Only happy and empowered employees can create happy customers: Marks & Spencer’s Mukta Nakra
We talk a lot about employee experience, but do we truly know why it is so critical in terms of the direct impact on the business? Mukta Nakra, Head - Human Resources at Marks & Spencer India, explains the importance of EX and how it fits into the employee value proposition to create a message that is attractive to employees and at the same time beneficial to the company.
Mukta Nakra is the Head of Human Resources & Sustainability at Marks & Spencer India. Mukta holds dual master's qualifications with M.A. in Economics (honours) and PGDM in International Business and believes that learning is a continuous journey. A certified ‘Hogan’ coach, has also earned a certificate in ‘Process and Partnership Excellence’ from Harvard Business School and ‘Business Essentials for HR’ from Cornell University. Mukta has been with M&S for over 2 years and as a member of the Leadership team, she is focused on ensuring that Human Capital is a key driver in enabling business success. She also leads sustainability at M&S and is spearheading programs to drive employability and improve livelihood in our communities.Prior to M&S, Mukta has worked with diverse organizations including American Express, Walmart India, ABN Amro Bank and HP.Mukta has 20 years of work experience.
What does Employee Value Proposition (EVP) mean for Marks & Spencer, and what drives your organisation’s decision to invest in it?
For us at M&S, EVP is the value that the organisation holds in the eyes of a candidate who would aspire to work for us and equally as the reason for our colleagues to remain connected to the brand or for our ex-colleagues to be our brand ambassadors! It is about the value we create for our people through compensation, benefits, policies & practices, learning & growth as much as culture & leadership. Our people are at the core of everything we do at M&S and investing in our EVP is a business priority. We are constantly seeking people to support the transformation and growth of the business and in today’s competitive environment it is key to showcase our brand, express what we stand for, and have our colleagues tell their stories of inspiration for us to attract top talent. Candidates take informed decisions to join any organisation and it is key that they understand what it means to work at M&S. Our hiring through employee referral stands at 61 percent this year, demonstrating the enormous trust that our colleagues have in the organisation and our business. We understand that employee needs are continuously evolving and it is important for us to understand what they are seeking and keep pace with their shifting priorities. With change being a constant, it is a business imperative to be aware of aspects that our colleagues live with us and things that we should attempt to evolve.
There is no standard definition of the term “employee experience”; it has different meanings to different audiences. What is it for you?
Employee experience is what our colleagues experience every single day at work - through our people practices; day to day interactions with their managers, peers and teams; and how we sell to our customers and do business. Experience is part of every interaction across the employee life cycle starting with the interview and onboarding process; compensation and benefits that they are offered and entitled to; the opportunity to learn and build their career; and how they experience the leadership and culture in the organisation. The way we connect our colleagues to our vision and our purpose; the way they contribute to it every day; the ease with which they can deliver their goals; and the transparency around their career development and benefits is important to our employees.
How do you define Employee Value Proposition (EVP) of your company – how is it unique for Marks & Spencer? How do you create an employee value proposition for your organisation?
M&S is for digital-first, innovative and forward-thinking professionals. Our people have unparalleled and diverse opportunities to learn, adapt, and grow, whether it’s about providing unique in-store customer experiences, disrupting the supply chain with technology, or building our e-commerce platform experience. They are part of an inclusive environment that fosters progressive thinking and holistic growth.
Our EVP #BeRemarkable is based on four key pillars of Empowering Experiences, Inclusion, Brand Power and Future Forward and is reflective of the transformation and evolution that we are continuously going through as a brand. From being a brick and mortar retailer to becoming an omni-channel retailer, we are constantly attracting top talent in a highly competitive environment. It is important that we understand what attracts candidates to us, keeps our colleagues motivated, enables them to be their best each day and makes them want to stay with us. We constantly listen to their feedback and ensure that our people-practices align with the needs of our employees. We are driven by our purpose to make the everyday remarkable and enable our people, who are at the core of our purpose, to deliver across our key priorities of better products, seamless experience, unique customer relationships and a sustainable future.
Why do you think “employee experience” (EX) is important for HR organisations and business leaders?
We at M&S truly believe that we are a business built on our people and only happy and empowered employees can deliver great customer experiences and create happy customers. It is our endeavour to keep the best interests of our colleagues at the center of all decisions. The positive and fulfilling employee experience across all touch points – from onboarding to exit, can elevate the happiness quotient of employees. This not only strengthens organizational culture and builds their pride in the brand but also helps in improving the customer satisfaction and business performance. So, it is vital to invest in the happiness and well-being of employees through positive employee experiences to increase productivity at work and ultimately enhance the bottom-line of the business.
What is your organisation doing to reshape the employee experience (EX)?
The tectonic shift in the business landscape owing to the pandemic has compelled us to rethink our talent strategy and redefine the ways of working to enhance employee experience. Throughout the duration of the pandemic, our efforts have been aimed at supporting our colleagues and their families. Be it through an easy transition to working remotely or keeping our store colleagues engaged through different periods of lockdown, their well-being has always been at the core. Increased attention is being paid not just to the physical and mental safety of employees but also to psychological safety to ensure they feel safe and secure even in uncertain times. Embracing the future of work, we have introduced flexible ways of working to ensure work-life balance. There has been renewed focus on development of new, critical and niche skills so that our people remain relevant, and competitive. Our enhanced and integrated suite of benefits under ‘My Choices’ – enabled our colleagues to avail various health and wellbeing benefits in addition to deals for their comfort and safety. Some of the key ways in which we have reshaped experience are:
Continuous, transparent and real time communication that has helped us keep our colleagues connected; aware of the larger picture; and well informed of all the actions that we have taken from time to time.
Focus on deep listening through various platforms such as Your Voice Talk Straight Survey, Coffee Meet ups with leaders, employee involvement groups have helped amplify employee voice and bring their perspectives/concerns to fore.
Focus on health & wellbeing that includes wellness programs around meditation, yoga, healthy diet and nutrition delivered by experts. We focused on our Employee Assistance Program to encourage people to seek professional support in case of any stress related to work, family issues or Covid-19. We launched a telemedicine facility (covering nine super specialties) for our employees and their families (including parents), which has been greatly appreciated. Comprehensive on-site health risk assessments have been conducted for our people that’ll help us build a more robust and customized wellness program for them.
Our goals and actions have evolved with the changing scenario and aligned with business priorities so that our people understand the role they need to play to stabilise the business.
Have you noticed outcomes of a positive employee experience in terms of business, employee satisfaction and work culture?
We believe that it is the employee experience that drives engagement and we measure the same through our bi annual employee engagement surveys that we call Your Voice - Talk Straight. We want to ensure that we understand what’s on their mind through our two-way communication platforms such as coffee meet ups, huddles and town halls and leverage the actionable insights and feedback received, to transform their experience further. Creating an open and transparent culture allows us to improve processes, think critically, drive innovation and deliver strong business results. Our employee engagement scores continue to be better than market benchmarks. We have been recognized as a great place to work for several years and this is reflected in the high retention rate within the organisation. The commitment our people demonstrated during the worst of the pandemic ensured that we emerged stronger as a team. We ensured that despite all adversities there were no pay cuts or any other unfavorable impact on our colleagues; in fact, we enhanced our benefits offerings and provided more opportunities to our people to learn different skills and have cross-functional exposure. Our people have worked harder, committed to our vision and delivered brilliantly. I am so proud of what we have achieved as a team and continue to steer ahead with renewed focus and energy.