RETAIL: RETAIL ROCKS!
If you stepped into a Harvey Norman store, you might notice that this is not your typical electronics shop. Displays are properly arranged, variety is wide, brands are reputable, and service is top notch. In fact, it would be wrong to label it an electronics shop; a lifestyle store seems more apt.
The Australian franchise specialises in retailing four key product categories: Electrical, computers and communications, furniture and bedding. In Malaysia, this is a competitive arena that is often price driven, where professionalism is not highly valued or expected, and service is usually subpar.
Harvey Norman, however, is determined to go against the grain. “We strive to offer our customers a different shopping experience. The value we deliver goes beyond price,” says N.M. Thangaraj, General Manager of Human Resources and Operations.
Unfortunately, the retail industry suffers from a negative stigma, which makes attracting talents a big challenge for us. “Young graduates probably do not view us on the same level as banking or engineering,” Thangaraj laments.
He says this is a pity because the industry is actually doing well. “Although we foresee challenges in the future with slowdowns in major Asian economies and local competition getting stiffer, we believe there is still a large enough pie to be shared – and Harvey Norman is poised to take a larger share of that.”
The company is gearing up for major growth through store expansion and opening of mega stores. Three are slated to be opened in 2013 with more in the pipeline. Hence it is looking for more talents to take up the retail challenge both at the store and headquarters.
TRAINING FUTURE LEADERS
While good academic results are a plus, the company is more concerned about one’s aptitude for the industry. “We realise that some people are late starters. They might not be academically driven but may have the right qualities or personalities to excel in sales,” explains Thangaraj.
“Success is determined by you but we will provide the coaching to help you realise your potential,” he adds. To ensure this, Harvey Norman embarked on a retail management programme in 2012 to equip staff with the basic competencies required in retail management. The pilot project has 110 staff enrolled and more will be trained under this structured programme, a first-ofits- kind in the industry. The value of the training has an estimated market value of over RM100,000.
“The programme comprises three levels of certification and is also incorporated into a proposed career path plan for our store level colleagues,” says Thangaraj. On the-job training happens concurrently with classroom training. “We recognise that today’s employees want to see evidence that the company takes care of their career path. Hence we have implemented this career path programme even for store levels to demonstrate that we are concerned about their growth,” says Thangaraj. He adds that the company’s long term plan is to tie up with local universities to help in assessment so as to lend more credibility to the programme.
A COMPANY THAT CARES
Thangaraj’s message to fresh graduates is simply this: Give retail and Harvey Norman a chance. He adds that the company is genuinely committed to grooming talent and creating a good work environment. “We strive to promote good working relationships by celebrating successes, providing work-life balance, participating in activities, and getting involved in corporate social responsibility projects,” he says.
The spirit of Harvey Norman is best summed up in the company’s philosophy. “For Harvey Norman to be a compelling place to shop, it must first be a compelling place for our staff to work,” says Thangaraj.
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