With the onset of the festive season, the demand for seasonal workers is poised to surge, thereby amplifying the responsibilities of HR professionals in their management. In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Prajakta Kanaglekar, the Vice President of Supply Chain and CX HR Leader at Flipkart, shared valuable insights on the training of gig workers and seasonal employees, the implementation of well-being, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, as well as strategies to enhance the employee experience, all aimed at ensuring the organization's success, particularly during the festive season.
Here are the edited excerpts:
Please share your thoughts on the trends observed in hiring and managing seasonal workers in recent years, especially within the e-commerce industry.
Over the past few years, the e-commerce industry has undergone remarkable growth, driven by a combination of factors such as increasing smartphone penetration, rising customer spending, and a surge in online shopping demand across even Tier-3 cities and beyond. India is known for its vibrant festive season, which makes it a busy period for e-commerce.
To make the festive season successful, a flexible and efficient workforce is required by all e-commerce organisations. Flipkart can tap into the gig workforce through programmes and initiatives such as Launchpad, SCOA, GuruKul, Kool-gurus, Pathshala and NAPS. At Flipkart, we recognize the importance of efficiently managing and harnessing the potential of frontline associates to meet the surge in demand during busy seasons.
Could you provide insights into how Flipkart creates opportunities and offers industry-ready training for seasonal workers?
At Flipkart, our unwavering commitment to creating opportunities and providing industry-ready training for our frontline workforce stands as a testament to our core values and strategic vision. During peak shopping seasons such as Durga Puja, Diwali, and Christmas, we embark on targeted seasonal hiring drives. These initiatives not only enable us to meet the surges in demand during these pivotal periods but also extend meaningful employment opportunities to those seeking them, thus playing a significant role in bolstering economic growth. Our distinctive approach lies in our seamless integration of L&D-focused technology, exemplified by 'Pathshala,' our digital learning platform. Pathshala offers comprehensive induction courses with rigorous assessment levels. Successful candidates then embark on a journey of on-the-job training, commencing with mentorship from frontline team members and continuous guidance from dedicated customer experience coaches.
We take immense pride in 'GuruKul,' a groundbreaking simulation tool designed to provide hands-on experience to our floor employees. This immersive training methodology drastically reduces learning curves, minimizes errors, and, in turn, enhances performance. Following this simulation-based training, a three-day on-the-job training programme is facilitated, complete with a dedicated buddy for each recruit. Additional need-based training is tailored according to induction assessments.
To foster real-time learning, we've implemented the Leader Teacher Programme, or 'Kool-Gurus,' specifically for our operations team. This forward-thinking programme ensures ongoing upskilling in operations and empowers our teams to share their knowledge through structured training sessions. Our commitment extends to safety, ethics, and compliance, with all frontline associates undergoing comprehensive training in areas such as POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) and customer service – critical components of the e-commerce industry. Flipkart consistently maintains industry-leading standards in these domains.
One of our notable initiatives is our active participation in the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS). This programme not only benefits us as a business by allowing us to tap into a pool of skilled and motivated individuals but also contributes to the larger goal of empowering and upskilling the workforce. Our 'LaunchPad' programme underscores our commitment to nurture talent. Through collaborations with educational institutions, we provide internship opportunities to students. This collaboration allows young, aspiring professionals to gain industry-recognized exposure and hands-on experience during our most critical business periods, enhancing their employability prospects beyond their time with our company.
In our relentless pursuit of excellence in supply chain operations, we've introduced the Supply Chain Operations Academy (SCOA) in partnership with several States across India. This innovative paid internship programme comprises 12 days of digital training coupled with 45 days of on-the-job training at our state-of-the-art facilities, providing participants with invaluable experience. These comprehensive initiatives form the cornerstone of our steadfast commitment to enabling the successful scaling of seasonal business operations while concurrently nurturing talent and contributing to the growth and dynamism of our industry.
In your experience, what key strategies can HR professionals employ to strike a balance between maintaining a flexible, seasonal workforce and building a long-term, skilled talent pool within the organization?
Our organization recognizes the critical role played by our workforce in the ever-evolving landscape of the e-commerce industry. Our paramount objective is to strike a balance between the agility of a flexible frontline workforce and the sustainability of a robust, long-term talent pool. To achieve this, it is imperative that we first gain a profound understanding of the unique demands of our day-to-day operations and the seasonal surges in demand. This understanding helps us in contingency planning, ensuring that we always have the individuals with the right skills, available precisely when they are needed.
Our approach to managing a frontline workforce involves a dual strategy that encompasses both long-term and short-term contracts. This strategy is central to our overarching HR vision. We remain unwavering in our commitment to investing in the interests of our front-line workforce, a commitment that serves as the bedrock of our newly established Front-line Associate Value Proposition (FL AVP).
The FL AVP programme, forged through collaboration with our valued vendors, is designed with a clear focus on creating a work environment that is not only safe but also engaging and fulfilling for our associates. This initiative is anchored in four fundamental principles: Fairness, Care, Growth, and an exclusive partnership with compliant vendors. These principles are not just words on paper but pillars that bolster morale, foster a collaborative culture, and provide unwavering support to our invaluable long-term frontline workforce. They form the backbone of our success stories, as seen through initiatives like 'FlipAhead.'
'FlipAhead' epitomizes our commitment to furthering the careers of exceptional frontline associates. It serves as a pathway for those with aspirations to elevate their careers within our organization. Through this programme, we facilitate the transition of select frontline associates into full-time positions, enabling them to leverage the skills and experience they have acquired for long-term growth.
Can you discuss any innovative strategies or technologies that you have employed to manage and optimize the performance of seasonal employees during peak seasons? What challenges and opportunities do you foresee in managing seasonal workforces?
At Flipkart, we attach utmost importance to effectively managing and optimizing the performance of our frontline workforce, particularly during peak seasons. To meet this challenge, we have implemented a suite of innovative strategies and cutting-edge technologies, all of which have yielded remarkable results.
Our standout initiative, the Performance Linked Incentive (PLI) programme is built to reward associates based on the fulfilment of their key performance indicators. As an organization, we are equally invested in the well-being and development of our frontline workforce. Our productivity-based incentives have been designed to encourage the associates to perform at their optimum levels. Further, we have introduced listening surveys to help enhance their overall experience at Flipkart. Through meaningful communication and continuous innovation, we enhance efficiency and productivity during peak seasons, thereby ensuring an exceptional shopping experience for our valued customers.
In the context of workforce diversity, how does Flipkart ensure inclusivity and equal opportunities for gig workers, and how has this impacted the organization's success during festive seasons?
At Flipkart, our unwavering commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunities is a cornerstone of our leadership philosophy. We recognize the pivotal role played by our frontline associates in the intricate web of our supply chain ecosystem spanning the length and breadth of our nation. It is with great pride that we highlight the instrumental role of our subsidiary, Ekart, in spearheading these initiatives, leaving no room for discrimination, bias, or earnings disparities among our Last Mile Delivery Partners. Our approach to cultivating a diverse talent pool at Ekart is underpinned by a comprehensive framework of diversity-friendly policies. We celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and actively champion diversity in terms of gender and sexual orientation. We have established True Diversity Hubs, representing a rich tapestry of diversity cohorts, including women, men, EDaB (Ekartians with Different Abilities), Flipmarch (Flipkart’s Veterans group), LGBQiA individuals, and acid attack survivors. Furthermore, through the ‘Veer Naari’ initiative, we have provided gainful employment to widows of war martyrs and deceased Flipkart employees, ensuring the preservation of their livelihoods.
Central to our commitment to frontline associate well-being is the establishment of a robust and continuous listening mechanism. With our workforce dispersed across over 2,100 locations, we have deployed an array of channels for grievance registration, comprising local representatives and cutting-edge digital solutions. In addition, Flipkart has instituted a structured grievance redressal system, complete with workplace-specific escalation management, affording associates a direct line to our leadership should their concerns remain unresolved.
Our steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusivity has borne fruit in the form of a remarkable increase in the representation of women within our workforce. Since 2018, we have witnessed an astonishing 6X growth in the representation of women in full-time equivalent roles responsible for overseeing the delivery workforce. This stands as a stark contrast to the industry norm of a mere 6% representation in the supply chain management sector. By embracing frontline associates from all walks of life and offering them equitable opportunities, we have not only fostered an empowering workplace culture but also conveyed a resounding message to the world about the importance of inclusivity.
The impact of our efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity is palpable in our organizational success, particularly during festive seasons. By ensuring that our frontline associates feel valued and supported, we have succeeded in maintaining an unwaveringly reliable and efficient supply chain, even during peak demand periods. At Flipkart, diversity and inclusivity are not merely ideals but guiding principles that permeate every facet of our operations. We believe that by championing these principles, we not only enrich our organization but also contribute positively to the broader societal landscape. Our journey is ongoing, and we remain resolute in our pursuit of a future where diversity is celebrated, inclusivity is the norm, and equal opportunities are afforded to all, regardless of their background or circumstances.
How does Flipkart ensure that its seasonal workforce not only meets customer expectations but also adds value to the gig economy during the demanding festive season?
At Flipkart, we take immense pride in our commitment to both our valued customers and the seasonal economy, especially during the demanding festive season. Our approach revolves around ensuring the prosperity of our frontline workforce, where they not only meet customer expectations but flourish within the seasonal economy ecosystem. This is achieved through a comprehensive framework of policies and practices designed to provide them with a superlative employment experience.
- We acknowledge that the contentment and welfare of our frontline associates are integral to the prosperity of our platform. Over the past year, we have undertaken significant measures to enhance the working conditions for our frontline associates. Our ‘Suraksha’ programme includes comprehensive coverage for health conditions and remuneration for absences due to accidents.
- Additionally, we extend the convenience of free doctor consultations to ensure their health is impeccably taken care of. Further, our strategically established 400 new hubs aim to reduce delivery distances and span, thereby fostering a healthier work-life equilibrium, which is a top priority for us. We are focused on transforming Flipkart into a haven where frontline associates not only meet and exceed customer expectations but also find personal fulfilment and avenues for growth within their seasonal economy careers.
What is your vision for the future of seasonal workforce management, and how do you anticipate it will continue to play a crucial role in a company’s success during peak periods?
Flipkart envisions a future where effective seasonal workforce management becomes critical to the success of large, flagship events. The e-commerce industry experiences shifts in consumer demand tied to various occasions and events throughout the year.
To address the inherent challenges of frontline workforce management, Flipkart is committed to several key strategies. We prioritize the overall well-being of our frontline workforce. This involves providing fair compensation and creating opportunities for skill development while ensuring that our frontline team members are motivated and committed to delivering outstanding performance. Also, we are actively developing an on-demand workforce ecosystem.
Further, it gives an opportunity to those seeking employment to join the workforce as gig workers and then transition into a permanent role. For those workers who are looking for a temporary engagement, it will offer an opportunity to supplement their income before the festive period.
We recognize that employee well-being, health, and job satisfaction are fundamental to our success. Our comprehensive approach extends beyond compensation to encompass healthcare provisions, professional development opportunities, and a supportive and inclusive work environment.