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ENGAGING WITH OUR STAFF: Connect, Converse & Congratulate

We conduct annual employee engagement surveys across the head office population and all distribution centres, and are extending these to our Travel and High Street store management population. The results are shared with all staff and actions agreed to respond to specific points of feedback. As part of ‘The Forum’, elected departmental representatives meet quarterly, in our London and Swindon offices to improve two-way communication within the business and provide a channel for sharing ideas about how to make the office a better place to work.

We hold quarterly employee briefings where the leadership team present updates on business strategy, as well as regular team briefings, intranet sites and regular e-newsletters. These various communications provide an opportunity to update staff on the Company’s performance, to celebrate and recognise success and to provide a forum for staff to ask questions of the senior management team.

Our weekly Hall of Fame gives an opportunity for peer to peer recognition when a colleague has really gone the extra mile. In addition, each Director has a dedicated budget to say a spontaneous Thank You to a colleague. During the year, we launched a further employee recognition scheme in both our Travel and High Street businesses, Shining Stars. Each department nominated and voted for their department’s “Shining Star”. These individuals were then recognised at the annual Shining Stars awards event when we celebrate their achievements with the whole senior management team and head office population. This year, 24 employees received Shining Stars awards.

We also celebrate the achievements of our store staff as they work hard to deliver our business plans and strategies. During November, December and January, we run the WHSmith Store Heroes scheme. The scheme recognises hundreds of employees based on their accomplishments at work. We also operate an Annual Store Awards programme, including Most Improved Store, Store of the Year, Store Manager of the Year, Area Manager of the Year and a Special Recognition Award. In High Street these are awarded and celebrated at our Christmas Conference, and in Travel at our Store Conference in May. This year, we have also extended our awards and celebration evenings to Team Leaders, starting, in July, with our very first Gatwick and Heathrow Team Leader Awards evening, celebrating the successes and achievements of our 50 Team leaders in our biggest airports.

In this our 225th anniversary year, we have seen amazing levels of team work and engagement as our employees across the business have come together to celebrate the anniversary and undertake fundraising activity in support of our three partner charities. More detail is provided in the Community section of this report.

Another way in which we have strengthened employee engagement this year has been by promoting employee volunteering in the local community. Teams of WHSmith volunteers have identified charities in the Swindon area in need of support with a specific project. The teams have then spent time planning the project implementation and sourcing materials, before taking a day out of the business to deliver the project for the charity. One such project supported was the Uplands Educational Trust Community Enterprise Centre in Swindon where two WHSmith teams each spent a day moving patio slabs, clearing weeds, painting railings and cleaning windows to help the charity refresh its outdoor spaces. The WHSmith staff thoroughly enjoyed their days and the charity were also very grateful of the assistance. In the year ahead, we will continue to facilitate more of these community volunteering projects.

VALUING OUR PEOPLE: Live Well, Work Well

One of the key points of feedback from our employee engagement surveys is the importance of work life balance to our employees. We continue to introduce further initiatives to promote flexible working, with line managers encouraged to consider requests for flexible working hours and home working. All head office employees are able to leave work at 4pm on Fridays, and all head office employees also receive a day’s holiday on their birthday.

Other initiatives to promote better work-life balance include our ‘School Starter’ scheme which grants working parents half a day’s paid leave to take their child to their first day at school, phased retirement plans to allow employees to voluntarily reduce their working hours as their retirement date approaches and ‘V-Time Working’ which enables employees to voluntarily reduce their working hours for a defined period, to cope with life-changing events and in doing so reduce the levels of stress they face.

Every year we also hold a ‘Wellbeing at Work’ week in our head office locations, with a huge range of sessions for employees to join and attend. Topics covered range from dealing with stress and talking about mental health, to health and nutrition advice and fitness sessions.

Making a commitment to mental health across the organisation

At WHSmith we believe that it is just as important to support our colleagues’ mental wellbeing as it is to look after their physical wellbeing. WHSmith’s mental health wellbeing strategy has two parts: working with Time to Change to raise awareness of mental health issues and the associated stigma among employees, and working with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England to provide training on how to support mental health in the workplace.

Following the training, our Mental Health First Aiders develop the following skills, which they can then use to support their colleagues:
• An in depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
• Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
• Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
• Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
• Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support - whether that’s self-help resources, through their employer, the NHS, or a mix of support facilities

Our strategy is led from the most senior level in the business, with CEO Stephen Clarke signing the Time to Change pledge in February 2017 at an event attended by over 200 employees, many of whom also signed their own pledge. Awareness raising plans are being implemented which are tailored to each area of the business and include briefings by our MHFA instructors and first aiders, some of whom have shared their personal experiences, talks by guest speakers from MIND and Place2Be and the introduction of well-being noticeboards in stores and distribution centres. The noticeboards include information on the freephone anonymous 24/7 support line provided by L&G for all employees, as well as contact details for the First Aiders on the region, information on the Benevolent Fund and anti-bullying Speak Up line, and tips on looking after mental wellbeing.

Awareness raising has deliberately focused on both male and female experiences of mental health.

We also worked with Place2Be on the production of free resources for our employees to share with local schools to support Children’s Mental Health Week. The objective was to encourage employees to think about mental health in a positive way and take steps to make a difference in the lives of children who they have a connection with. As part of the project all UK primary and secondary schools received an email about the event and this was also communicated to all WHSmith employees to encourage as much engagement as possible. We also donated space on our 100 High Street digital window screens during Children’s Mental Health Week advertising the resources available.

On World Mental Health Day in July 2016, WHSmith made a pledge to have just as many Mental Health First Aiders as physical health first aiders. This training is well underway and we are also working to ensure that our 1,100 line managers all receive mental health first aid training. Six colleagues are being trained as MHFA instructors, meaning that they can continue to train staff in Mental Health First Aid going forwards. Feedback from the training has been extremely positive.

After completing the two day course, comments included:
“This afternoon’s training session was a revelation. I will be reading and reflecting over the coming weeks as I know that I can use a lot of the tools and techniques we spoke of for the team and for my own well being. Thank you again, it really is appreciated.”
“ An incredible course – I have never learnt so much in such a short space of time. Brilliantly delivered by two exceptional instructors who I am proud to call my colleagues…”
“I just wanted thank you both for the last two days. It was a great course. I learnt an awful lot. It really is something that WHSmith and all involved should be extremely proud of. I am.”

Our priority over the year ahead is to complete the training for a further 1000 line and store managers and to begin to measure the impact of the awareness raising and training activity. This measurement will use absence data, review of first aider incidents and an employee survey.
Sue Baker from Time to Change described the WHSmith mental wellbeing plan as a ‘blueprint’ for other retailers. We continue to share our mental health strategy with other businesses to enable them to learn from the WHSmith approach and progress their own plans.

Another way in which we provide support and assistance to current and retired employees is through the WHSmith Benevolent Fund. The WHSmith Benevolent Fund is a registered charity (registered charity no: 262581) which was established by Lord Hambledon in 1925 for the benefit of current and retired employees of WHSmith and their families who are in financial difficulty or hardship and in need. The Fund awards cash grants to help alleviate cases of hardship, awards grants for mobility scooters, stairlifts and other mobility aids, and also provides care breaks and recuperative holidays. Over the last decade, the Benevolent Fund has made grants to serving and retired staff members and their families in the region of £1million.

We want to ensure that our employees have a way of speaking out if there is a problem at work. Our ‘Speak Up’ line is a confidential telephone line which employees can call if they have a concern about something or someone within the business. Issues raised on this line are escalated to senior management if appropriate and also reviewed by the Group Risk Committee.

Case study

Inspirational lady behind WHSmith’s mental health strategy is recognised at everywoman awards
At the 2017 ‘Worldpay everywoman in Retail Ambassador Awards’, WHSmith Head of Strategic Projects, Alison Garbutt, received an award for her work in driving change through our organisation around mental health. Alison’s nomination read: “Alison is Head of Strategic Projects for WH Smith and is always involved in change programmes that are at the heart of improving the organisation. Alison has recently created and championed an initiative to develop the ‘WH Smith Mental Wellbeing Plan’ which aims to remove the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace. Over the past 18 months Alison has mobilised over 14,000 employees to back the plan and has worked tirelessly with Mental Health First Aid England to produce effective training programmes. As a result there are now more employees trained as mental health first aiders than those trained to deal with physical problems.” In her acceptance speech Alison urged other employers to join us to help put mental health on a par with physical health ensuring that stigma doesn’t stop people getting the right support and that we all learn to better look after ourselves and each other.

“I have witnessed much of Alison’s passion, commitment and hard work first hand and I have to say both as CEO of WH Smith and as someone who understands the impact of mental health in families and the workplace I could not be more proud of Alison. She really is a star.”
Stephen Clarke, Chief Executive Officer

WH Smith recognises that talented people are core to the success of our business, whatever their age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or physical ability. We are committed to promoting a culture of equality and diversity through our policies, procedures and working practices. In addition, we aim to ensure all our employees receive equal treatment at recruitment and selection stage, and subsequently through terms and conditions of employment, promotion, training, development opportunities and employment benefits.
At WH Smith we monitor our diversity profile versus our peers and the national average to ensure that WH Smith’s employee profile and that of our management team reflect our commitment to diversity. In terms of gender diversity, we measure our performance across the Group, looking at Board level, our senior management and store management populations.

Our diversity strategy is led by a diversity working group and Group CFO and COO, Robert Moorhead, act as a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ sponsor to champion diversity within the senior management team.

We have taken steps through a number of initiatives during the last 12 months to promote more women into senior positions. We have partnered with a company called “Everywoman” - the world’s largest network and learning and development platform for women in business. The aim of the network is to advance women in business and create a change in gender diversity. The network contains a host of personal development tools aimed at women including monthly webinars, workbooks and up to the minute articles etc. The network has been rolled out to our Head Office employees and a number of initiatives are planned for the next year to build on this and create an internal Everywoman network. This year WHSmith have taken part in the “Everywoman in Retail Ambassador” awards programme and we are delighted to have had a finalist in the category of “Being a great team leader.”

We continue to work with, an online job and community website for professional and working mothers. The website allows us to advertise our roles and showcase our commitment to gender diversity. Each year hold a “Top Employer Award” programme and this year we have entered an award in the category of “Family Support. “The aim of this is raise our brand profile as a family friendly employer, supportive to working women both currently in the business and to those wishing to join the organisation. We will find out in November 2017 if we have been successful in our award application.

Following feedback from our internal Employee Forum, we have continued to work on our flexible working package. In the last 12 months we have reviewed maternity and paternity pay, and supported senior managers to encourage informal flexibility within their teams.
In addition to the above, we are also reviewing our recruitment strategy to ensure we are targeting a wide range of ethnic applications.