Asda wins award for best HR strategy in line with business

Personnel
Today Awards 2001: The winner of Rebus HR award for best HR strategy in line
with business was The People Team from Asda. People director: David Smith.

What
they did

Asda’s
people team devised a strategy to deliver people able to "sell and serve
with personality" and offer craft skills in-store to offer the best
possible service to customers and improve the business’s profits.

The
people strategy is based on recruiting, training, motivating and retaining high
quality staff. Its priorities were to recruit the right calibre people with the
appropriate personality to serve customers in the fast-paced retail
environment, to be able to train key skills as effectively as possible in order
to meet business priorities, and to offer employees a motivational working
environment free from the traditional retailing command and control style.

Consequently,
among other things, 2,500 colleagues have been trained in a skill such as
butchery or floristry at the Asda Academy. All new managers train in one of the
eight stores of learning, and morale is regularly assessed through "We’re
listening surveys".

Why
they did it

Asda
implemented the strategy in order to gain a competitive edge. David Smith,
people director for Asda, says in retail it is necessary to gain a competitive
edge through people strategies that align with business performance delivery on
a daily basis.

"We
like to think about moments of service. The shopper can decide not to come back
because of one bad service interaction. Our objective is to deliver service
with real personality always," he says.

Paul
Mckinlay, head of people development for Asda, added that the strategy was also
aimed at tackling the problem of retention, which has traditionally been a
problem in the retail sector.

Benefits
and achievements

Asda
claims it is the number two food retailer in the UK market by share of sales
behind Tesco and was voted the fifth best employer and best large employer in
the Sunday Times survey of the top 50 UK employers. Asda was also the overall
winner of the Personnel Today 2000 awards. It claims to be the friendliest
superstore food retailer in perception data with its competition – achieved by
recruiting principally on personality, looking for people who enjoy interacting
with customers. Morale indices are rising year on year with 90 per cent of
employees reported to enjoy working at Asda, and 86 percent feeling properly
trained.

Why
they won

"The
team at Asda has an HR strategy that is right at the heart of the competitive
proposition that the company brings to its customers. The alignment of HR
strategy to the business is therefore very strong. It has also put in place a
number of supporting actions that indicate the approach is well embedded in the
business. The impact shows up though continually improving business results."
Judge: John McCarthy European partner
William M Mercer

Other
finalists

Barclays
Barclays Banking HR team

The
team developed a people strategy focusing on building leadership within the
business, convincing everyone of the need to change, investing in skills
development and introducing a wide range of performance management tools. The
training budget was increased by 40 per cent and an intranet-based
self-development toolkit can now be accessed via desktop PCs.

Astron
Organisational development team

Organisational
design focused on developing market-targeted teams responsible for a range of
services. The most senior member of one project team can be the most junior
member of another. Instead of a dedicated human resources department, each
employee is an HR officer and a critic, a coach, communicator and champion. The
business has grown from £13m to £100m.

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