Sutanu Chowdhury, CHRO, Spencer's, on how working with their HR Tech partner HONO helped boost retention & productivity
When you walk into a hypermarket – filled with food, apparel, electronics, and home décor – you are subconsciously looking for a seamless customer experience. But a lot goes on behind the scenes to offer you that experience.
Beyond it all, a business is working hard to keep frontline and corporate employees happy. They do so to ensure you, the customer, is happy, too. This guiding philosophy shapes much of the talent changes Sutanu Chowdhury wanted to bring to Spencer's Retail.
Sutanu Chowdhury, CHRO at Spencer's, shares his journey during the pandemic when they joined forces with a world-class HRMS partner HONO that proved to be a game changer in driving both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). "To this day, a key trend that continues to enhance both CX and EX is the move towards digitalisation," he adds.
For Chowdhury, who joined the company two years ago, the vision was to use technology to drive scale in business and drive agility within the organisation. However, the task was daunting with a broad geographical reach and diverse employee base. "Our earlier system was not very effective. Especially when it comes to leveraging nuanced applications and analytics, the missing piece was the analytics. Because if you don't come out with analytics, it will not help the business, you know."
"Earlier we did a lot of manual work. About 35- 40 cluster HR teams were handling our 165 stores. And they were involved intensively in manual work. This left most with litte to no time to work to motivate, engage, develop, and retain our workforce so they can successfully continue to contribute to the business."
Sutanu Chowdhury, CHRO at Spencer's Retail
So shifting to a digital way of working was essential. And to do so, Chowdhury started looking for an HRMS partner that could custom fit HR tec to match the unique needs of the diverse workforce at Spencer's, automate manual processes, and deliver real-time actionable insights to help increase productivity, all the while helping him create the right employee experience and help raise engagement.
His search ended with the HR Tech partner HONO, which offered him a single source of truth with clear, actionable insights on workforce & productivity trends.
"For me, technology has to have an outcome. Not just that you use technology and then you know, nothing happens. So we were clear, we had to use technology to engage better, learn better, and contribute to the business. Today, we are happy to say our adoption of HONO has helped drive productivity & retention," says Chowdhury.
HONO enabled Spencer's to reap the benefits of Transformational Technology that helped boost productivity and engagement. With access to rich analytics for real-time data and reporting, Chowdhury could make time & impactful strategic decisions. In addition, being mobile first helped reduce time and ensured employees and managers had a seamless experience.
HONO also helped Chowdhury and his team move away permanently from logging in data manually on excel sheets. Through intelligent automation, Spencer's HR team became more strategic and impactful in making talent decisions. Data analysis became robust, and intelligent reporting tools helped the HR team drive deeper work trends on what worked and what didn't in real-time, enabling them to course correct and drive meaningful change. Given how the pandemic had reshaped business priorities, sensing the organisation's pulse in real-time and making the right decisions helped Spencer's growth.
Driving Purposeful Work
To help him undertake a successful HR transformation, Chowdhury wanted a partner with the right solutions for his company. "What should be the objective of the process? How do we achieve the right outcomes? What are the in-built features and what new developments will be needed, etc. were some of the main questions we needed answers to," Chowdhury shared, "With functional experts from HONO and process experts from my team, we were able to create a customised solution that was just right for our needs, helping us boost both employee happiness ( retention ) & productivity."
Chowdhury recounted how HONO helped them change from an organisation largely dependent on paper-based functioning to an automated, digital-first company. With the pandemic requiring companies to be digitally driven and creating a mandate for digital platforms to function appropriately, HONO helped Spencer's save time and create impactful ways to raise productivity.
Earlier, many manual interventions and excel sheets went around in HR, which had to be scrutinised as they had a lot of errors. But with the new HRMS partner, the reduction in errors happened immediately. He elaborated further, "This transition was significant because people enjoy doing purposeful work. Employees are not here to be at the back office and do mundane stuff. Get them to the front. HR technology has helped unproductive transactional time shift to the floor."
"With HONO it's like a factory that keeps running without requireing annual maintenance. Earlier people would come and settle their bills in three, four months time. Now with the new system, we do it in seven days. These changes have helped streamline the process and make it much more productive."
Sutanu Chowdhury, CHRO at Spencer's Retail
Benefits of a Digital Talent Solution
For Chowdhury, the technology needed to have an outcome. "The use of technology shouldn't be without result," he adds. "The idea behind automating processes and digitalisation is to engage better, learn better, and contribute to the business better."
With HONO, Chowdhury could garner multiple benefits from shifting to a digital-first way of working. An AI Backed Employee experience platform, HONO was ideally suited for the job.
The company utilises technology to automate intelligently and simplify processes across the entire employee lifecycle while providing actionable insights for successful organisational transformation. For Chowdhury, an automated HRMS meant the system is a single source of truth, providing analytics and insights to help the business grow. With HONO, Spencer's achieved this seamlessly, and soon the company implemented the proper analytics framework.
"Leveraging Predictive Analytics is a big step towards a successful transformation. For example, using analytics, we could address absenteeism and improve attendance from 80% to over 90%. This change in attendance has helped improve sales," mentioned Chowdhary reflecting upon how the use of tech-enabled driving ROI effectively through people.
Spencer's benefited from an entire HRMS suite that ensured informed and better decision-making. The retail giant was able to drive business transformation through rich workforce analytics, predictive analytics, NLP and AI-driven prescriptive analytics. HONO helped create a better onboarding experience for new hires and improved employee experience, engagement and retention rates. It also led to higher employee productivity and helped the HR team at Spencer's create a smooth end-to-end talent management cycle, all while increasing HRs capability to address problems.
Lessons for the future
Chowdhury recalled how, before the adoption of HONO, the HR function spent so much time on backend processes. Drawing from his experience, he shared how "earlier even if someone would waste 15 minutes doing transactional stuff, the overall efficiency dropped. By reducing the amount of time spent working on transactional processes we stood to save time equivalent to 65 additional employees. This additional productive time is to be used for training the employee on the floor, customer interface, and therefore better sales and service. Using the right technology to cut down on unnecessary work helped boost productivity."
Looking at the transformation today, he is happy to see employees on the floor interacting with the customers to drive better sales and services, rather than being stuck in the back-office performing mundane work. While HONO's digital solution has dramatically improved how impactful employees are, helping them remain productive and engaged requires Chowdhury to look closely at how his workforce is growing.
Moving ahead, it will be crucial to driving talent decisions further using insights from their analytical framework. As Chowdhury highlighted, "it's not just about getting data, but how it gets linked to output. So typically, from the analytics, we now look at not only the demographic data but also actionable reports in terms of my cost on sales, the sales per employee, and the profit or EBITA. We are now getting into that stage where I link my HR analytics with business analytics on the business side."
The benefit of having an AI-enabled HRMS solution like HONO as a partner is that companies have access to nuanced predictions crucial in helping HR functions be ready for future disruptions. In addition, rather than focusing on transactional activities, intelligent automation will also help Chowdhury and his team to focus more on strategic decisions.