Lenovo is continuing to add a mix of full-time and contractor employees as it expands its sales force and call center operations to meet growing customer demand, says the company’s top North America executive. Plus, to help attract and keep talent, Lenovo is remodeling part of a building at its three-structure campus “to offer all the things millennials love.”

Emilio Ghilardi, Lenovo’s president for North America, tells WRAL TechWire that the company now employs more than 3,000 people in the Triangle with the addition of the sales positions to its “Inside Sales Team.”

“We keep adding to our call center sales efforts to help customers better understand what type technology they need and then we connect them with the right reseller,” Ghilardi explained in an interview Thursday morning.

“We now have more than 400 people working there, and in the last three months we’ve added 40 to 50.

“We continue to scale,” he added, “because it’s an opportunity to connect with customers.”

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To help staff and motivate employees, Ghilardi also said Lenovo is remodeling a portion of a structure at Lenovo’s three-building campus.

“It will include a gym and all these things millennials love,” he said.

However, these sales positions are not what one would consider a typical call center position.

The “Inside Sales Team” is a key part of Lenovo’s strategy to boost North America sales. To broaden the appeal of those jobs, Lenovo is adding the gym.

“The new state-of-the art facility will be specifically designed for our Inside Sales team,” explained Lenovo spokesperson Milanke Muecke. “The new facility has been designed with the input from our millennial workforce representing our Inside Sales team and they wanted to have treadmills in the work area spaces, an outdoor running track and more.” (Lenovo already offers other employees a gym, Muecke notes.)

Ghilardi noted that 75 to 80 percent of the sales force are full-time Lenovo employees who are “very well compensated.” He noted that the remainder are contractors due to ebbs and flows of customer demand.

Plus, these sales force people have an opportunity to be placed on a career track at Lenovo.

“We hope to develop our sales leaders of tomorrow today,” he explained.

As part of their work experience, some of the sales force are sent into the field to not only get first-hand experience but also to meet with and get to know customers.

North America’s growth

The sales force growth comes as Lenovo continues to grow its Americas group business. Lenovo said in its earnings report breakdown that the Americas generated $3.06 billion in revenue this past quarter, posting a $38 million profit. The Americas outpaced China, which historically has been China-born Lenovo’s largest market.

In North America, Ghilardi pointed out with great enthusiasm that Lenovo continues to grow its PC penetration. “We’re now at 14.4 percent, up from 13 percent a year ago,” he noted. Perhaps more importantly, Lenovo expanded its sales margin to 5.3 percent from 4.8 percent year-over-year.

“It is very good enws for Lenovo, and even better news that we continue to outpace the market,” he said. “We now have 13 straight quarters of growth.”

Named to the North American post early in 2015, Ghilardi said the financials reflect “execution of the plan we announced exactly a year ago.”

The plan includes increasing attention on consumers. “We have gone from 6,000 retail outlets to more than 10,000” he pointed out.

And Lenovo isn’t ignoring online sales. For example, Lenovo worked with Amazon Prime to offer a sales promotion that led to 16,000 PC sales.

“That’s one data point but an example of the success we are having,” Ghilardi said.

But Ghilardi also stressed that Lenovo’s North America market share lags Lenovo’s world-leading 21 percent share.

“We have a lot of work to do to match that,” he noted.

Data Center news

The Data Center group, which is based in the Triangle near Lenovo’s campus, also grew revenues year-over-year to $1.086 billion from $1.077 billion. Sales also climbed some $24 million from the previous quarter.

However, the group reported a loss of $31 million after being profitable in the previous quarter and a year ago.

Ghilardi said the server group continues to “transition” from the IBM x86 deal two years ago. “That sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not,” he said.

Mobile challenges

In terms of Lenovo’s continuing woes in mobile (especially smartphones) and a $163 million quarterly loss, Ghilardi has little to do with that as part of his responsibilities. But he says the company remains committed to turning the business around.

“We have said before that the mobile platform market is very, very difficult to crack. it will take some time,” he explained.

“Long term, I see the right movement from the company.

“I’m not happy with the results, but from a strategic position Lenovo is where it wants to be.”