Tesco is the UK's largest retailer, with more than 470,000 employees across 14 countries. Noel O'Reilly talks to HR director Therese Procter about the challenges of managing such a large workforce. We also feature a video excerpt from the interview, in which Procter discusses talent in the organisation.
If you visit Tesco HR director Therese Procter at the retailing giant's head office in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, she may well point out the Braille panels in the lifts and on the doors of the offices. Hiring the company's first blind graduate is one of her proudest achievements. And when you leave the building, do not be surprised if Procter shows you the new-look staff rooms, designed by Tesco staff themselves.
These gestures tell you something about Procter's values and personal style. She became HR director in 2007, and there were rumours at the time that a £300,000 salary was on offer for the job.
Nevertheless, she comes across as enthusiastic and down-to-earth, and she laughs modestly when her high-profile predecessor, Clare Chapman, is mentioned. Chapman now heads HR at the NHS. But a look into Procter's past shows you that she too has a strong competitive streak, together with a habit of winning and an ability to go the distance. She was a talented athlete in her youth, and her county records in the 800m and 1,500m running events were only recently broken.
Procter left school at 16, and after a brief period at the Bank of England she joined Tesco as a stock manager in 1986 at the age of 18. She has since clocked up 24 years with the retailer. She moved into HR after several years in operational roles when she got the chance to run a leadership development programme across Europe.
Procter attributes Tesco's success to its simple corporate values: "No one tries harder for customers" and "Treat people how we like to be treated".
These apply both to customers and staff, and for the latter focus on teamwork, trust and respect, listening, supporting and saying thank you, and sharing knowledge and experience. One