Article: RPA to EWS: Lowe's VP HR discusses systems & tools to enhance HR & employee experience

Strategic HR

RPA to EWS: Lowe's VP HR discusses systems & tools to enhance HR & employee experience

We leverage HR tech for better associate experience and decision-making, blending people-led and data-driven approaches. For instance, our recent global talent acquisition project improved tools for recruiters and enhanced candidate experience, shared Vidya Munirathnam.
RPA to EWS: Lowe's VP HR discusses systems & tools to enhance HR & employee experience

As time progresses, the business landscape, technology, and workforce dynamics undergo continuous evolution. This necessitates organisations to periodically overhaul their HR processes to maintain agility, competitiveness, and alignment with the evolving needs of employees and the business environment. The restructuring of HR processes empowers companies to adapt to emerging trends, embrace new technologies, and incorporate best practices in talent management, employee engagement, and organisational development. 

The constant advancement of technology introduces new tools and platforms that can streamline HR processes, enhance efficiency, and elevate the overall employee experience. By revamping HR processes, organisations can harness these innovations to automate repetitive tasks, utilise analytics for valuable insights, and offer self-service options to employees. This, in turn, allows HR professionals to redirect their focus towards more strategic initiatives. 

The changing needs and expectations of the workforce, influenced by demographic shifts, evolving societal norms, and cultural dynamics, underscore the importance of periodically revamping HR processes. This strategic adaptation enables organisations to stay attuned to such changes and customise their practices to attract, retain, and develop top talent. It involves updating policies related to diversity and inclusion, flexible work arrangements, learning and development opportunities, and performance management frameworks to better align with the diverse and multigenerational workforce. 

In today's fast-paced and competitive business environment, organisational agility and responsiveness to market changes are crucial. Regularly revamping HR processes ensures that people strategies remain in harmony with business goals and are equipped to support organisational growth and transformation. A case in point is Lowe’s India, where Vidya Munirathnam, Vice President of Human Resources, shared in an exclusive interview with People Matters how rethinking traditional hierarchical structures, fostering a culture of innovation and continuous learning, and adopting agile methodologies in HR practices enable rapid decision-making and adaptation to changing circumstances.

Excerpts from the interview: 

Looking ahead to 2024, what is the overarching HR strategy and vision for Lowe’s India? How does it align with the broader business goals?

At Lowe’s India, our associates are core to our success, and we ensure that they are empowered to grow holistically at our workplace. Since 2020, we have grown more than 100% and this growth can be attributed to the steady expansion of our capabilities, in addition to how we have created an employer brand for great talent. As we look at 2024, we are strengthening our efforts towards establishing Lowe’s India as a workplace where great talent can thrive. We are constantly working on creating opportunities for not only professional growth of our associates, but their holistic development. 

For instance, recently introduced several programs for aspiring leaders and high-potential women associates. We also continue to foster diversity, equity and inclusion at our workplace. Recently, we launched our Generations BRG to recognize and celebrate our multi-generational workforce. This was an addition to our other BRGs around LGBTQ+, women and people with disabilities. Additionally, through our periodic associate surveys and feedback from our listening tools, we are constantly identifying and addressing the needs of our associates, be it in the areas of learning, recognitions, their need to volunteer and give back to the community and associate care and wellbeing. 

In terms of HR technology, how is the organisation planning to evolve its systems and tools in 2024 to enhance HR processes and employee experiences?

Our use of technology in HR helps us enhance associate experience and enable decision-making. We have embraced a blend of people-led and data-driven technology integrations across talent management, personalised learning programs, hiring, and performance management. For instance, we recently underwent a global talent acquisition optimisation project to give better tools to our recruiters and to give a better candidate experience. 

We also relaunched our onboarding tool to make it more immersive and gamified. It is perfectly tailored to ensure new associates learn about the company in the most engaging way. We are also using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to enhance various HR operations and it has significantly impacted efficiency and effectiveness. We use our Early Warning System (EWS) that enables us to identify any early signs of dissatisfaction within teams and gives us the opportunity to address them. This year we deployed a Technology Stack for recruitment and talent planning system elevating TA processes and user experience. 

What strategies are being implemented to attract and retain top talent in 2024, considering the competitive landscape and changing expectations of the workforce?

From a talent strategy point of view, we are looking at three main areas- do associates feel they have a future here? Do they feel included and are they proud of being at Lowe’s? Addressing these three at a fundamental level can enable any workplace to emerge as a great place for great talent. One of the main values for great talent continues to be the quality of work and its impact. At Lowe’s India, our associates work on some of the most cutting-edge innovations in various areas of omnichannel retail, including many industry firsts. 

Secondly, we understand that associates need a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace to bring their best selves to work. To ensure this, we hire talent from diverse backgrounds and our BRGs represent various groups to ensure their integration and wellbeing. We have more than 100 allies across our four BRGs. We hire fresh graduates through hackathons, finishing schools, from tier II cities and from women-only universities to further boost diversity. 

In 2024, almost 60% of our campus hires were women. We also have returnship programs for women such as Do-it-Herself which enables the reintegration of women on a career break. So far, over 20 women have joined us through this program. 

In addition to lateral hires, we have The Lowe’s Compass (TLC)- our career navigation program for existing associates to find opportunities within the company. Our robust learning and career development programs play an active role in equipping associates at every level with the right skillset to grow their careers. 

For instance, our signature program, ACE is designed to accelerate and fast-track the growth of Lead Engineers to Principal Engineer roles. In the last 2 cohorts, about 45% PEs were groomed through this program, reducing the dependency of hiring a Principal Engineer externally. Overall, we are doubling down on these successful strategies to create a world-class talent pool. As each year, we will continue to customise our approach as the workplace, workforce and its expectations evolve.

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How will learning and development initiatives evolve in 2024 to address the dynamic skill requirements of the workforce? Are there specific programs or technologies being implemented?

Continuous Learning is one of our Lowe’s core behaviours! In the last few years, we have significantly strengthened our learning & development (L&D) initiatives. Our approach has moved towards more personalised programs catering to diverse skillsets and across levels such as leadership development, associate development, manager leader experience and so on. 

Lowe’s University Tech Institute (LUTI) is our in-house learning resource that offers a wide range of modules for building diverse skillsets. We are exploring how bite-sized, self-paced programs can impact learning and how tech and learning can converge. Through various programs such as our revamped new hire orientation program that gives a gamified experience, immersive and simulation-based learning; and outbound learning engagements, we are seeing formidable results.

Considering the ongoing emphasis on employee well-being, what specific programs or initiatives is the HR department introducing or enhancing in 2024 to support the mental and physical health of employees?

We will continue to build upon our foundation to be a Home To Possibilities for associates and we understand that a large part of it depends on how we prioritize the well-being of our associates. Our focus will remain on supporting their physical and emotional wellbeing through various initiatives and policies. We are among the very few companies in India to have reformed existing medical insurance policy. Last year, we restructured our insurance policy to make it more inclusive and give associates the ability to choose custom policies for their unique needs. As a part of it, we re-looked at the way we define “family” and made the policy more inclusive to cover same-sex partners, gender reassignment surgery, surrogacy etc. 

We also revamped our Bring-Her-Back program designed to support the wellbeing our existing associates who’re expecting mothers and integrate them back to the workplace. Lastly, we are focusing on curating CSR and volunteering activities that can offer an additional avenue for associates to nurture wellbeing. Engaging our associates in volunteering activities instils a deep sense of responsibility and inspires more and more volunteers to come forward. 

In just the last year, we curated over 17 events and saw 2X growth in the number of volunteers. Their efforts and commitment directly impacted over 2500 beneficiaries. Going forward, we will continue to conduct various in-house programs and initiatives such as our eye check-ups, breast cancer screening, self-defence workshops and so on. In addition, we have our on-site gym and workout facility, medical facility, allowance for creche, etc. to support associates.

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Topics: Strategic HR, #PracticalTips, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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