Founded in 1997 by husband and wife team Judith and Hernan Balcazar, Wall Luxury Essentials is a fashion retailer offering its own range of designer clothing, primarily aimed at women aged 35 and above. The company began life as a bricks and mortar operation, with a shop in London’s Notting Hill area, but in 1999 the founders launched their first catalogue and this was followed by a move into e-commerce a year later. In 2012 the company used the Santander Internships programme to source a graduate for an important HR project.
Wall had been enjoying a period of steady growth but the company’s HR processes had not kept pace with the demands of an expanding multi-channel business. “In particular, we needed to look at our job descriptions across all the departments,” Judith says.
It was a very necessary review: without accurate job descriptions in place, training new members of staff could take longer than necessary, and this in turn could affect the company’s ability to work efficiently when taking on new staff. However, with everyone within the organisation already working at full capacity, the business required an additional – and expert – pair of hands to undertake the HR review. The Santander Internships programme offered the ideal solution.
The Internships scheme enables growing companies to access the talents of entrepreneurially minded students and recent graduates for placement periods of three months. During that time the intern brings his or her talents to bear on a specific project with the goals clearly laid out in a job description. A successful placement will see the student/graduate gaining genuine business experience while delivering tangible benefits to the company.
Wall selected George Laganas, an economics graduate with a master’s qualification in HR. As Judith recalls, the selection process was rigorous. “It was a very substantial project and we required someone with analytical skills, the ability to see problems and address them in an organised way, and the ability to communicate those issues to us.”
The selection process – in part facilitated by Santander – included not only an interview, but also psychometric assessment and a test devised by Judith herself. “George scored brilliantly,” she says.
Over the following three months, George set about reviewing the company’s HR processes and job descriptions, while assessing the skills currently available and those that might be required in the future. “Thanks to George we were able to look at our processes across all the departments in a joined-up way. When we looked at what people were doing we could see the gaps and also the areas where there was duplication. We were also able to identify areas where we might need to recruit,” says Judith.
If there were benefits for the company, Judith also believes that the placement offered a rich experience for the intern. “I think it gave him experience in terms of not only doing the work but also seeing results. It also introduced him to the realities of working on projects in a workplace setting where there are restrictions on time and available finance, and where you’re also dealing with changing circumstances and trading conditions.”
Looking back on the experience, Judith remains hugely enthusiastic about the outcome of the internship. “It really couldn’t have worked out more successfully for us,” she says.
And it was successful for George Laganas too. Having completed the project he has now joined the Wall team as a permanent member of staff.