Employee engagement is a key tool for employers that want to attract and retain staff, but does a large number of employees make it more difficult to engage successfully with all of them? Judith Nelson, Tesco's UK personnel director, reveals the steps the company has taken to boost its employee engagement.
Tesco has the UK's largest private sector workforce - 295,000 employees, each with their own individual needs and expectations as to their work and career. Listen and Fix is the biggest listening exercise Tesco has ever undertaken. Our objectives in undertaking it were to make Tesco a better place to shop and work via a more engaged workforce, and to gain a deeper understanding of what really mattered in all areas of the business: in our stores and distribution; at Tesco.com and Tesco Bank; and at our head office.
Judith Nelson, UK personnel director, Tesco.
Getting the views of our staff is by no means new to Tesco - we run an annual staff survey called Viewpoint. This is very thorough but it asks staff to score specific aspects of working for us, whereas 2011's Listen and Fix was much less prescriptive. It simply asked: "What do we need to fix?" and "What gets in the way of you doing a great job for our customers and supporting each other?"
Low barrier to participation
Listen and Fix was also aimed at facilitating two-way communication and used digital technology to optimise that process. Employees were invited to send in their thoughts by text or email, which meant a low barrier to participation. Leaders responded through texts, voicemails, the intranet, blogs and in-store communications.
The company that helped us with the process told us to expect a response rate of about 3%, but we had responses from around 7% of staff - more than 40,000 people. We ended up with a very detailed, granular set of data.
All responses were anonymous - the only thing we asked for was either the store number or the name of their division director. The feedback was collated and categorised. Then a Tesco team analysed it and identified key issues for either local or central action.
Each store manager or director received the comments relevant to them, so they could tackle what mattered locally. Around a quarter of the issues raised have been fixed in this way.
The remainder were dealt with centrally, and the "helicopter view" provided by Listen and Fix has been immensely useful. We found that three-quarters of the comments related to just 125 broad issues; some were less surprising than others, but what was powerful was being able to rank them. An issue might seem insignificant in one shop, but when two thousand shops are telling you the same thing you know it needs to be dealt with.
We realised that the scale of the exercise would raise expectations and that we would have to find the budget to deliver on these, but once the results came in and the collective voice of the company had spoken, we were confident that we were taking the right action in the right place at the right time.
There has been a significant investment across the business as a result of Listen and Fix. Much of this has gone on equipment or "tools to do the job" - we spent more in 2011-12 than in the previous four years.
For example, we identified a need for new checkout headsets; now we can be sure all checkout staff are properly equipped in this area. We also ordered 250 coffee machines and 42 dishwashers for staff areas in the stores that needed them most.
We have not yet been able to tackle every issue that has been raised, but we have plans in place to address many more over the coming year, including improving how we listen to staff in the future.
Listen and Fix is not about packaging a message - it is about making sure there is unequivocal, direct, two-way communication. Leaders asked employees what the issues were and then acted on the answers. Employees saw improvements in their own stores and received regular communication about business-wide action. Emails and focus-group feedback have told us that staff feel listened to by their leaders; if you walk into a store you will hear the same thing.
Listen and Fix is now a flexible brand with great recognition. We have not set in stone how we will use it in the future but we do know that we have a powerful tool for employee engagement and that everyone who works here is better off as a result.