‘Open’ culture stems staff turnover at Pret

turnover at food retailer Pret à Manger fell by 30 per cent last year due to a
new culture of innovation in the company.

Head of HR Bruce Robertson said turnover had fallen from 120 per cent to 90 per
cent in a year. He explained that, although still high, the level is below the
average for the sector.

Pret à Manger focused on making the company culture friendly, open and
cooperative for its 2,300 staff.

Each recruit attends a culture workshop within a month of joining the
company. Robertson defined culture as the "glue that binds together an
organisation", and quoted Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back as "it
surrounds us, binds us, holds everything together".

Each potential new member of staff spends a day in one of the 108 Pret à
Manger outlets before their final interview.

The decline in staff turnover has been helped by the company paying higher
than the competition at £4.75 an hour.

Robertson told delegates on the Oriana that 75 per cent of team members in
London come from mainland Europe in order to learn English.

As soon as the company realised that many staff were paying £120 for six
weeks of English language tuition and then returning home, it established a
scheme whereby employees who stayed with the retailer for more than three
months could apply for six weeks of lessons for £60.

Fast food chain McDonalds signed a deal with Pret à Manger in March to
become a 33 per cent minority shareholder in the company to aid the British
company’s expansion in the US.

Robertson said that management talked directly to staff to reassure them
that it would not prompt adverse cultural change.

By Catriona Marchant

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