In 2006, I reviewed the learning and development (L&D) resources at John Lewis. I wanted to see what was already in place, and how it would help with our expansion programme. I needed to identify what our partners (as staff are known at John Lewis) needed to be able to develop, and to understand how our structures were supporting that development.
I soon realised that our 26 branches were addressing their needs in 26 different ways. That’s when we came up with Horizons, which covers four key areas, available to all of our 30,000 partners: leadership development technical development (non transferable skills, for instance, catering) career development through assessment and induction. With Horizons, we hoped to support and develop future managers and leaders through their own personal development, and to give transparency to career progression.
We started by sitting down with our HR teams. I wanted to make sure that people had an opportunity to understand what we were trying to do, because culturally, we were going to change learning and development at the organisation. We would be removing branch autonomy and providing teams with a set process and framework.
The result has been fantastic. In implementing Horizons, the L&D teams have been able to create real communication, not only with head office, but between the regions, sharing best practice. And partners feel empowered – they can use Horizons in a way that fits the guidelines, but keep the autonomy to make their own decisions. That’s been really important, because we’ve wanted to encourage ownership.
I’ve been absolutely elated with the way in which people have taken on the challenge – because it hasn’t been straightforward. The buy-in is absolutely amazing. And we’ve still got some time to go. Our deadline for ‘business as usual’ is September 2008.
I’ve just won a partner achievement award for the role that I’ve played within the business, but that couldn’t have been achieved without the whole team, and I’m delighted that our work has been recognised.
With Horizons, we’ve got a purpose and we’ve got a brand. People are now phoning me up and saying: “This is what we’ve done with Horizons so far, but how can we make it even better? How can we get more buy-in?” For me, that is absolutely tremendous.
I don’t own Horizons – it’s not mine – but I do feel it’s part of the business, part of what John Lewis is trying to do. It’s amazing.
Do your research
Set clear objectives from the outset
Communicate your plans properly – and to everyone involved