13 May 2016 18:43 IST

‘We take fun very seriously’

We at Future Group need people who can handle ambiguity, says Bidisha Banerjee, head, Talent Development

An entrepreneurial outlook, the ability to unlearn and handle ambiguity in a complex world are some of the qualities Future Group looks for while hiring B-school graduates, said Bidisha Banerjee, Head–Talent Development, of Future Group. She spoke to BLonCampus about the qualities that Future Group seeks in B-Schoolers and what they can expect at the conglomerate, among other things. Excerpts:

In an organisation as big as Future Group, how can learning be enabled for employees?

When you talk about learning and development, in the context of working at Future Group, which has 4,000 employees, you need to have a two-fold strategy. One that really reaches the last mile which, in the retail sector, is your stores and the second is a strategy for your support teams, the head-office and the zonal centres.

We have managed to create a learning curve for everyone in their career at the organisation. One of the biggest reasons people leave retail stores is because they are not sure how their career will pan out. We have defined roles, which start from customer service executive to store manager, in our retail stores. Based on the competencies for these roles, we have devised individual learning plans for our employees.

For instance, customer service agents will have an 18-month-long learning programme with inbuilt assessments. Once, they clear that they are ready to move on to the next role.

As for the head office and zonal centres, we create individual learning plans for everybody, based on their own learning levels and their requirements for development. The programme is custom-made for individuals and then we form groups to conduct workshops — externally or internally.

How is this learning conducted among employees in middle and top management?

We invest a lot in talent. In fact, we recently partnered with Italian design thinking school SDA Bocconi, which is based in Milan. Universita Bocconi’s only off-shore campus in India, MISB Bocconi, will offer its International Executive Masters in Business (IEMB) with a specialisation in Design Management for our staff. Around 15 candidates have been sponsored for the 18-month-long masters programme, which costs around ₹18 lakh for an individual.

We have also partnered with several other business schools across the globe, such as Harvard, Wharton and, closer home, the IIMs, for workshops. We keep sending our top talent to attend these workshops throughout the year.

More importantly, we don’t look at a typical training methodology; instead, we use art, theatre and technology in a big way. If you keep doing things that you used to do in the past, you will not be relevant because today’s workforce wants something dynamic. Their attention span is only about 12 seconds and it is extremely important to keep them engaged.

What kind of a role does technology play in enabling wider learning and development in an organisation?

Technology, because of its reach, is important; especially if you are talking numbers. For instance, if I had to physically address 44,000 people in a classroom situation or a one-to-one workshop, it would take me years to do that. Technology allows us to do this at one go, in real time.

In fact, we have partnered with Skillsoft and almost everybody in our stores has a licence. Since it’s a blended learning approach, some of the learning happens offline, while otherthings happen through technology.

We have also moved away from using desktops and laptops — a lot of learning is happening on mobile devices. Consider a BigBazaar store executive, he may not be able to focus in a classroom environment. But if he is able to download the mobile training app, which is completely gamified, the attention span can increase to a great extent.

What are the qualities you look for while hiring fresh business graduates?

We are looking for people who have an entrepreneurial mindset, who have a positive outlook and are comfortable with ambiguity because the world is known to be VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous). They should also be open to unlearning some of the things they have studied.

What should B-school graduates expect when they come to Future Group?

They should expect a lot of learning and a whole amount of empowerment. They can also expect a fun environment, because we take fun very seriously. We have a concept called tathva, where the entire organisation is divided into four houses (like in schools), and we conduct games, dances, stage plays and other fun activities.

How many B-schoolers have you hired this year? What kind of roles have you hired for?

We have hired 45 people from across the IIMs. We don’t really put fresh graduates into a role directly after hiring them. We want to give them the entire organisation’s perspective, so for a year they do three-month-long projects in various functions and then, at the end, we decide where to place them, based on what they want and what the business need is.