The tech ecosystems in India have come a long way over the last two decades or so. But perhaps the one that had seen the most spectacular growth but didn’t get enough written or talked about at least in the early days was the Indian Global In-house Center or GIC. What started as back-office centres focusing on bringing cost productivity, evolved into an outfit delivering value efficiency. Hyper-connectivity, data proliferation, rapid technological advancements, and enhanced capabilities, propelled the growth of GICs in India.
Interestingly, GICs have now transformed into GCCs or Global Capability Centers as they develop newer capabilities, leading cross-functional efforts, breakthrough product innovation, platform engineering, among others. It’s no surprise that GCCs have grown so much, so fast. As per a report by NASSCOM and ZINNOV, there are over 1250+ GCCs, in India, with an existing talent pool of over ~ 1 Million.
But this unprecedented growth has presented some unique challenges to the HR fraternity.
More and more GCCs are now building new-age technology and functional CoEs around AI/ML, Big Data, Cloud, APIs, IoT, Robotics, AR/VR, enterprise mobility, digital payments, etc. But, in spite of vast talent availability, finding the right talent with specific skills is increasingly becoming difficult.
To attract the right talent, organisations need to invest in creating a strong brand identity, built on a foundation of a unique and exciting employee value proposition. But with such proliferation in the number of MNCs, GCCs, and startups, offering similar perks and benefits, it’s challenging for organisations to stand out, thereby presenting more challenges to the HR professionals.
And lastly, there has been a massive shift in employees’ expectations from the organisations. More and more employees now rate meaningful work, recognition, being ‘in-the-know’ of the impact of their work, strong leadership, best in class training & learning opportunities as the key factors to make them join, and stay, in an organisation. Therefore, creating a robust employee engagement framework and experience is critical.
Adding Lowe’s in the Mix
Lowe’s is a Fortune® 50 speciality home improvement retailer based in the U.S. with a strong legacy of over 70 years. We serve over 18 million customers every week to help them build their dream home, and we boast revenue of over $71.3 Billion through our 2200 stores, online channels, and other business. What brings us this success? An unwavering customer focus, which is deeply rooted in our DNA and working passionately towards company values and staying true to the core behaviour tenets shared by our CEO, Marvin Ellison – Focus on Customer, Deliver Results, Take Action, Show Courage, and Continue Learning. Everyone, from the CEO to the store associates and even a Janitor, believes in our core behaviors while everyone is held against the same set of behaviors. This is what sets us apart.
In India, Lowe’s set up its small facility in Bangalore with just 50 members, in 2014. Now, Lowe’s India has become a world-class GCC with a hotbed of over 2100 talented minds across tech, analytics, product management, shared services, finance and accounting, supply chain, merchandising and marketing, among others. The journey has been phenomenal.
Q. Customer centricity is deeply rooted in your organisation’s DNA. How can an organisation become truly “customer-centric” in practice? How does Lowe’s India make a conscious effort to understand the voice of the customer on a deeper level?
A. One of the core behaviors at Lowe’s is ‘Focus on customers’, where we expect our associates to build a strong relationship with our customers, deliver solutions that meet their needs, and think of ways in which we can add more value.
Our CEO, Marvin Ellison, says that “At Lowe’s, we either serve a customer or serve those who serve a customer.” And that’s how customer-centricity runs in our DNA.
As a practice, we constantly seek feedback in the form of surveys and focused discussions on understanding the customer’s pain points and ways in which we can address that. We encourage our associates to go to Lowe’s store and understand how we operate the business. Our leaders from technology, business operations, shared services and other functions must spend two weeks at Lowe’s stores mandatorily.
Even for functions such as HR, we operate with the same verve and zeal to support our customers and add value to them in whatever way possible.
For organisations to become customer-centric, the onus is on the leaders to drive that behavior. We need to recognize and reward those who go the extra mile to support a customer. And by consistently doing this, we can make it part of an organisation’s culture.
A Glimpse of Lowe’s HR Journey In India
We at Lowe’s India have created a culture that inculcates a strong belief system. Our philosophy is to care for our employees, instill a sense of pride in them, create a wholesome career experience for our associates, and do things differently to adapt to changing talent landscape.
To attract the best talent, we have employed some unique ways of hiring. For instance, we hosted multiple large format hiring events, including one at a micro-brewery, which is perhaps the first of its kind. Lowe’s continues to invest in various channels of hiring, including meetups, participation in large format conferences, events, among others. Our philosophy from a diversity talent attraction perspective has been – ‘Keep the source/channels diverse, and then base the hiring decision on merit.’
Over the years, our talent acquisition strategy has evolved to focus more on specialists in retail GCCs, e-commerce, and product organisations. Thanks to the growing retail and eCommerce establishments, there has been a surge in functional retail champions who understands core retail operations such as merchandising, marketing, pricing, supply chain, promotions, store operations, among others. We actively hire from companies, big and small, from where we could find functional experts with deep domain expertise.
OUR TALENT ACQUISITION DASHBOARD WAS FEATURED AT THE ‘MICROSTRATEGY 2019 WORLD DOSSIER CONTEST’ – SOMETHING WE ARE INCREDIBLY PROUD OF.
Q. Lowe’s continues to invest in various channels of hiring including meetups, participation in large format conferences, and events. How has this talent acquisition strategy proved to be a game-changer for your company?
A. Being a relatively new player in the GCC space and a speciality retailer, it is important that we position ourselves appropriately as an employer of choice owing to the complex nature of our business model. We believe that investing in large format events quickly helps us getting the information to the candidate community. This has been a game-changer as the candidates have always been appreciative of the experience and the information they have received during these events. Additionally, these events position us as an organisation that does not mind taking risks and thinking big from the word go. Candidates have always been curious about these events owing to the scale and not knowing what to expect. They are pleasantly surprised by the outcomes and continue to recommend friends and family.
Having said this, it is also important to note that while these are good, the proof of the pudding is closing the communication loop with the candidates, this sets us apart positively.
We also hire from universities, and today Lowe’s India is also one of the sought-after employers in the NITs and a few local colleges. We have built a strong network with NIT by following a simple mantra – ‘Keep it few and let the relationships run deep.’
We are among the few organisations which have invested in learning pre-onboarding. It has helped the students culturally assimilate with us seamlessly. We are also amidst discussions with a few autonomous universities to influence their curriculum from a future readiness/relevance perspective.
Our talent acquisition advisory function is evolving into a metric-driven function staying true to the maxim, “what cannot be measured, cannot be improved.” Our talent Acquisition dashboard was featured at the ‘MicroStrategy 2019 World Dossier Contest’ – something we are incredibly proud of.
At Lowe’s, we believe in creating an active engagement and experience for the few who join us. That’s why our wellness package is designed in a way to offer more preventive care benefits, including regular health checkups, doctor consultations and competitive insurance coverage, creche benefits, EAP (Employee Assistance Program), fully equipped gym with trainers, among others.
Q. Employee engagement and customer experience go hand in hand. How important do you think it is to connect Employee Engagement to Customer Engagement and why?
A. These are tightly coupled. We feel an engaged employee often delivers more than what is expected of the role. Now, whether it is direct interaction with the customer or helping those who help the customers. We have often observed that engaged employees put themselves in the customer shoes and ask pertinent questions as a customer and not as a developer or just an employee. Hence, we have always encouraged employees to think outside of the role as an employee and more as a customer. It becomes more critical when you are thousands of miles away from the core business.
We often encourage our employees to visit our stores and look at the problems from the lens of a customer. We show our associates the outcome of their efforts and how it is helping a customer build the dream kitchen for his wife or a bed for his daughter. These end outcomes help us engage our employees as they know that their contributions matter.
Diversity and inclusion is another fundamental pillar at Lowe’s. Our credo is provocative yet straightforward – ‘Don’t Blend In.’ Here, Marvin Ellison, the CEO of Lowe’s, says to all the people who feel they’re an ‘only’ at their organisation – “Be the best you, be your most authentic self and embrace it.” Lowe’s has shown an unwavering commitment to be an organisation that values talent and champions inclusion.
Talking about learning and knowledge sharing, we are making it an integral part of our culture. One of our core behaviors is ‘Continue Learning’ and we strive to walk the talk by providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities to associates in the form of learning journeys. We have moved away from the calendarized cookie-cutter learning approach for a large generic group to a customized solution-based approach that makes a business impact in the real sense.
To further address the various technical, functional, professional, and domain learning requirements, we are experimenting with some social learning templates. Our in-house SMEs conduct instructor-led sessions for internal knowledge sharing known as the Lowe’s Ninjas.
Q. Diversity and inclusion often go hand in hand, but how can focusing on inclusion help companies embrace the actions and behaviors that will make diversity stick?
A. Lowe’s has a very diverse customer base and we need diversity of thoughts to be able to mirror what our customers demand. Hence, the multiplicity of perspectives is vital to us to provide solutions in a way that helps serve the customer better.
We all know the ‘diversity’ part of Diversity & Inclusion, which is having/attracting a diverse workforce into the organisation to have a competitive advantage in the global market. It is the ‘inclusion’ part that is very critical to create an environment where people can be who they are and their unique talents and perspectives are valued and make them want to stay.
As a first step in starting our journey towards inclusion, we at Lowe’s India wanted to understand our associates through various interventions like inclusion survey, focus group discussions to provide us with a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of their views and experiences about inclusion at Lowe’s India. Some of the key drivers that we learned through this effort, which will foster the culture of inclusion in the organisation were:
- creating awareness around D&I,
- removing unconscious bias at various levels or stages, providing a platform,
- supporting the diversity affinity groups to bring in the associates of common interest, purpose and background to enhance the sense of belonging by reaching the larger population internally who can act as brand ambassadors of the organisation externally.
To enhance the inclusion awareness, we have designed various programs and recently organized a speaker session on women in technology called ‘ DIY – Craft Your Own Career’ that helped connect, seek answers and learn from women of strength who shared their journey of shaping their career.
Over the last year, we have facilitated Leader-Led Masterclasses, Bootcamps, and Tech-Talks, which have immensely encouraged internal learning and knowledge sharing and ensured that there is a clear bridge between our mothership at Lowe’s U.S. and Lowe’s India.
Here’s the outcome: Between Feb 2018 – Oct 2018 and Feb 2019 – Oct 2019, we saw
- A 171 % increase in total learners of technical training
- A fivefold increase in total learners for training by Lowe’s Ninjas
- And an 18-fold increase for courses we provide on various e-learning platforms
By enabling cross-skilling, upskilling and re-skilling to our associates, we have been able to help our associates move to different streams within the organisation. In fact, for some key business roles, we were able to fill a significant portion of our positions internally.
Our associates feel a sense of pride being part of Lowe’s owing to our strong culture and the fact that we put them at the center of everything we do. It has been reflected in the associate experience survey, which boasts of a high degree of engagement with the organisation. As one can imagine, pride and motivation have a direct impact on an individual’s willingness to refer their friends, family, and acquaintances, we have seen a constant rise in associate referrals.
In the same associate experience survey, we asked people to share what comes to their mind when they hear about Lowe’s, and a lot of them mentioned ‘second home.’Our credo is provocative yet straightforward – ‘don’t blend in.’ Click To Tweet
Here, Marvin Ellison, the CEO of Lowe’s, says to all the people who feel they’re an ‘only’ at their organisation – “be the best you, be your most authentic self and embrace it.”
It is observed that employees stay longer at a company if it is invested in their career development. In your opinion, how can L&D initiatives help in reducing staff turnover rate? Are employees able to apply the skills received from training to their jobs effectively?
A large chunk of the workforce today consists of millennials who expect their employers to invest in their upskilling journey. We believe that they tend to view this as a measure of their professional value and importance, which translates into higher engagement, increased productivity, and longer tenures if met adequately. Millennials also value autonomy and being in control of things.
From an organisation’s standpoint, we must upskill & re-skill our associates (employees) to ensure that disruptions in the fast-changing retail or technology landscape do not come as a shock, and their competencies are not deemed obsolete.
Therefore, at Lowe’s, we like to live by the quote, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” Therefore, the Learning and Development function partners actively with the business to shape Lowe’s into a knowledge organisation with a deep-rooted learning culture.
It starts right at onboarding when we introduce our associates to our core behaviors – one of which includes ‘Continue Learning’. Associates also have access to various learning resources and programs on technical and soft skill learning and development, which help bridge the skill gaps while ensuring associates learn at their own pace. We have also empowered our associates to embark on their learning journey by availing our Certificate Reimbursement Program and also collaborating with our in-house SMEs for internal knowledge sharing, fondly known as the Lowe’s Ninjas for training. We give our associates ample learning opportunities to become involved in projects that can help them translate theoretical knowledge into more tangible outputs.
These helped us connect with the millennials who like to take charge of their careers and have various learning options at their disposal, something we reiterated through a campaign called ‘I Own My Career’.
We also enable learning through technology forums such as ‘Techwiz 2.0’ that allows technology conversations; there are various interventions like tech meet-ups, blog and technical paper writing, masterclasses and boot camps. These responses/solutions have helped lay the foundation for building a strong developer’s community that is power-packed with innovative ideas and enriching conversations. It is also essential to initiate talent conversations with business & leadership. We found that while our primary focus was to provide learning opportunities for associates, we were also accountable for empowering leaders, both new & existing, to manage a large and diverse workforce. Thus, we initiated interventions like Unconscious Bias and Leader as a Coach.
Our team at Lowe’s India will continue to build an organisation with a strong focus on people, technology, and delivering a world-class customer experience powered by an honest, open and courageous culture.
Here’s what some of the other associates have to say:
Lowe’s is a place I love as it has a very conducive working culture which fosters a collaborative, but competitive environment due to top quality colleagues from diverse backgrounds, resulting in the overall growth of an individual. It drives one’s career forward without compromising on personal life due to fair, favourable, and flexible policies being in place.
-Vikram Vishwanath, Sr. Manager, Financial Decision Support and Analytics, Lowe’s
The flexible, nurturing, and engaging work culture makes me feel I own my career at lowe’s. The growth and progress i have made since I joined the firm are beyond my expectations.
-Aniruddha P B, Senior Software Engineer, Lowe’s IT Digital