On future proof talent strategy – Insights from Walmart’s journey
“We’re in a constant state of evolution” said Sudeep Ralhan, Head HR, Walmart Labs, who was skeptical of the possibility of completely future proofing talent strategy, addressing the audience at the People Matters Talent Acquisition Conference 2019.
As a legacy company that also has diverse business units, Walmart had to go through significant changes just to stay competitive. The company clocks 275 million customer transactions each week, 2.2. Million associates across 28 countries, and has 11,700 stores around the world.
Speaking about the overall mission to help people save money so they can live better, Rahlan said that the strategy at the top is simplified to be purposeful. And the transformation starts by leveraging the power of digital. This meant that people who had been only familiar with stores now have to start thinking about how to create a seamless experience across offline and online formats thereby creating an omni-channel experience.
Whether it’s a data scientist based in Bangalore or a programmer in Texas, the company had to think about how technology helps level the field. Ralhan spoke about the number of changes that the company had to take:
1. Technology literacy: Training is one of the key areas the company had to invest in. With the goal of building literacy and getting associates comfortable with the ideas of change.
2. Data driven decision making: Hiring and developing associates who understand how to take action based on live-streaming data feeds.
3. Flexibility: A flexible and steady approach at training associates.
4. Increased empathy: Training associates to understand and respond to customer expectations and motivations.
5. A growth mindset: Enabling and reward a founder’s mentality and lifelong skilling.
The company’s vision to be a technology and product center of innovation and excellent was supplemented by a strategy with the below pillars:
- Sustainable growth
- Thought leadership and Innovation
- Employer of choice
- Inclusive and diverse workplace
As a company that was reliant on the supply chain, with a business goal to focus on customer experience, they had to leverage the power of digital to make a huge impact on costs, inventory management systems and ultimately on customer experience.
The end goal, Ralhan says was to treat the supply chain like a service itself. This meant a whole new ecosystem, a product mindset and thinking about scaling up.
“Sometimes we had to invest in stuff which may not yield results right now,” he said.
Speaking about building the India technology practice, he spoke about the need to change mindsets at the top level and at the bottom level with a focus on the right skills.
“You can’t be completely future proof, you need to be prepared for change. What you can do is to truly invest in people. Instead of focusing on skills, unlearn, re-learn,” he said.
Hiring is the first step in ensuring business preparedness. When hiring, managers need to make tough calls, they need to ask questions such as “has the person transcended geographies? Is the person comfortable with change?” And companies need to ensure that their people don’t do the same thing over and over again.
(This article is based on a session by Sudeep Ralhan, Head HR, Walmart Labs at the Futurist Forum powered by Randstad India at People Matters Talent Acquisition Conference 2019.)