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HR delivering business improvements through innovation

Human resources is today much more about innovation, such as using social media and looking for new ways to engage with employees, than it is about simple cost-cutting, which makes for exciting times in the industry. By Glynn Davis


HR delivering business improvements through innovation

Human resources is today much more about innovation, such as using social media and looking for new ways to engage with employees, than it is about simple cost-cutting, which makes for exciting times in the industry. By Glynn Davis

Speaking at the 6th Retail Bulletin HR Summit in London this week Jo Leggett, resourcing manager at B&Q, told delegates there are “so many reasons to be excited” at the moment and pointed to social media as particularly interesting.

Using social media

“It’s got immediacy and is a massive opportunity to get authentic messages out about what it’s like to work at B&Q, which helps with the self-selection [of new recruits]. Some companies are hesitant to use social media but it’s fulfilling when people defend you on there,” she says.

This closer engagement with potential candidates has been extended to B&Q setting up an internal recruitment agency rather than solely relying on third-parties – which has not only improved the quality of the candidates but also as a by-product reduced costs.

Leggett says 90% of hires now come via the in-house recruitment route, which has reduced costs by 75%: “You know your own market better than anybody else and candidates like talking to somebody from within the business.”

As well as attracting people Tom Hadley, director of policy & professional services at Recruitment & Employment Confederation, says retailers also need to “get better at how they reject people by giving better feedback as this helps the [reputation of their] brand”.

Importance of brand values

Karen Beaven, HR director at River Island, says brand values are a vital component of a company when recruiting – especially when growing internationally where it will likely be an unknown quantity.

“Employees need to know the branding of the business they are working for as it has an impact on the employee experience and for customers. We need to send this brand messaging out across the business through different channels,” she explains.

Andrea Cartwright, director of HR at SuperGroup, knows all about the value of the brand for HR as she finds the power of the Superdry brand brings it 150,000 job applications per year. They are undoubtedly attracted to its young free spirited feel.

Build HR creatively

For Cartwright it has been a challenge to develop HR systems from scratch for the company over the past two years as she says: “We could build HR functions and capabilities but this could constrain the business. So what do you bring into a company without destroying its ‘can-do’ spirit?”

Her solution has involved focusing on the 99% of “amazing people” in the business and ignoring the 1% of employees with a “naughty bad attitude”, which has resulted in putting in limited bureaucracy and the removal of all jargon.

So rather than complicating things Cartwright has avoided things like job evaluation systems and variable payment schemes and has instead chosen to encourage ongoing dialogue between managers and their teams and to also focus more on “spontaneous recognition” for good work as she believes it is “the little things that make a difference”.

Improving engagement

This approach is certainly not going to be for every business – especially those with a different branding position and positioning in the market. Jenny Davidson, interim head of reward at Talk Talk, includes variable pay as an important component of the company’s rewards & recognition programme that she is putting in place as part of a drive to boost employee engagement, which she links directly to improved business performance.

Every employee has an annual bonus – based on 10 company-wide metrics – combined with another three metrics specifically related to the individual. They are then given their scorecard every month as part of the business’s drive to be “transparent and visible”.

Further to this, Davidson says the company has just launched a Total Reward statement that includes all the employees’ pay and benefits that is continuously updated. In addition to rewards & recognition, she says Talk Talk is developing its working environment, improving people development and upgrading its equipment, systems and processes that includes using mobile apps to communicate better with employees.

The overall objective of all this activity is to increase employee engagement from 73% as part of a strategic HR plan to move the company from being “good to great” as an employer.

Training for multi-channel world

Improving engagement with employees has also been a major aim of Guy Cattell, trading planning and Academy director at Morrison’s, who recently created the Morrison’s Academy to address this issue as well as improve motivation among employees and refresh the business’s commercial training curriculum.

“We wanted to improve colleagues’ capabilities as the grocery market is changing so much. We needed to make sure they could meet the challenge in a multi-channel way. The Academy has been business-led and HR-enabled,” he explains.

It involves 6,000 sq ft of flexible bespoke training space at the company’s head office in Yorkshire that is part of a move towards handling training in-house and adopting a fully blended approach.

“It’s classroom-based with digital assets used pre, during and post-training,” says Cattell, who reveals that the facility and new curriculum has quickly improved the company’s employee engagement score by 13% and driven a massive 934% increase in the number of people using its updated online Learning Management System.

Engaging employees to get closer to customers

There is also some serious change being driven by the HR team at Adidas where Tony Cooke, HR director at Adidas, says there is a major move taking place to engage better with the 55% of its 2,000 employees involved in the retail operation (as opposed to wholesale).

“There is a strategic plan for 2015 to 2017 to get more [of a presence] on the high street and 55% of our work-force need to play a role in this plan,” he says, adding that a number of initiatives have been put in place to achieve the objective.

These include: the creation of an academy for 20 people to fast-track through the company; giving retail employees access to all vacancies and not just to those people in head office; listening to employees more through a ‘Ask the Manager’ online application; and creating various recognition schemes.

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