In the first of a four-part LinkedIn HR Leadership series exclusive to HRD, RedMart’s chief people officer, Stephanie Nash, examines the ways HR can help grow a brand from start-up to being the “largest online everything store in South East Asia”.
850 employees. 27 nationalities. 40,000 products.
A technology company in the e-commerce space with specialisation in supply chain and logistics. That is the core DNA of RedMart and as we have grown from our humble beginnings to our journey of becoming the “largest online everything store in South East Asia”, it has been unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
This blog is my reflection of being part of that journey. What I learnt, how it changed me as a leader and how it shaped my perception of the future.
It is the story of a brand, written by its own people.
“It was like a white canvas to unleash two decades of experience.”
I had already spent time in various HR functions across large organisations like Microsoft, Allergan, and BHP Billiton, when the opportunity to join RedMart came in. To be in an unconstrained environment in terms of ideas and initiatives in an organisation that was hungry and willing to see more things happen – it was as if a world without boundaries had opened up.
It’s very rare that one gets the opportunity to form the people policies of an organisation from scratch as well as evolve its culture. It was like I could implement all my learning from the past two decades and create something new and different. Write the guidebook around things as diverse as performance management to talent acquisition philosophies. Be part of building something that was changing people’s lives. Being part of actually helping make Redmart’s vision of “giving people time back for the more important things in life” come true.
I just could not pass it up.
“Having a strong vibrant culture is critical to building a successful business where people want to come and stay and do their best work.”
Building a unique culture is key to the success of any organisation. However, to do that, one constantly needs to contextualise the brand value proposition based on the aspiration, needs, and desires of different kinds of employees with different experiences and skills. When I think about RedMart, it has three different segments which require completely different skills, but which need to work together for the overall success of the brand.
On the surface of it, warehouse associates, software developers, and supply chain experts have nothing obvious in common. But if they can relate to a singular brand vision and believe in their ability to make it come true, then they can help deliver a unified customer experience. However, that can only happen when there is a vibrant brand culture.
Again, as a start-up, we are also sometimes challenged in our ability to attract talent. While we have a great tribe of people and some of the best opportunities for professional growth and development, we are not always able to match desired compensation. Here as well, it is culture that is our biggest differentiator to attract the best.
“The two biggest pillars of our growth are technology and talent.”
For our customers our biggest value proposition is giving them back time. As we grow our range and add categories like baby care, office supplies, pet care and electronics, that value proposition is coming more and more to life. However, in order to grow at this pace, we need to scale and the two most important pillars to drive that scale are people and technology.
We need to make our supply chain and logistics smoother to drive a better end customer experience. This requires building disruptive technologies - and the way to build disruptive technology is through people. People, who can create platforms and systems which integrate customer orders, inventory management, payment gateways, delivery schedules and customer relationship in a seamless way. Only then the dream of building the largest online everything store can come to life.
However, this is challenging, because the process to attract the best warehouse associates and the best software developers is radically different. We have to constantly look for the right attitude and the right attributes which are aligned to what our brand stands for but at different touch points.
At one end of the spectrum, we need to hire warehouse associates for our fulfillment center where we have to assess the demand and supply gap based on order volume. For this we use a recruitment center model. At the other end of the spectrum we need software developers who can write and ship code and for this we drive hackathons and contests to assess those with the most relevant skills.
“Our consumer brand plays a big role in defining our employer brand.”
It is that recognisable red-coloured truck. Whether you are living in a HDB, condo or landed property or driving down the road, you see the RedMart truck and it immediately drives recall value. Or you meet a RedMart employee and (s)he hands you their card. It has a discount code at the back that allows you to try the service and get an attractive discount as a first time customer.
Our employer and consumer brands have to align from an experience standpoint, because it is the recall value of our consumer brand that attracts talent to apply for the jobs we post online. To enable that, we have built our culture code ground up and one of the core principles we believe in, to bring our employer brand to life, is to allow our employees to tell the story of our consumer brand.
We have actively empowered them to share their RedMart experience across social media, in industry events, with friends and family and so on. What we have seen is a direct and positive correlation in higher order values, ability to engage with newer partners, efficacy in signing up with new suppliers - all of which have grown our business.
To reinforce this principle further, we have redefined our employee value proposition whereby we are now tooling employees with the right messaging and training so that each one of us can become a true brand ambassador as well as a talent scout across professional networks like LinkedIn.
The responsibility of driving recruitment is not just on HR, it is the duty of every employee who is helping build RedMart today.
“Candidate experience is critical because every unhappy candidate is also is also a potential unhappy customer.”
Today’s world is more of a candidate market than an employer market. This makes it imperative for us to constantly think about the candidate experience, because for us every candidate is a potential customer. So the experience they have with us matters. We have to think about the touch-points where we engage with them.
We can no longer limit ourselves to hire only for specific role profiles. That’s not the world we are living in. We also have to be mindful, that as we grow, while we want to preserve the flair of ‘start-up’s; we also need to introduce processes and systems which drive consistency yet differentiation in experiences. This is extremely crucial; because candidates will derive their first impressions based on the experience they have with us and that will play a huge role in defining the kind of talent we are able to attract to build upon what we have started at Redmart.
For more information visit:
4 ways HR can help execute a culture change
How employee engagement differs by gender
Why you should treat your employees like your customers