Article: People-centric employer brand is a key business driver: Naveen Kumar, HR Head, Licious

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People-centric employer brand is a key business driver: Naveen Kumar, HR Head, Licious

“We are trying to inspire people from different sectors to come work for us and help us solve some of the latest supply chain and tech challenges," said Naveen Kumar, HR Head, Licious.
People-centric employer brand is a key business driver: Naveen Kumar, HR Head, Licious

Licious is a multi-industry organisation, with diverse elements of D2C, agri-business, CPG factories, brand-building, R&D, tech-platform, and a complex supply chain logistics ecosystem. This calls for innovation in the complete value chain while engaging with consumers for a superior experience. Hence, the talent implications are complex and stem from multiple industries. 

But when Licious began its journey, attracting talent was a big challenge. The nature of business acted as a roadblock to creating a compelling brand and pull factor for the potential candidates. Realising the need to rebrand went through an internal cultural transformational journey. In a recent interview, Naveen Kumar, HR Head, Licious takes us through this journey and shares how Licious is changing the way it hires and managed talent. 

“We are trying not to hire talent from our industry because it is not seen as aspirational, we are trying to inspire people to come and solve some of the latest supply chain and tech challenges”, said Naveen Kumar, HR Head, Licious. 

Fulfillment of building a great business and redefining generations to come is Licious’ talent value proposition. The last few years were spent curating an exciting place where people solve problem statements, enjoy learning and fulfillment of doing something special, and make an impact as they progress through their career.

“We are not looking for conventional talent who is looking for a job, we are looking to attract talent who wants to come and innovate and disrupt the space. Earlier we were positioned in the meat industry, today we look at ourselves as a progressive organisation, adding value and solving pain points”, added Naveen.  

How Licious decoded the employer branding conundrum

Founder commitment to building a great organisation and culture were critical first steps:   

Workplace environment: Starting with a single-floor office helped create an open environment that encouraged face-time and walk-in conversations. It enables people to work as a team without hierarchical and functional barriers. An egalitarian approach helps build on logical conversations and seek answers. 

Performance management: Providing clear frameworks for people to know the wins they need to chase i.e. OKRs, helps people contribute to the organisation. “We use a tech platform where they can see the organisational agenda, functional agenda, pod agenda, etc., and are able to build their own agenda around it”, shares Naveen. The performance process has weekly check-ins to ensure a sharper focus on solving issues. 

Continuous learning: Creating opportunities to build cutting-edge problem-solving experiences helps people grow as they create impact in their roles; thereby driving their career growth. “As a multi-industry organisation, you can imagine your career as you want to, we do not prescribe people how to grow, we have a framework to help people understand how to build careers”, mentions Naveen. People can choose the path they want to pursue, have conversations with their HRBPs, managers, and leaders, and build confidence in their roles. 

Career pathing with purpose: We articulate both vertical and horizontal growth, creating and communicating real examples for people to look for.

“For example, we created the role of ‘meat-technician’- a term that did not initially exist, earlier such people used to be called butchers. The moment you call a person a butcher, it creates emotional turmoil, it does not evoke a sense of pride”, shared Naveen.

The fact remains that butchering as a skill takes years of practice, and a deep understanding of what different kinds of people want in terms of cuts, etc., to be able to deliver consistently to customers. By rebranding to ‘meat technician’, people could now talk about their jobs much more confidently. One person even shared about how he found a bride, because of his renewed designation.

“Our purpose is to give a sense of pride to people, by doing things properly and embedding ethics. We have redefined the industry more than just selling meat – the quality of meat is our core proposition while making sure consumers find what they need, reliably, and consistently. It will make it more sustainable from a long-term perspective”, said Naveen.

The Licious Mantra is, ‘You don’t serve the meat if you cannot feed it to your family. 

Total rewards: People are recognized and rewarded effectively for contributions. Every Lician is covered in the ESOP program. “When everyone is contributing, we ensure that everyone has the ownership mindset to deliver the perfect solution to consumers, and everyone feels being part of the story, not just leadership”, says Naveen. The ESOP Flex program allows for daily vesting after one-year period, enabling people to liquidate funds more often. As a result people can touch-and-feel wealth creation. 

Leadership Development: Any start-up ecosystem is about middle-level managerial capability, so Licious has put in place enablers to prepare people who are first-time middle managers. Building capability , cultivating understanding and enabling people with systems and access to the experience manager who can guide and mentor through challenges, helps. 

Culture and Values: Licious aims not to create another corporate, but to be an authentic place where people can be and express themselves, work with friends, and imagine solutions to solve problems fundamentally to make a long-lasting impact. It is about making people feel at one with people who are highly passionate, such that work does not become work, but work becomes the joy of solving problems. The Licious values of ‘fun-friendly’, ‘hold-the-mirror’ help build trust through honest conversations, so that people feel free to challenge the status quo. ‘Dreamy-eyed’ is about being curious, courageous, and think about how one can impact the larger ecosystem. Respect and humility is another core value because leaders interact with all types of people working for Licious. 

These fundamental principles have built the Licious culture and helped evolve as a differentiator in employer brand. 

Tech as an enabler of culture

"We are obsessed with customer orientation, every bit of the platform experience has to be the best that people can experience," said Naveen. 

Experience stems from every people touchpoint. From hiring to onboarding, people are made to feel the tone of culture i.e. how unique, authentic, and different Licious is, by embedding it into tech-led processes. The right tech platform for every lifecycle helps people with the information they need. Everything is made transparent by leveraging tech, so that people build trust.

Your people will know you care for them when you make sure they are able to see what they are owners of.

"Simple and intuitive tech platform with access to everything at the click-of-a-button will help employees get clarity, find benefits, and engage with the right stakeholders together as a team”, shared Naveen.

People technology at Licious is built through multiple partners to serve different needs for different parts of organisation.

“The idea is to not prescribe too much, but encourage discussions. Leadership role-modeling is one such way”, shared Naveen.

As a people-intensive business, people cost forms majority of the cost structure of Licious. Yet, frugality has been part of its DNA; and is built on a base of profitability and customer service, the present spell of layoffs in the tech start-up space is not impacting Licious. This helps build a lot more trust because people will know and trust they are operating in a stable environment. Therein lies the opportunity to relook at capability and hire critical talent to plug-in gaps through grow-buy-borrow. 

“I don’t see myself as an only people-function leader. It is about leading the business, building the right skillsets, continuously innovating around employment models, and making it scalable as the landscape changes”, said Naveen. 

This is just the beginning of the journey, and questions for the future are many…

“How do we run an agile supply chain, despite day-wise and season-wise demand variations?” 

“How do we build a supply chain and make sure we have an ecosystem and culture to manage it?”

 and many more…

Answers lie in adding people who are extra-passionate, building people around them, making people understand the larger philosophy, and helping them deal with challenges that come their way. This boils down to building a meritocratic organisation with a lens of human touch. 

“Because people follow people, and people make organisations”, finished Naveen.

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Topics: Employer Branding, Talent Acquisition, #SMEcorner

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