What this global auto parts retailer learned from its India HR team

Advance Auto Parts picked up an important employee-engagement strategy from its Indian GCC in Hyderabad

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Picture Credit - Mike Mozart

For most Indian home-grown companies — such as Reliance, RPG, Adani, Aditya Birla and Tata — engaging with the families of their employees has been a significant element of their trust-building activities and culture, as part of their employee-engagement strategy.

Many HR leaders with whom HRKatha has interacted in the past, especially those from such home-grown conglomerates, have mentioned that engaging with the family members of the employees has really worked for them in terms of improving retention.

Natalie Rothman, EVP & CHRO, Advance Auto Parts, reveals to HRKatha that engaging with the family of employees is a practice widely followed by the Company’s HR team in India.

Advance Auto Parts — an aftermarket retailer of auto parts based in the US — has a global capability centre (GCC) in India, which employs about 400 people.

Rothman admits that the India team is a mere extension of Advanced Auto’s global workforce, and that the India team members are no different from the other employees across its global offices.

The Indian GCC is an innovation hub for the Company and primarily employs tech talent, along with people in the core finance function as well as HR.

“India teams are highly advanced when it comes to engaging with the families of employees as compared to the US”

Natalie Rothman, EVP & CHRO, Advance Auto Parts

Engaging with employees’ families

As per Rothman, during COVID-19, when people were forced to work from home, companies and teams could engage with each other only via the virtual medium.

Here too, it was a common practice for Indian companies to engage with the families of their employees virtually.

Advance Auto’s GCC organised various engagement and fun activities online, such as games, as well as singing and dancing competitions. These virtual engagement events allowed the employees’ spouses, children and other family members to participate and interact with others, confirms Vibhuti Lall, human resource leader, Advance Auto Parts Global Capability Centre, Hyderabad.

Rothman acknowledges that the “India teams are highly advanced when it comes to engaging with the families of employees as compared to the US”.

When COVID-19 was at its peak, many lives were lost. Several families in the US were destroyed in the first wave and the ones that followed. “In the corporate culture of the US, the family or an employee’s spouse and children feature much later in the conversation. People always talk about work and business first and only then about family,” admits Rothman.

However, the pandemic changed all that. “COVID actually gave people the permission to talk about family. Questions such as ‘How are your family members doing?’ and ‘Hope your family is safe’ became important to show empathy,” explains Rothman.

“Virtual engagement events allowed the employees’ spouses, children and other family members to participate and interact with others”

Vibhuti Lall, human resource leader, Advance Auto Parts Global Capability Centre, Hyderabad

Learning from their Indian counterparts, the US teams also started organising virtual activities involving the family members of their employees. This really worked for the Company and enhanced empathy amongst the employees.

As per Rothman, when the organisation starts engaging with the family members of employees, it takes the engagement to an altogether different zone.

She agrees that the stickiness of employees increases when one starts engaging with the family. “It really enhances the loyalty factor in employees,” says Rothman.

However, Rothman believes that it may still take time for employees in the US to adapt to the practice of involving and engaging and communicating with their families. She definitely wishes to keep up the practice and enhance the same now that she has witnessed the benefits. She has realised how strategically fruitful it is for the Company.

Hiring in India

Lall shares that Advance Auto Part’s Hyderabad GCC is planning to expand in India and is looking to hire people primarily in tech roles.

“We are surely looking at hiring freshers from campuses and are designing and enhancing our efforts to increase engagement with campus students,” reveals Lall.

The Company hopes to have a mix of freshers as well as lateral hires.

Interestingly, in India, 37 per cent of hiring happens through referrals at the Hyderabad GCC of Advance Auto. “We have a robust referral policy, which is uniform for all functions,” says Lall.

The Company, which employs over 65,000 people globally, wishes to increase its domestic strength by 150 per cent.

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