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Jaci Edgeworth, Director of People Potential at Lululemon Athletica was a speaker at the Strategic Talent Management & Leadership Development Canada, which was held in Toronto, ON in July 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.

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Ms. Edgeworth took a contrarian point of view right off the bat by noting that she has an allergic reaction to HR terminology and lingo like “engagement.” At Lululemon Athletica, the culture is about immediate feedback and being real with people.  She thinks that people are going to trend away from social media in a move toward personal connections.

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Lululemon Athletica’s goal for leadership development is to focus on developing people to be leaders in the world. They do not put energy into things like building org charts that go beyond two deep for each key role.

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Lululemon started in 1998 with one store where they designed, developed and taught yoga courses, as well as selling yoga pants. As of this year, they are at $1B in revenue. Their number one hiring criteria is determining whether the candidate is someone you would want to hang out with outside of work.

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Luluemon espouses a culture of goals setting and accountability. They use Brian Tracy’s philosophy on goal setting for 1, 5 and 10 years. They want goals to go beyond business and to include health and personal goals. They hang these goals up for each employee and the # 1 reason people leave Lululemon is to achieve a goal. Over 90% say in exit interviews that they would recommend a friend to work at Lululemon.

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As a development experience, Lululemon sends employees to the Landmark Forum, which is considered a gift to employees after a period of time. This may be a bit controversial, but they support it as an element of culture. The program teaches people how to accept things that happen throughout their lives, and is not about business. For development, they use a library of books that Chip (the CEO and founder) have put forth as critical in his development.  Authors include Dan Pink, Brian Tracy,  etc.

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Lululemon’s growth strategy is ambitious. The next few years are projected to bring expansion of about 40 stores in U.S. in 2012, and 25 more in 2013, as well as expansion into Hong Kong and Northern Europe. The company’s biggest question is how they can maintain their culture in the midst of the growth.

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Lululemon has created the “Fund a goal” program as an incentive for high-performing employees. The idea is to pay for them to achieve a goal on their target list (e.g. sending the person to yoga teacher training).

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The organization constantly ask itself, “How do we move toward more direct feedback?” They talk a lot about being egoless, so that feedback can be “real.”  Being egoless is not a state promoted by training (question from a participant), but it is an aspiration that is talked about and modeled every day.

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Lululemon’s New Hire Profile consists of several elements, including the traits of being entrepreneurial, innovative, a risk taker, driven, open to learning new things, and hearing and taking feedback.

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The company is very slow to hire. They do group interviews to see how candidates interact and to see who takes a leadership role. After a group of candidates go through an interview, the company invites top candidates to a spinning or yoga class and from there they proceed to one-on-one interviews.

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One participant asked if they had an age profile. Ms. Edgeworth noted that their focus is Gen Y all the way… maybe even younger.

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Mark Walker is a director at i4cp and represented HRM Today as the official blogger for the Talent Management & Leadership Development Canada.

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