Spencer’s Retail designs practices to enable its first-level employees

Spencer's initiative helps to enable the lower level employees to reach the upper echelons of the organisation

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Spencer’s Retail has managed to forge a great relationship with its staff, enabling them to continuously perform better, even while setting a clear path of progress for them to look up to. What makes this Kolkata-headquartered retail stores chain different, is the initiative it has taken to enable the lower-level employees and help them reach the upper echelons of the organisation.

Naresh Kumar Purutipati, CHRO, Spencer’s Retail, highlights how Spencer’s has been successful in its practice of helping its store employees identify their core skills and the areas of improvement, to be able to rise up the ladder in the process.

Monthly performance and coaching log

Spencer’s has implemented a monthly performance and coaching log for its first-level employees who work in the stores. Numbering around 4500 in total, these employees are primarily involved in customer service and sales. “We have identified seven key performance parameters that are core to their performance inside the store,” says Parutipati. This helps them identify the core skill or lack thereof in the employees.

Performance score: Employees have a one-on-one discussion with their managers or team leaders on performance. Post discussion they are rated on a scale of 1 to 3, where 1 means the employee has exceeded expectations, 2 indicates the employee meets the expectations of the management and 3 means the employee has failed to perform to expectations. Afterwards, an overall score is allotted to them based purely on performance.

Coaching: Once the presence or lack of skills is identified in the employees, they are coached by their senior managers. In the case of team members on the shop floor— the first-level employees— the coaching is done by their team leader. The team leaders are coached by the department head or the store manager.

Skill progression: The organisation has also developed a skill-progression matrix, which essentially identifies the set of skills that are necessary for a mature person in an organisation to know. This matrix is especially useful for first-time employees who may know only a few basic skills. As employees progress in their careers, their skill progression is mapped.

Annual appraisal: The employees have an annual appraisal system, which they rightly term the ‘anniversary appraisal system’. Employees receive an appraisal depending on the day they joined. For instance, if an employee joins in September, she or he will be entitled to the next appraisal in the month of September of the following year.

Puritipati explains, “Most of these employees are class 10 and class 12 pass-outs with a minimum wage. There is no point talking about performance without coaching. Four thousand people sitting together with their managers and undergoing a coaching and review process is a big initiative.”

“That is why, the design and title of the programme itself is performance and coaching log,” adds Puritipati.

The coaching by senior managers focusses on the performance and skills training, while larger behavioural changes are instituted by trainers and the HR team.

My Career Progression Framework

This is a framework through which the employees progress in their career. Through the My Career Progression Framework, the management ensures that people learn continuously, and upon completion of 18 months, all team members are provided an opportunity to progress to the next level. Those who possess good knowledge of all skills needed for the job, are shortlisted for promotion. A career session is conducted for the employees, where they are explained the expectations from them and what the selection process is like, by the seniors. After this, a written test is conducted for the employees, which allows them to move to a panel discussion for the next round. The final shortlisted candidates go for training conducted by the senior managers. They are certified for promotion by the regional and store- level managers.

However, being shortlisted may not ensure that the employees are the right fit for the role. To ensure a right fit, the selected employees are kept under observation for a period of two months. Finally, those who pass this probation period are selected by the line managers for the next role.

“Frequent reviews ensure that good performance is consistent. Unlike quarterly, half yearly or annual performance reviews, they put the employees back on track much faster,” says Puritipati.

“Through the My Career Progression plan, we are showing a normal store employee a clear path to becoming a first-level manager or team leader, assistant manager, category head or even a store manager in a defined period of time,” adds Puritipati.

Naresh Kumar Puritipati

Most of these employees are class 10 and class 12 pass-outs with a minimum wage. There is no point talking about performance without coaching. Four thousand people sitting together with their managers and undergoing a coaching and review process is a big initiative

Utilising employees’ time productively

At a typical retail store, customer traffic varies across the day, with mornings and evenings being the most crowded. Afternoons are usually a lean time for the employees. Moreover, the staff inside the store is more as the morning ends and the evening shift begins.

“There was a business need to have a stronger engagement with the customers around the immediate neighbourhood, and hence, we came up with a strategy to bring in more customers,” says Puritipati.

During the lean afternoon time, employees go around the neighbourhood, from house to house, with shopping vouchers and chocolates, welcoming and inviting customers to visit their store. There is also an incentive for the employees in this whole exercise — when any of these customers come in and make a purchase, the respective employees who invited them get a certain amount as reward.

In a period of about four months, Spencer’s has reached about 1.5 lakh customers, across 35 cities in the country.

Whenever customers walk into a store, they recognise the employee(s) who invited them and vice versa. “There is a chance to leverage the relationship that an employee and customer have built, and also get real feedback from the customers in the process,” concludes Puritipati.

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