Engaging with our staff
We provide a variety of communications to staff 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.
Each month, our executive directors deliver business briefings to the senior management team. These briefings provide updates on the Company’s performance and give managers the opportunity to ask questions. This information is then communicated out to all head office employees by directors and senior managers.
We want to ensure that all staff are regularly updated on activity across the business. To meet this aim, we circulate a fortnightly e-newsletter in head office and distribution centres that contains articles on business activity, staff recognition and new recruits, policy updates and store promotions and events. Across the year we hold strategy briefings for head office and store employees, briefing on our progress and the launch of new initiatives, as well as covering other topics including corporate responsibility.
In the year ahead, we plan to launch an employee satisfaction survey trial. The survey across a cross section of employees will allow us to gain more feedback and a greater understanding of areas to focus on improving employee engagement across the organisation.
Case study: Commemorating the anniversary of World War One
WHSmith is one of very few retailers still on the high street today that traded through the war years, and as such our archive of documents from the time charts the events and changes to lives nationally and for those who worked for us. To commemorate those past members of staff, who were either called up to service or made changes and worked for us during the war, in August 2014 we launched an initiative to share pieces of the archive with staff in head office and in stores.
Each month staff receive an update with the timeline of what happened, both in the war and at WHSmith. Full stories are available on a new mini intranet site, which also features the Roll of Honour of staff who served, enabling existing employees to look for staff who joined up from their location or team or who share the same name.
Living our values
We have four key business values: Customer Focus, Drive for Results, Value our People and Accountability. These values are at the heart of the way we assess the performance of all our staff. Each employee has regular performance appraisals, looking at how they have performed in terms of really living the four WHSmith values. This performance against the values then forms part of each employee’s end of year performance grading and any bonus awarded.
In addition, for head offices employees, the VIP or ‘Values in Practice’ scheme recognises those employees who have set a leading example in demonstrating one of the values. During the year, we have re-launched the scheme to encourage all departments to ensure that they are using the scheme to recognise excellent performance through the scheme. Each quarter, a number of VIPs are selected by the executive team as an example of how to live our values. Each nominee’s story is published in our staff newsletter and the VIP winners are rewarded with free tea or coffee for a month and three extra days’ holiday.
Our store staff work tirelessly to deliver our business plans and strategies. In recognition of this work, we celebrate the achievements of our store staff through several awards programmes. 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.
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 and a Dental Health Scheme. This year we launched an Employee Assistance Programme, which is available to all employees across the business providing support on a wide range of issues such as legal, financial and medical issues.
Employee share ownership
WHSmith operates a HM Revenue & Customs Approved Save-As-You-Earn share option scheme (‘Sharesave Scheme’). The scheme, which we have operated for many years, provides employees with the opportunity to acquire shares in the Company on favourable terms. At the end of the savings period, the participant has the opportunity to buy the shares at a special option price that is fixed at the start of the scheme and at a discount to the share price at the time. Approximately 720 employees participate in the scheme.