Having worked across multiple regions in senior OD & HRD roles with organisations such as Nortel, Qantas & Optus, Gail Symons has been at the helm of HR for Jurlique for over a year now. We caught up with her to find out what she has been working on since she took on the role of Global Head of People & Culture and as one would expect, she has been busy. Getting her hands dirty…..on a farm no less!
Jurlique recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, how has the brand evolved since its inception 30 years ago?
Our brand retains its heritage as we continue to celebrate its birth place in the Adelaide Hills, with our farm where we grow our herbs and flowers, and with our factory and supply chain operations based there. Starting from an Australian beginning, we have now globalized with 1000 points of sale across concept stores, department stores, our online store, distributors and travel retail partners across 20 countries.
One of our founders remains an ambassador of our brand and she was involved in our 30th anniversary celebrations. She says that in 30 years, the brand has retained its purpose (to inspire wellbeing through connection with nature), its authenticity and its commitment to sustainability and the environment. While evolving to a global business, we have stayed true to the belief that nature is the answer. We continue to believe that there is no more powerful force than nature and it offers the original and ultimate source of beauty.
Gail, you joined Jurlique as Head of People and Culture in 2015; what is the strategic direction of the business and what key initiatives you have undertaken so far?
The business is focussed on growing sustainably, with strategic development of our China and European business while maintaining our number 1 position as a premium natural skin care brand in our home market.
When I joined, I had the privilege of going around the whole business to listen to what our people felt was great about this business and what could be improved. I asked them what they would have me do as leader of the function. We focussed our key initiatives around their feedback:
A) Connecting and engaging with the whole business via a global communications platform.
B) We have defined the Jurlique employee value proposition for the first time and are in the process of aligning this to our revised customer value proposition to deliver an end to end retail experience. The EVP will drive a consistent recruitment and on boarding experience across the globe and other parts of the employee life cycle.
C) we implemented measures to drive a performance based culture including objective alignment, talent and performance mapping.
D) We aligned our incentive programme globally
E) Given we are so geographically dispersed, we focussed on robust governance practices and foundational P&C processes which can stand the test of time zones, cultural differences and market practices. The aim was to have global consistency while tailoring to local market laws and practices. It has been quite a challenge to find the balance! For example, we recently tested a crisis management plan which was executed by my team. It was our first drill across so many time zones and locations, and we were pleasantly surprised!
F) As the business has globalized we have also needed to do significant organisation design both within our local markets and within the P&C team to support these changes.
What was the impetus to create the Seed campaign?
‘The Seed’ is our global communications hub. It came about because our people told us they felt a lack of connection with each other across the globe and from the heart of our brand in Adelaide; information flow was slow and inconsistent and people were unclear how to contribute to the global business. We wanted to create a hub which harnessed our collective passion for success and to drive global collaboration towards business outcomes.
‘The Seed’ contains messages from the leadership team, information, stories, celebrations and business updates. All markets around the world provide input to connect people to each other and the business. New starters are globally introduced on ‘The Seed’. Even of one our executive search partners recently got in on the act and sent us pictures of a corporate organic garden on top of a very big skyscraper in Hong Kong!
Were there any surprises that arose from the baseline research & surveys you carried out?
In addition to our own conversations with our people and our employee survey, our partner agency (Eight Steps West) carried out focus groups and research in key locations. And yes, there were some surprises. People said they didn’t feel connected to the overall purpose of the business, particularly those markets furthest removed from our centre. There was a perception that decision making was slow, vision and direction of the overall business wasn’t clear and that we have a global family which operated within silos.
The Seed campaign tells a great brand story. What impact has it had on the people and culture within the business?
We used Positive engagement measures such as usage rates and average time per session that people spend exploring The Seed pages. These have steadily been increasing. At first, all content into The Seed came from my team, however now we have seen a significant shift in participation from our local markets who also post content. It’s also pleasing that we have higher take up rates in our markets such as Hong Kong and the US since The Seed was created to connect people everywhere. We have now stopped other forms of communication so that our messaging is consistent and culturally aligned, coming from one source. I love over-hearing people across the business talk about The Seed and things posted on The Seed as if it’s been around forever!
Additionally, our biggest challenge in being a geographically dispersed business is connecting our people to the farm, the spiritual home of our brand. It is clearly not feasible or practical for every one of our people to visit the farm in real life. Yet all who visit are imbued by its magic and come away inspired and excited. We needed to find a way to get that emotion and magic felt by all our people. In collaboration with Eight Steps West, we created a virtual reality immersion to deliver magic, connection with nature and passion of our people. This was a farm tour with a difference…
The impact has been amazing and better than we imagined. In addition to being a recruitment and on-boarding tool, our business leaders want to use the VR immersion experience for PR events, Customer experiences and other vendor relationships. One of our leaders recently popped into a room full of front line people in Shanghai and asked them what they were doing. One beauty expert replied ‘we’ve just been to the farm’.
This video was created by Eight Steps West and is the Intellectual Property of Jurlique
Have you seen a change in talent retention or attraction rates?
We have recently stabilized our global attrition rates, particularly in our Hong Kong business, and particularly at the front line. We have seen a significant increase in applications for new roles and we have significantly reduced our reliance on third party vendors for attraction strategies.