Interview conducted on July the 27th 2018.
The conjunction of two cultures, a common approach of a single customer and real opportunities of growth: these are the ingredients of LG Electronics Spain. In the dog days of summer, we talk with its HR Director, Juan Tinoco, and Luis M. Moral, HR Business Partner of Sales, Marketing and SCM (Supply Chain Management).
What makes the persons at LG so special?
[Juan] Our president, Jaime de Jaraíz, has created a motto or slogan which perfectly defines us and which differentiates us from other companies: “Sometimes ordinary people do extraordinary things”. We all love this phrase and we identify ourselves with it because at LG the keynote is humbleness and comradeship: teamwork, in essence. We are all different and we’re capable of recognising the strengths and unique contributions of each person… What makes us unique is how we achieve this culture at LG, this unique approach and these results. Our business philosophy is what makes us unique and what provides us with external recognition.
While I studied, I worked for LG and subsequently for other competitors, promoting brown goods in department stores and I remember visiting a Korean delegation of your company. They spent five of six hours a day in the shopping centre, including Saturdays and Sundays, analysing islands and corners, the light, the distances among products, the possibility that a competitor gathers pace… The absolute implication they had with their products seemed incredible to me.
[Juan] LG is the best possible result of the alliance between the Korean and Spanish cultures. And that makes us also unique. We’re a perfect conjunction of the best version of our team of professionals formed by Korean, Spanish and 17 other nationalities in LG España. Thanks to that, we’ve developed very powerful local practices from Sales to Human Resources, which provide us credibility within the organisation and which allow us to have autonomy to propose different matters. For instance, we’re pioneers within the corporation to global scale in initiatives of Employer Branding and talent development. These local practices are so pioneer that they serve as an example for other branches of the rest of the world.
You have a very powerful weapon: the sales forces. Which attributes do you value at the time of selecting a profile for this area?
[Juan] Each area has a concrete need depending on the client they attend to. But in the moment of selecting profiles for us, we value normality and common sense. In the Sales area we need and have people specialised in understanding the customer’s reality. I don’t mean to understand what the client thinks but to put themselves into the customer’s shoes, thinking like one of them, “being” the customer self. If the client is highly sophisticated, we’ll be so; luckily, our partners are also normal people with worries and common interests, and they need you to understand how they are. And here LG also differentiates from others, and in that way we are externally recognised: we’re much closer than our competitors. We’re proud of it.
An example of this is the project of Atlético de Madrid and its stadium, Wanda Metropolitano, a state-of-the-art facility and global reference. Each and every day since the adventure began, almost three years ago, the relationship between our professionals and the football team has been very close. The same day of the inauguration, the LG team was there, sharing jitters and supporting the team in any operational detail required. We wanted to ensure everything went right. In any other company, maybe the Sales area would have been watching the game from the gallery, however, the LG team dedicated themselves to the workers who were installing and revising all the technical data. For LG and the Club, it was the completion of an extensive common project. That’s how we deal with projects at LG: we consider projects, as long as their setbacks and joys as our own.
Do you differentiate among the attributes required for a salesperson or a marketeer or a worker of any other area?
[Luis] Every worker of the company takes part in the common challenge of being the number one choice for Spanish consumers and one of the best-selling and most reputed brands in our country. It is a matter of pride and a constant challenge. Whatever the contracted profile and the responsibility within the organisation, it is clear to all of us that the ultimate goal is larger than the one we are able to meet daily in our tasks. From the Head of Finance to the Head of Marketing or to myself, in Human Resources, we all work for a larger objective, i.e. the sustainable growth of the company. Obviously, in each department, we search for certain attributes, the kind of person or how they fit within the team but we always look at a larger goal.
[Juan] The approach in business is important but I’ll like to emphasise also the cultural adequacy, both in the company and the team and the line manager of each position. We search for profiles who fit and contribute to the business but who are also resilient and flexible to VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) environments. Our business has sudden changes, continuous closings, even weekly. After launching a product to the market in a short space of time, its value is modified, the competence has reacted… It is so dynamic that there are people who come from businesses with a much longer maturation process and experience a strong cultural shock. What in other places takes a year, here it takes a month and a half. What do we demand from a candidate? To be able to identify the huge development potential and the countless possibilities that we offer at our house.
[Luis] Entering in a new company is like getting to the sea for the first time. As a candidate and even as a worker after entering the company, you may try to stop the waves with both hands… Or you may catch a wave and make the most of it. This is our philosophy: whoever catches a wave, whoever begins working at LG and shares its values will enjoy, learn and develop because there are many opportunities.
And which are the challenges that the market presents regarding the personnel selection?
[Juan] We may indicate the inbreeding of the market. Nevertheless, the challenges have not changed in recent times and they’re not different from those of other companies. For us, the keystone is how LG is positioned as an employer, to be coherent with its values and also to be able to transmit it to the exterior. Thus, I think this is more an internal than an external challenge. Accordingly, LG as an employer offers a raft of benefits (which are highly appreciated by our workers who consider us one of the best companies to work at in Spain), but most importantly because we offer development opportunities.
Personally and as the HR Director, I usually talk about the formula 70-20-19, in which I firmly believe. The worker who belongs to the LG project leaves the company with a larger background, full of initiatives and challenges which are probably unique in his/her professional career. Plus, the satisfaction to have made the most of them.
Please tell me, in your personal case, what has implied for you to work at LG.
[Luis] In my case, I began working with a scholarship 13 years ago. I can affirm without a doubt that LG has been my whole professional career. I had the opportunity to work abroad for 14 months in a moment that international mobility was not very extended. Being able to watch the company’s DNA in another country and culture allowed me to compare among branches and I enjoyed discovering a unique way of doing things at the Spanish branch. As Juan said earlier: in Spain we excel in merging both the Korean and Spanish cultures.
In my case, I started right from the bottom and therefore, I have been able to manage all kinds of tasks within the HR Department, from more administrative tasks or daily activities to take the lead and develop new projects or to participate in important decisions… All this translates in an important growth, both personal and professional.
My friends always say that I have been a long time in the same company and my answer is always the same: for me, every year is different. I cannot recall two years in a row in which I have not been issued different challenges or I have not been forced to leave my comfort zone. From my point of view, that’s a huge strength as a company. LG is a company where you can easily extend your responsibilities and constantly involves you in new projects; this unlimited opportunity of growing and developing turns into a huge sense of belonging and responsibility towards the company. You end up feeling the company like your own in many different aspects, which I consider something unique for the worker and for the company itself.
[Juan] For me, LG has probably been one of the biggest lessons in my career in regards to diversity understanding and management. I have worked in European, American and Spanish companies… And now, from my Asian company, I hold a greater understanding in this matter.
When I arrived at LG I had to face the challenge of making such different cultures to coexist and work together in a common excellence objective. So I also grew as a professional. Moreover, I have had the incredible opportunity of explaining my experience in different forums, which is a great chance for any company: I have led forums of Employer Branding as Top Employer, Great Place to Work, Actualidad Económica (Financial News) among many other conventions. And I was able to ascertain a huge interest in understanding how we managed this process of convergence of cultures.
You were mentioning before that LG is a pioneer in initiatives of employing brand. Please explain what kind of actions you have put in place.
[Juan] We’ve worked intensively to position ourselves in the top of mind, to lead the way as one of the favourite companies by the best Spanish minds. And I sincerely believe that this effort is paying off. For instance, in an informal meeting with a newly-incorporated partner, he mentioned how proud he was of the company and how he felt comforted among us.
It’s a work we do inside out and which begins with the relationship itself between the several managers and the teams, both direct or indirect. For many years we have been promoting breakfasts between the CEO and all of our employers, as a relaxed and informal point of contact to talk and get to know each other. Soon after we extended this initiative to the rest of the Board of Directors. This year we have pursued the same concept but only between the HR Department and those persons who may have issues and wish to deal with them in private. These kind of initiatives are a clear example of the internal work we do, which are unthinkable in other companies.
Another good example is our system of analysis results and learning. When we have the results of the certifications, we conduct an internal review and all workers participate by means of a focus group, which attempts to identify clear opinions and to get average value about the internal climate. Ultimately, we launch many different digital and face-to-face initiatives, which promote the dialogue with the current employers of our company and act as external ambassadors of the quality of the human relationships at LG and its image as employer company.
We have been lucky to get to know working with you and we’d like to know what kind of difficulties you faced before outsourcing a position such as the B2B KAM for hospitals.
[Luis] It was a critical profile for the development of the company and for that reason we believed that our specialisation was the base element in the recruiting process. As the HR Department, we specialise in the consumption technological area and we’re considerably growing in the B2B channel with all kinds of profiles. However, in this case, we dealt with a highly specific product in a sector we still need to deepen and we considered that it was essential to incorporate an expert and trustworthy partner, such as yourselves.
How was such a selection process developed?
We greatly valued the fact that you understood what we required from the very first moment and that you immediately understood our objective. In barely two weeks I had a candidate longlist and in spite of the fact that we faced several setbacks, we haven’t seen any delays. Also, the reports define the candidates incredibly well and only with a quick reading, we were able to identify the perfect candidate for the KAM position in Clinical Research Associates. You have demonstrated a perfect knowledge of the sector and the channel and you’ve succeeded with both candidates. Your professionalism has encouraged us to repeat the experience with you in another process.