In 2012 Halfords’ business performance was in decline, with revenue, profit, margins and shares decreasing in price and value, and an employee engagement score which stood at 64%.
Halfords had to refocus its business strategy, and it was felt that the key to beating its financial struggles would be found in its employees, so it worked with ORC International on embedding employee engagement into the company culture.
We initially set out to understand how employees felt about the company, its values, its customers and brand. Qualitative research was undertaken in the form of focus groups and telephone interviews, and the findings led to the creation of the question set for the online survey which enabled Halfords to map the company values.
Action planning sessions were held after each survey so that managers could fully understand the results. So that employees could do the same, and see that their opinions were being listened to and acted upon, we designed new reports focusing on local action planning. Results were displayed on posters for each team and sessions were held locally to hear feedback from as many employees as possible. This had the added benefit of helping to keep employees interested and the engagement momentum going.
The results of the 2013 survey highlighted the need to give more attention to the top, so Halfords designed and introduced the Accelerate leadership program. Aimed at store managers, several pieces of research were used to feed design and define where the focus of the program should be. Four key themes of what employees want from their managers emerged from the research; clarity, strength, praise and genuine concern. These became the leadership traits that Halfords tried to instil in its program, and the 2014 survey included a leadership index to enable managers to gain feedback from their teams, measure progress and keep improving.
Employee engagement increased to 77% in 2013 and 80% in 2014, with an excellent participation rate of 95%. But that’s not all – through making employee engagement part of the company culture, Halfords managed to increase its three month retention rate from 78% to 88%, and the net promoter score and all other business metrics significantly improved too.
The key measures that came out of the survey were later incorporated into Halfords’ business strategy. Our research gave insight and depth to Halfords which allowed it to emphasise where the focus should be. The key areas in which – as a result of survey findings – action was taken include:
• Executive team motivation – monthly meetings in store/distribution centres, working different weeks in different stores
• Communication – monthly magazines, clear promotion launches in stores, improved cascade process from leadership team
• Fairness and respect – review and action on resource levels, pay and benefits, staff discounts, recognition schemes, bonus schemes
• Training and development – career progression, new learning management systems, a leadership program
• Revamping – of offices and tools and uniforms
Looking at the company’s history, it’s clear that employee focus was the key to beating financial struggles. By driving engagement Halfords drove success, and by driving service it was driving the top line strategy. Its approach was top-down, with the need to push change from above and reach every level in the organisation with full visibility and accessibility.