appreciate any milestones achieved when done at the right time can do wonders to boost the employee’s morale. Talking about the way in which appreciation is demonstrated at the Landmark Group, Venkataramana reveals: “Celebrations of both personal milestones and organisational achievements are built in a way that people work together and develop a strong organisational identity where employees have a sense of belonging and feel proud to be associated with the organisation. We started celebrating popular festivities such as Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Ayudha Pooja, Diwali, Christmas, New Year and many more. Each employee’s birthday is celebrated along with other engagement activities every month. Indeed these celebrations have triggered greater levels of bonding with the organization. We also celebrate Retail Employees Day on 12th December across all stores and offices with great enthusiasm. The day is dedicated to our frontline employees who serve our customers with a smile through the day. The objective is to bring smiles to the faces of the frontline staff and thank them for their selfless and untiring effort, which has made a significant difference to all our lives.”
Adding further, he shares: “During the special day, a big thank you is conveyed to our retail employees through our recognition programme where loyal customers are invited to felicitate the awardees. Also, the families of staff are personally invited by the store management team to attend the celebrations at the store. We also have an array of cultural events, which provide an opportunity to the employees to showcase their talent. It is truly heartwarming to see the enthusiasm and talent displayed by our employees during these cultural programmes.”
In addition, the senior management team from corporate and regional offices visits the stores to thank the employees for their exceptional customer service and hard work. This year, something that really struck an emotional chord was a personalised SMS from their business head at the start of the day. The SMS was sent to all the employees through an SMS blast.
On the activity undertaken at the corporate office, Venkataraman adds: “Even at our corporate office, we invited all of them to express their appreciation through a special ‘Thank You’ wall. As employees penned down their personalised ‘thank you’ messages to our frontline team, we saw how much their efforts meant to the corporate team. ‘People Oscar’ is our structured rewards and recognition programme under which they have various categories such as ‘Make a Difference’, ‘Ideator Award’, ‘Value Champ’, ‘Best Customer Service Representative’, ‘Best Cashier’, ‘Best Department’ and many others to reward, motivate and engage employees whilst carrying out a performance drive culture in the organisation.”
Open door policy
An agitated employee can do more harm to an organisation than anything else. It becomes imperative for each organisation to have a foolproof redressal system in place to address employee grievances. According to Venkataramana: “The management places a lot of emphasis on listening to employees, wherein employees are encouraged to put forth their concerns or grievances. Our grievance redressal process – HERE TO HELP – is a forum for employees to voice their grievances. As part of the initiative, we have created a platform wherein employees can share their concerns without any fear or inhibition. The key factor of HERE TO HELP is that employees can reach out directly to me.” Adding on to share details of another initiative put in place, Venkataramana shares: “One of the key initiatives we have introduced is Connect Over Coffee – The Skip Level meetings, which serves as a tool for fostering two-way communication. These are conducted quarterly to encourage dialogue across all levels wherein the skip level manager meets with their team outside the office premises with an objective of a free and frank interaction with employees and to seek their inputs. This has helped in developing a strong rapport and a more open and transparent culture in the team.”
The group has devised a novel way to pass on various HR initiatives undertaken while the employees are on the move. It serves as a ready reference for them. Revealing the details, Venkataramana says: “We have Handyman, our internal HR guide which orients employees to our work culture, history, core values, business principles and way of working. Handyman is a pocket-size booklet, which the employees can carry around with them and refer to it for clarity on our policies and procedures.”
Moving Up the Ladder: An Example
Venkataramana shares: “Most of the members in the management team have moved up from junior or mid-management level. One of the success stories is of Kalyan Kumar, who joined us 15 years ago as a floor supervisor before moving to the corporate office as a buyer and later going on to head the Buying department. Today, as the chief operating officer, he is heading the Splash India business for the Group. Also, 15 of our business managers out of the 40 stores are employees who have grown internally from the customer service representative level. Our constant endeavour is to provide a well-defined career path for all employees.”
The group has close to 10,000 employees – 15 percent of employees in back-end team working at the corporate and regional offices, 5 percent of employees each in design and operations, and 75 percent employees working as floor staff.
Total number of Lifestyle stores: 40
Total number of Max stores: 90
Floor staff hierarchy is Customer Service Representative -> Senior Customer Service Representative -> Supervisor -> Assistant Concept Manager / Assistant Department Manager -> Concept Manager / Department Manager -> and Business Manager / Store Manager who heads the business at each store.