Louise Pender, General Counsel and Chief People Officer, ZALORA Group

ZALORA Group took home the silver award for 'Excellence in Work-Life Harmony' at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, Louise Pender, General Counsel and Chief People Officer, ZALORA Group (pictured above), shares all about the company's focus on ensuring that employees feel empowered and supported in maintaining their work-life harmony.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Our HR strategy revolves around a singular aim — to create a happy and vibrant working environment by providing an outstanding end-to-end employee experience.

We know this to be the best way to help our employees thrive and be at their best in all their endeavours, whether professional or personal.

It all starts with listening to our team across ZALORA and understanding what matters most to them. Based on these insights, we launched our 'Future of Work' strategy – a structured rollout of initiatives and supportive policies aimed at ensuring employees’ wellbeing. We started by permanently offering employees the flexibility to work either from home or the office, providing subsidies to set up a productive home office as needed, and recently launched a series of industry-leading mental health initiatives

Another important milestone was the unveiling of ZALORA’s values in June 2021. These values distill what makes ZALORA great, and set the foundation for what we stand for and our vision for the team. 

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

At ZALORA, the people agenda is central to the business, and so we focus on ensuring that our employees feel empowered and supported in maintaining their work-life harmony. As a result, our team has continued to deliver outstanding performance even while working remotely during the pandemic – from launching new segments in a matter of weeks, to rolling out game-changing business innovations. Through it all, over 94% of the team say that they are motivated or very motivated. There is no better testament than that. 

This is why, across the company, our leaders take seriously the influence and impact they have in driving people initiatives. Our CEO, Gunjan Soni, initiated and continues to send regular emails to keep all employees informed of the company’s strategic direction and business developments. Through our monthly town halls, everyone in the team also gets regular facetime with the company’s leaders, and can raise any questions or concerns directly to them. This openness has made all the difference in keeping the business agile. 

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

The sheer diversity of ZALORA’s workforce is a massive source of strength and differentiation for us, but it also means that our strategy has to effectively cater to the complexity and regional organisational structure of the business.

Our multi-disciplinary teams comprise different nationalities working across very diverse cultural contexts and environments, spanning Hong Kong to Indonesia. We, therefore, need to ensure that our initiatives express ZALORA’s culture consistently, while also taking into account each individual’s unique circumstances.

Listening closely to our people has never been more important given that context. Our 'Future of Work' strategy is grounded on feedback across all our markets, and it provides room for each to develop and adapt a local plan that balances our regional principles with local nuances and considerations. 

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

The ultimate measure has always been the agility and momentum of the business. On that front, ZALORA has continued to deliver sustained growth and stellar performance, and these are driven in no small part by the high levels of engagement across our team.

In our latest engagement survey across key markets, we recorded an 85% engagement score, relative to the global average of 70%. Importantly, over 91% of our employees feel satisfied or very satisfied at work. Throughout the pandemic, we have also heard numerous firsthand accounts from the team who appreciate being able to remain close to their loved ones as parents, spouses, or children – even while working remotely. That is what truly matters for a happy environment. 

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?

That cross-disciplinarity is both exciting and important. After all, a successful CHRO is first and foremost a business leader who champions the people agenda in their organisation, looking beyond the confines of the ‘function’ to place people at the core of everything the business does.

Secondly, a successful CHRO takes the time to listen and empowers their team to speak up. On that front, we implemented our 'Speak UP' programme to encourage the team to convey their feedback about workplace bullying, harassment or discrimination, and more, in order to keep ZALORA a safe space for all.

One must thus have the courage to break down any barriers and create more spaces for such engagement.

Thirdly, a successful CHRO must remain agile in adapting to the evolving needs of the team. Work-life harmony takes on different meanings for everyone, and these continue to evolve in response to our dynamic circumstances. This is why it is so important to continually assess and evaluate the effectiveness of everything we do, with the wellbeing of the team at the heart of our decision making.


Image / Provided 

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