Motivation: how to keep your staff on side

The Queen, film icon Marilyn Monroe, blue-coiffed cartoon character Marge Simpson and Star Trek’s stern-faced but sexy Lieutenant Uhura. Not women with much in common, it would seem. But they’ve all appeared at Domino’s Pizza staff parties, albeit in the guise of chief executive Chris Moore.

Lest you think Moore is the type, as Monty Python would have it, to ‘put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars’ – or pizza parlours – this is all part of the Domino’s ethos.

In this article…

A people business

Emphasis on fun

Key role for HR

Feeling the heat

Since the 1960s, staff have got together to belt out the company chant – “Who are we? Domino’s Pizza. What are we? Number one. What’s our goal? Sell more pizza, have more fun.”

Moore, who has been with Domino’s for 18 years, is a firm believer in fun. He gets up in the morning and looks forward to coming to work and believes that his staff do, too. And he’s certainly selling more pizza – £18.7m-worth, pre-tax, for the year ending 30 December 2007 – a third up on the previous year.

A people business

Domino’s is based on a simple proposition – delivering a great pizza in 30 minutes – which Moore says is extraordinarily difficult to implement. The company relies on its franchisees, having sold off its remaining Domino’s-owned stores. There are 514 franchised stores in the UK and Ireland and the plan is to increase that to 1,000 by 2017.

There are 300 members of staff, based at its Milton Keynes headquarters and at smaller facilities in Penrith,  which serves areas from the Midlands to Inverness, and at Naas, in County Kildare, which serves stores in Ireland. And franchisees and their employees bring the number of team members to 12,000. Hitting the 1,000 stores target will require an increase in support staff (based at the three centres) by up to 500 and a rise in team members to 25,000.

Asked for evidence of his commitment to the people in his business, Moore talks at length and with pride of the rigorous selection process for franchisees.

Apart from showing they have money to invest (£240,000 for the first store, dropping to £190,000 for subsequent outlets), potential franchisees have to go through an initial interview with the franchise sales team, then spend a minimum of a week working in a Domino’s Pizza store, before a final interview with a panel that, nine times out of 10, will include the chief executive. Successful franchisees sign up for a decade, and as Moore says: “We need to live with these people for 10 years, so why take the chance?”

He admits, however, that this attention to detail hasn’t always been present.

“We have gone through different stages in the past where our intention was to get as many franchisees as possible, to open up stores in different places. Now we’re at a different stage in our growth where we need to ensure that, from now on, every store that we bring into the Domino’s fold is a quality addition to the group.”

Another consideration is managing the company’s growth. By 2017, Moore intends his 1,000 stores to be operated by a maximum of 200 franchisees. He wants neither the one-store only people nor the portfolio investors. He’s looking for dedicated team members who buy into the Domino’s culture, who are looking for the American dream, but in the UK or Ireland.

Unlike many chief executives, Moore remains upbeat about recruitment challenges, saying that although he would have agreed that they existed in 2004, he sees less and less of a problem today. He feels there will always be migrant workers keen to work in catering, but admits: “It will be interesting to see what the government does with its immigration policy.”

Having more fun

Moore concedes that keeping franchisees engaged is relatively easy, given their own financial and emotional commitment to Domino’s – not to mention their signature on the contract.

Head office staff are offered what Moore considers “a generous package” – including complimentary massages twice a month. As part of the ‘having more fun’ sentiment, Domino’s throws two annual staff parties – Armageddon Junior and Armageddon Senior, which involves up to 400 revellers and focuses on recognition and reward.

And each year Domino’s gives Rolex watches to those staff who have made the most outstanding contribution to the business – although the sight of Moore in fancy dress may be enough of a reward.

Previous watch winners have included the pizza chef responsible for coming up with new menu combinations and an IT worker responsible for a development that brought substantial cost savings.

Moore believes his staff enjoy coming to work because of the autonomy they’re given, while acknowledging that not everyone – or every role – is suited to it. He is convinced that the high level of autonomy stems mainly from the length of time people stay with Domino’s – the average tenure in the three top management tiers is nine years.

Key role for HR

Domino’s has a small HR team, just seven people, headed by director Jane Roberts. The team deals with the office-based staff, becoming involved with the franchisees only in the case of what Moore refers to as ‘people issues’. He believes HR should be represented on company boards and demonstrates HR’s importance to Domino’s through the role the team will have to play in the planned expansion.

At the beginning of 2007 the management team realised that, although it had done well to establish a system of benefits for head office staff, it wouldn’t be possible to replicate this for franchisees. The team set about establishing an employee brand and recruited someone to promote it to the store-based staff.

Feeling the heat

Last year, Domino’s was lambasted for its treatment of foreign franchisees and their staff (see above), and Moore and his team have been quick to implement measures that will help them avoid a repeat performance. Key among these is the company’s work with HR and health and safety consultancy MJL, which has been brought in to manage procedures, including the provision of a 24-hour franchisee advice line and indemnity against any advice provided.

Domino’s team members will also be able to access an e-learning package and an online reporting and information system that will help ensure that franchisees arecompliant with legislation.

Much of the information is available in franchisees’ native languages – Moore is insistent that there can be no room for misinterpretation. He is philosophical about an incident last year, where it was claimed Hungarian saff were being exploited (see box above), pointing out that it was bound to happen to someone in the catering sector. He claims the new system leaves Domino’s in a great position, with a system that is “way more advanced than anything else”.

Moore sees political correctness in the workplace as “an unfortunate reality of what today’s business world has become”.

One of his key frustrations surrounding HR professionals is that they are spending so much time dealing with petty issues that they can’t see the wood for the trees.

“Great HR people,” he says, “have the ability to stand back and take much more of a helicopter view of the situation.” And the best piece of advice he’s ever been given by an HR director? That would be “count to 10” – or possibly “sleep on it – and rewrite it in the morning”.

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