Interview: Superdrug people director Amy Davies
Here we chat to Superdrug people director Amy Davies about her role, the challenges for retail HR in these difficult times, and Superdrug’s recently launched employer brand that celebrates the diversity of a career in retail.
Previously head of people, Davies was promoted to the role of people director earlier this year.
Tell us about your background prior to joining Superdrug?
Before Superdrug I worked in various people team roles; I started in an employee relations role at Jaguar and Landover Cars. I then moved into employee relations looking after a team of 950 and working with the trade union and subsequently took on a labour strategy and employer engagement role which involved all things wellbeing, inclusion, and reward and recognition. This was the start of my passion for wellbeing and inclusion at work and these are areas which I really champion in my role at Superdrug.
How would you describe your job?
As director of people of Superdrug and Savers, I handle a broad remit, from traditional HR responsibilities such as hiring, culture, and employee support. I also collaborate with business partners to ensure we bring to life our core values, maintain the unique culture of both brands, and develop people strategies that help deliver on company expectations while also satisfying and supporting employees. The role is pretty data-driven and leadership-intensive and I spend a lot of time on the shop floor, in stores nationwide.
It’s been a difficult time for HR over the last three years; what do you see as the main challenges for the profession?
Recruiting and retention are top of mind. Competition for talent is intense and will only increase as businesses invest more in finding the right people for the job. Hiring is more competitive than ever before due to a shortage of talent, not to mention that the pandemic has impacted working life as we know it. People heads are having to figure out how to manage employees and maintain company culture across spaces and time zones, all while ensuring they’re up to date with the latest benefits packages and supporting employees with their mental health.
How are you planning to address those challenges?
We know how important it is to listen to our teams and stay connected to their views. Every industry is currently experiencing the same challenges so we’re mindful of ensuring we are a brand that people want to work for. From our culture to our key strategic pillars; development, inclusivity, and wellbeing, we work hard to stand out from the crowd. Unsurprisingly, we are focusing on how we support our teams with the current cost of living crisis and have enhanced our discounts for teams, as well as providing financial webinars to help those that need help in areas such as pensions, budgeting, and financial wellbeing.
What have retail HR leaders learnt from the pandemic?
The pandemic has taught us many lessons. As organisations rallied to respond to the crisis, the biggest challenge for the HR function was how to keep the workforce safe, motivated, and engaged. We managed the situation by being authentic, empathetic, and resilient. The major takeaway for me was to be agile/quick and being resilient in every approach, whilst ensuring wellbeing remained front of mind. Our teams were key workers during the pandemic, for me personally seeing the commitment and loyalty they showed us and our customers will stay with me for a long time.
A few months back, Superdrug launched a new employer brand to celebrate diversity and showcase the benefits of a career in retail. Can you tell us more about that?
We launched the ‘Where you can be you’ employer brand initiative to highlight the vibrancy and diversity of a career in retail. Putting current Superdrug employees centre stage, the campaign was created to showcase the benefits of a career at Superdrug and raise awareness of the varied roles available in retail. The campaign focuses on the fact that whatever your role, all that matters is that you can just be you. We want people to be able to be themselves at work and to be authentic as that’s when we get the best out of them and they are able to really shine.
I’m a strong believer that our people make Superdrug the business it is, and this campaign highlights the diversity of a career in retail. We nurture and develop talent across our teams and hearing the stories used in our campaign makes me feel proud to be part of such an incredible business.
We notice that Superdrug, and your sister brand Savers, have a very established apprenticeship scheme. Can you tell us more about that and any new developments?
Superdrug and Savers Apprenticeship Schemes have been running for over 15 years. The schemes take school leavers from an apprenticeship level 2 (GSCE equivalent) to level 6 (degree equivalent) and Superdrug has been recognised as the top Apprenticeship Employer in Retail. Since its launch in 2007, over 4,500 people have achieved qualification and since 2017, 30% of apprenticeship graduates have stayed within the Superdrug and Saver businesses.
We are passionate about offering the UK’s young people opportunities and our apprenticeship scheme is critical for developing talent for the future. Our aim is not only to give young people, but everyone, the best entry into retail that we can, but also to help them grow and develop in their roles, so they choose to progress their careers within our businesses. There are many opportunities at Superdrug and Savers from roles within retail, operations, healthcare, beauty services, distribution services and at Head Office, we look to support our colleagues so that they see a longevity in their career with us.
How are you fostering loyalty amongst your employees and keeping them engaged?
We understand that loyalty needs to be earned and have several principals to this end. We are very clear about our values and goals to ensure everyone is on the same page.
We care for and engage with our employees, as people first and then as workers. We keep a constant eye on work/life balance and look for regular opportunities to connect with them on a personal level as well as professional level, bringing teams together at conferences, and regular development and comms sessions.
We also have various reward and incentive programmes to show our appreciation and reward our teams with something that is meaningful to them. Employees go above and beyond when they know that they are viewed as more than a cog in the wheel – they are a person too with other responsibilities outside of work.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about retailers becoming ‘purpose led’ organisations. How can this be achieved?
As always, these trends are driven by changes in consumer behaviour. We know a huge percentage shop according to their values and feel strongly that companies should do more to preserve the environment. To build customer loyalty, retailers must be authentic in their purpose and transparent in their process. At Superdrug, we are very clear the difference we are making as a business – making beauty and health accessible for all, be that through our prices, our range, where you can shop and our sustainable own brand range.
Join us at Retail Bulletin’s glittering People in Retail Awards event on 21 September 2023. Further details on sponsorship, tickets sales and the awards entry criteria can be found here
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