Real life stories are the best way to show the merits of a system. Here’s the story of Lifestyle International Pvt. Ltd, a company that is testament to the value of employer branding and engagement. This story talks about the transformation of the company from being just another retailer in the industry to being the No.1 Retail Company to Work For in India for the last two years.
The journey starts in 1999, with Lifestyle’s first store in Chennai. The company enters the Indian market with strong financial backing, a well-laid expansion plan and a mission to become a leading fashion retailer in the country. In the first few years, Lifestyle steadily expands across the market, establishing itself in most of the major cities in India, and with an effective marketing plan sees a gradual growth of its customer base. However, even though all seems good on the outside, the company faces a teething issue – it is unable to attract or retain the best talent in the industry and to be successful, it needed to become the employer of choice.
Time for self-examination
In the early 2000s, through industry benchmarking, studies and analysis, it becomes quickly apparent to Lifestyle that although it was established as a ‘brand’ it was not yet an organization that retail professionals aspired to work for. The company now, in fashion industry jargon, needs a makeover. The company has to create a distinction in the ‘people market’. People management and development of a unique Lifestyle culture was at the core of every management meeting.
Strengthening of HR and Employee Practices
As a first step towards employer branding, Lifestyle strengthens its HR team with people from across the industries. The company defines how it wants to be viewed as an employer, devises a plan and works towards making this vision a reality. A major shift comes in 2005, when Lifestyle moves base from Chennai to Bangalore. The organization believes that the fast-growing cosmopolitan city would be the ideal venue to attract the best talent from across the country. It also positions Lifestyle at the epicenter of the rapidly growing retail industry.
Internally, the company goes through a gradual, yet revolutionary transformation. A culture of openness, transparency and performance is encouraged throughout the organization through various organization development initiatives. Collaboration and camaraderie is given the utmost importance – the company is brought closer together through inter-department meetings, open houses, fun events, and celebration of festivals, engagement campaigns, all with the purpose of building a vibrant culture. The company invests significant time, money and effort to create a great working environment, an effective training and development program, robust rewards and recognition program, a transparent and seamless grievance redressal program, a welcoming on-boarding program and regular initiatives to encourage a vibrant employee culture. Most importantly, Lifestyle runs regular campaigns such as the ‘I Love LS’ Campaign every year to reinstate and reiterate its values and philosophy, because at the end of the day, this culture was the organization’s unique ‘people’ value proposition.
Hiring the ‘right’ people
With the gradual development of the envisioned culture, it’s important to ensure that people who are hired fit not only into their roles but also the DNA of the organization. The company uses various interview methods and quantitative tests to ensure candidates are the ‘right fit’ for the organization. Once hired, each employee goes through an on-boarding program called ‘Get Connected’ which ensures that he/she adjust well in their new environment and any concerns that they might have are resolved immediately. For employees at the front-end, innovative methods of training are used to instill the Lifestyle values – theatre and quiz methodology see great success.
Policies go from ‘Employer’ to ‘Employee’ friendly
It’s important for any employer to find the right balance in their policies. Lifestyle starts benchmarking their policies and benefits with the best employers in the industry. The new updated policies lean towards the employee – they provide better work-life balance, wider array of benefits, ensure the safety of every employee and overall become inherently employee-friendly. Initiatives like ‘Launchpad’, Internal Job Postings are used to provide employees opportunities in the various avenues available in retail. This helps employees plan a long-term career with the company. Slowly but surely, the company was on the move to becoming a great employer brand.
Validating these practices
It was easy to assume that the investment in employee engagement and employer brand building is working and employees were happy to work with the organization. However, this assumption is not backed by conclusive data. Hence, a third-party administered employee engagement survey called ‘People Pulse’ is introduced across the organization. The survey delivers aggregate data on various aspects of the working environment and determines the engagement levels in the organization by location, department and grade. Lifestyle uses this data to devise action plans for improvement areas year-on-year and this continuous improvement model increases engagement levels in the company considerably.
The value is in the results!
The merits of good employer branding is evident through the results Lifestyle has achieved. In a high-attrition industry like Retail, the company has successfully managed to maintain attrition rates that are half the industry standard. Employees have seen considerable growth within the organization, with several moving up the ranks from a Customer Service Representative to holding management roles in the company. Lifestyle today attracts talent from the top Business Schools, the best Fashion Management Schools and from across the top companies across the industries. And finally, through a persistent effort in creating a great work culture, the company has been recognized as the No.1 Retail Company to Work for in India two years in a row by Great Place to Work Institute in association with Retail Association of India. It was also recognized as the 21st Best Workplace is Asia 2015 by the Great Place to Work Institute.
The investment on people management and employer brand building has seen a direct impact on the business. Lifestyle has constantly seen double-digit growth in the past few years. The success the organization has seen is a true indicator of the importance of employer branding. In today’s market, employees are no longer attracted just by pay packages and benefits – the industry standards are pretty similar in this aspect. Rather, employees are now looking at employers as brands and hence it is pertinent that employers build a environment where there is pride, passion, loyalty and camaraderie amongst employees.
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