Engaging with our staff
We use a variety of communication channels in order to ensure that everyone is engaged in our business strategy and objectives. We do this through clear communication cascaded by team briefings, large employee events, 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.
During the year, we carried out an employee engagement survey across the head office population, all distribution centres and store managers within WHSmith Travel. The results were shared with all staff and an action plan agreed to respond to specific points of feedback which had been given. Employee focus groups have been used to help understand the staff feedback in more depth and talk through possible changes which could be made. Many actions have already been initiated, with workstreams in four areas:
• Supporting personal development through the re-introduction of Learning at Work Week and improved ways of identifying talent and giving staff opportunities to development their careers.
• Improving internal communication with more two-way dialogue, including Chat with the Director sessions, new quarterly all- employee briefings and a new employee recognition scheme.
• Focus groups to look at possible initiatives around wellbeing and work/life balance.
• Improving the working environment.
To ensure we keep progressing we have also initiated a ‘Keeping it Alive’ campaign where we communicate all the actions taken under the following four distinctive banners: ‘Live Well, Work Well’, ‘Realise Your Potential’, ‘Making the Office a better place to work’, ‘Communicate, Converse, Congratulate’. Each of these areas also have an executive director sponsoring it to ensure its kept at the forefront of our minds, and our people know there is a senior member of the leadership team driving key changes.
We plan to repeat the survey next year, providing an opportunity to see whether views have changed as a result of the actions taken.
VALUING OUR PEOPLE
As people’s lifestyle patterns change, it is important that WHSmith provides a workplace and benefits to promote a good work/life balance. Our ‘School Starter’ scheme grants working parents half a day’s paid leave to take their child to their first day at school. We also offer phased retirement plans to allow employees to voluntarily reduce their working hours as their retirement date approaches. ‘V-Time Working’ 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. Our Holiday Trading Scheme enables staff to buy additional holiday. We also offer a Cycle to Work scheme, offering staff the opportunity to purchase bicycles at discounted prices, a Dental Health Scheme and an Employee Assistance Programme, which provides employees with support on a wide range of issues such as legal, financial and medical issues.
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 totalling over £970,000. During the last year, the Fund made grants to 19 Nepalese staff based in Qatar whose families were affected by the earthquakes which took place in Nepal in April 2015. Further details are provided in the case study opposite.
WHSmith Qatar’s team hope to continue their support for the communities in Nepal as they re-build their lives after the earthquake. As part of this ongoing work, we are looking into building a permanent link with a Nepalese school to provide them with donations of stationery and books.
Supporting WHSmith’s Nepalese employees after the Nepal earthquake
In April 2015, two massive earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks struck Nepal causing widespread destruction with over 9,000 deaths and over 100,000 people injured. 19 Nepalese staff work for WHSmith’s Qatar business and many of their families and homes were affected by the earthquake. WHSmith’s Qatar team were quick to respond, holding cake sales and various other fundraising activities to raise money to help with the earthquake relief effort. The WHSmith Trust and the WHSmith Benevolent Fund also made grants to support the relief effort and our employees’ families back in Nepal.
One of WHSmith’s Nepalese employees, Pradeep, wrote the following thank you to all at WHSmith: “Currently, we are around 19 Nepalese staff working for WHSmith-Doha. Almost all of us are affected by earthquake. By God’s grace, all the family members were safe so far. But, it was saddening that all of our houses have been badly affected and most of our families are bound to live out of the house. Some of our houses have totally collapsed. And the family members are still struggling for shelter in tents.”
“At the time of this untimely and unexpected natural disaster, we are really in need of support and courage to bear with this condition. We are very grateful to all at WHSmith who helped in so many ways to raise funds. We will always be grateful for the kind support at this time. It will definitely be a big support and means of relief to the victims (our families) who are facing this hardship. We highly appreciate your deep concern and support towards all the Nepalese and all of us will always be thankful towards the entire team.”
WHSmith Qatar’s team hope to continue their support for the communities in Nepal as they rebuild their lives after the earthquake. As part of this ongoing work, we are looking into building a permanent link with a Nepalese school to provide them with donations of stationery and books.