Personnel Today's monthly series reveals how managers tackle business problems and enhance performance. In this issue, Peter Raine, from Superdrug Stores explains how a successful collaboration between an academic institution and a business organisation can improve business performance
Superdrug Stores, part of Kingfisher plc, is a leading health and beauty retailer with more than 700 stores, 13,000 employees and 4.5 million customer visits every week.
The University Centre for Business Transformation (UCBT) is an applied research centre within Anglia University's Business School. It provides consultancy support to large corporate organisations, SMEs and family-run businesses, as well as conducting academic and applied research in areas of direct business interest.
Over the past five years, Superdrug Stores has been working with UBCT to find a way of measuring company culture. Superdrug chose to work with an academic institution for a number of reasons.
The company trusted the expertise, methodology and independent approach offered by UBCT, and found it considerably more cost effective than employing a consultancy. It was keen to invest in facts, not opinions, and the focus on measurability offered by the university met that requirement.
Following an in-depth questionnaire sent to all Superdrug employees, the store and the business centre created fixed standards against which company culture could be measured. Employees of Superdrug were encouraged to rate certain factors within their working environment, to help build a complete picture of company life. Although this data was undeniably interesting, its practical applications were limited. The company has 700 stores, divided into 28 areas and three regions, and the original culture study only gave them an insight into company life area by area. This helped to paint a picture of regional averages, but it was only when the business centre was able to drill down to information at individual stores, that Superdrug really began to reap the rewards of its research programme.
Crucially, the new research unearthed a measurable link between company culture and its impact on business, customer satisfaction and profitability.