Thursday, March 27, 2008

HR in Retail – The irreplaceable frontier

Session by Mr. B.Venkataramana, Sr Vice President- Human Resources, Reliance Retail Limited

Aldous Huxley once said,” Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him”. This statement made much more sense after the informative session on HR in retail by Mr. B.Venkataramana, Sr Vice President- HR, Reliance Retail. It made us wonder where would have Mr. Huxley been while proclaiming this statement. A Retail store which made him experience the difference?! Not a bad guess, after all, it is the human touch that creates and sustains lifelong experiences at the retail store and only the human resources can make this magic come alive.

If there has been anything that has well evolved with the changing times, its surely be the field of human relations which has seen changing eras from labour relations on one side of the continuum (which limits liabilities and protects downside) to organizational effectiveness(with focus on growth and value)on the other end.

According to Mr.Venkataramana, the HR function has become even more critical in organizations as it is the key change agent and strategic partner in business relations than a support function of just payroll processing and labor relations. However, every critical aspect comes with its own set of challenges, so does HR, in the form of attrition.

Attrition, the big bad 'A' seems to be a threatening factor that spells nightmares across industries, especially retail. The costs associated with attrition i.e. separation costs, hiring costs, training costs, lost productivity, etc will be a huge challenge to encounter. A real time turnaround success story at Brigade Corporation made us realize that HR can only be the thin line of difference for any company, irrespective of how strong the company is in other aspects.

Other challenges that the retail sector is to face in the field of HR are People cost Vs profit margins, Entry of foreign players, Training people to match service needs & technology, Cross cultural adaptability and Employee Engagement. According to him, the Recruitment funnel concept will help managers understand various issues at every level to overcome the problem of right recruitment, right selection and development and right retention. An employer choice score card will also help employers enhance their HR climate.

“Experience is all an HR does; an experience is all that makes the fuss” An enlightening experience, it was, the session made us understand the role every future retailer in us would play is purely that of a HR manager, nothing more, nothing less.!

by Binoj & Ramya, Retail varsity, CBS

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