Champions of a Culture

As Rich’s Director of International Human Resources, Steve Kalicharan has traveled the world, visiting various company operations spread around the globe.  The moment he walks through the door of a Rich’s location, Kalicharan says he knows instantly that he is among family.

“I know I’m in a Rich’s facility because of the way the people there take care of you – they’re really excited to see you and they go out of their way to make sure you’re comfortable and treated right.  It just makes you feel at home and part of the family,” Kalicharan explained.  “It’s this caring, family culture that makes Rich’s so unique, and you see it consistently among associates across all our regions.  There are no hidden agendas and the people in this company interact in such an honest way.  There’s a high level of respect for each other everywhere you go.”

He gives a lot of credit to the company’s global team of “Rich Promise Champions.”  The role of each Rich Promise Champion is to promote the organization’s five core family values – Cherish Our Culture, Innovate, Be the Trusted First Choice, Better Our Communities, and Do What’s Right – and communicate to colleagues, both locally and globally, the various ways Rich’s associates uphold each value.

“Those values are not just a sign on the wall,” Kalicharan said.  “Our Rich Promise Champions all over the world live and breathe our five values and bring them to life.”

The company ensures that associates throughout the organization are kept informed about and engaged with those values.  For example, to recognize innovation, Rich’s during its annual Founder’s Day celebration also announces the winners of its internal “Spirit of Innovation” awards, which are presented to individuals or teams across the global enterprise best demonstrating the “think-outside-the-box” entrepreneurial spirit of company founder Robert E. Rich.  The awards recognize those who have identified breakthrough improvements or created trailblazing ideas or services.

“We’re known for celebrating accomplishments,” admitted Kalicharan.  “We have very strong communication vehicles that allow us to share how we live out the five values across the organization.”

The Rich Promise itself is another living reminder of the company’s unique culture.  It states, “We will treat our customers, our associates and our communities the same way: like family.”  The Promise serves as a pledge that Rich’s will hold itself to the highest family values in everything it does.

Great Leader Drivers

Kalicharan first joined Rich’s in 2006, as the head of Human Resources in South Africa.  There he developed strategies to deliver on company business objectives for talent management, leadership development and associate engagement.

In his expanded, international HR post, he plays a pivotal role in how Rich’s builds its corps of bright leaders.  “We’ve put a lot of focus on leadership development, to the extent we’ve been changing our leadership culture,” stated Kalicharan.  “We’ve been busy cascading the ‘Great Leader Drivers’ introduced by (company President & CEO) Bill Gisel in 2010 throughout the organization.”

Rich’s Great Leader Drivers guide its talent management and associate development processes.  They serve as a company model for defining the characteristics of true leadership at Rich’s and for connecting associate strengths with organizational needs.  There are 10 primary behavioral elements of the Great Leader Drivers – five for leaders to drive associate performance and five for them to drive associate engagement.

“Our soft approach has been to show how the behaviors outlined in the Great Leader Drivers benefit associates and the organization,” Kalicharan explained.  “It’s an informal process that moves from socialization to conversation to compliance to commitment and then, finally, to conviction.  When they reach the conviction stage, the leaders don’t need to be told how to behave; the Great Leader Drivers become part of their DNA and it’s just second nature, the norm.”

“Naturally,” he continued, “different regions around the world reach these stages within varying time frames.  But our leadership teams, including the Rich family, do a great job of engraining the company culture all over the world.  On top of that, we’ve been witnessing some positive changes in leadership measurements we take in our associate engagement surveys – a sign the ship is moving in the right direction