Recent months have been a difficult time for all, which makes it more important than ever for retailers to be good, responsible employers and take care of their staff. Retail Week has teamed up with Glassdoor to find out where employees think the best places to work in retail are and why
Family-owned footwear chain Pavers Shoes emerged as UK employees’ favourite retailer to work for, according to reviews posted on Glassdoor.
Data collated by the company review and jobs website over the past year placed Pavers at the top of the chart, scoring 4.6 out of five in employee appraisals.
|Glassdoor score (out of five)
|The Very Group
|The Body Shop
Staff applauded Pavers Shoes’ strong company values and said it was a family business that cares for staff and customers.
Making Pavers a good place to work is a priority for chief executive Stuart Paver who refers to the business’ mission statement: ‘Delivering comfort and happiness’. “That applies to both customers in their footwear purchases and staff when they work for us,” he says.
Paver says its status as a family-owned business enables it to invest more in its people. “Family businesses look after their people as it’s like an extended family,” he explains. “You’ll find very few private-equity companies [on best place to work lists] as they have a completely different focus. Our shareholders have decided that we would sacrifice some of the profitability and dividends in order to make it a nicer place to work.”
The footwear retailer operates a John Lewis-style bonus scheme where each employee is rewarded for the company’s success. Paver says this takes out the confusion of how to attribute sales.
“A sale in a shop could have been influenced by the web or vice versa. Where do you allocate a sale to? We can’t work that out, so we give bonuses based on the profitability of the company, so we’re all working towards one goal,” he says.
Glassdoor EMEA director Joe Wiggins says employees tend to prefer working for family businesses. “Staff feel like they’re part of the family. But you don’t have to be a family business to offer a family feel,” he says. “Companies that have the core values of putting customers first and treating their employees well have a similar feel.”
‘We don’t tolerate egos’
Reviews on Glassdoor highlighted Pavers’ approachable management, which is something the business strives for.
Paver has created an organisation where every voice is heard. “It’s very important to have openness and communication throughout the organisation,” he says. ”We want to listen to everyone. It’s amazing how many good ideas come from part-timers at the lowest levels as they do the things.
“You have to make it so people are happy to talk and management are prepared to listen. I regularly get emails from people at all levels telling me what is great with the company and what we’re doing wrong. We take it and try to sort it.”
Paver says its company culture encourages open communication. “If we find areas where people are trying to stop that communication then we come down quite heavily on it. We don’t like mini-fiefdoms in the organisation.”
The Pavers culture centres on everyone being treated equally across the business and shunning hierarchy: “There’s a particular culture here, and when we bring someone in from a large organisation that hasn’t had to get down and dirty they just don’t understand it. People don’t have minions here; they have to do things themselves.”
And that includes Paver himself. “Sometimes when I’m visiting shops, I still sell a pair of shoes to people. If everyone’s busy, I’ll jump behind the till.”
Paver puts his company’s culture of “everyone mucking in” down to its Yorkshire roots. Coincidentally, the retailer that ranks second on the Glassdoor list also hails from the northern county.
Like Pavers, Doncaster-based DFS shies away from hierarchy. “We’re a big-turnover company, but we’ve managed to maintain a family, community feel,” says DFS group people director Jo Shawcroft. “We’re low on hierarchy. Because of our Yorkshire roots, we don’t tolerate egos.”
This is even encapsulated in the furniture firm’s company values: ‘Aim high, be real and think customer’. “Our ‘be real’ value is the one we talk about the most,” she says. “We’re big on authenticity”.
Shawcroft highlights that these values were co-created with staff, who put forward suggestions and voted for that statement to be adopted.
“It’s a genuine articulation of how people feel about the company, rather than just words that have been plonked on top of the company logo. We really live our values.”
Engaging with and listening to workers is crucial to DFS, as the co-created values would suggest. The company runs listening groups and regular surveys to understand how people feel and what they think is or isn’t working. “And importantly, we act on this feedback,” says Shawcroft.
Retail can be a career, not a job
Career progression and training was one of the big reasons DFS employees rated the company highly.
Wiggins says it is rare for these criteria to be praised in retail companies and he points out that many employees in the sector view their work as “a job rather than a career”.
“However, companies that offer paths of progression tend to keep people longer term as they can see how they can go from a store assistant to store or area manager,” he says.
Shawcroft says DFS offers a wide range of training from technical skills to customer service and behavioural coaching.
It also puts a big focus on leadership training. “Our view is that if you train your line managers, they’ll take care of everyone else,” she says.
The furniture retailer was also praised for its remuneration, something Shawcroft says DFS has worked hard to make “fair and transparent” following employee surveys.
She says it offers a healthy base salary, which helps make staff feel “secure”, but its bonus scheme offers an opportunity to “super-size that”.
DFS awards bonuses not just on sales performance but on customer service scores, which it monitors via NPS surveys. “They’re equally important. We don’t just want to be a sales engine as we don’t think that’s putting customers first,” says Shawcroft.
Staff discount was also highlighted as a plus point for DFS, alongside other high-ranking retailers such as The Very Group and Dunelm. Wiggins says discounts are really important for retail workers and a way that businesses can make their remuneration package more attractive.
“If you love the product you sell, you want to buy it. Being able to share discounts with friends and family is a big bonus.” This is a perk that DFS offers via its Mates Rates initiative.
Striking the right work/life balance was also highlighted as an important factor for today’s employees and was one of the reasons businesses such as The Very Group and Dunelm made the top five in the ranking.
Workers are looking for flexibility from their employers. Dunelm was applauded for its flexible working hours.
The homewares retailer offers a wide range of flexible contract hours for all staff, whether in stores, warehouses or contact centres, to help accommodate their personal needs, such as childcare arrangements.
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Supporting staff during lockdown
Recent months have been stressful for everyone, and good retail employers have offered support to staff.
Pavers has carried out weekly Facebook Live Q&As for staff where they can have their questions answered. “A third of total employees were watching live and another third watched the recordings, which is huge for getting that message across that we’re going to be providing a safe environment and will be here at the end of this, still doing the same things,” says Paver.
DFS has also communicated through digital channels. The retailer uses the Facebook-owned communications platform Workplace to keep in contact with staff. Half of DFS workers were using the platform prior to lockdown, which has since risen to 90%.
The company has provided regular updates on what’s going on with the business and health and wellbeing support.
Shawcroft says: “It’s a very challenging period for everyone and we’ll be judged by how we support people through this period. It’s a little bit corny, but families come together in times of crisis and that’s true of DFS.”
Mental health has been a particular focus for DFS and staff, including those in the senior leadership team, have posted blogs sharing their personal stories.
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Protecting mental health has also been a priority for Pavers, which has made use of the mental health first-aiders it has across the business. “We’ve started training 25 mental health first-aiders each year, so there’s at least five in each region that people can get hold of if they feel like they need help. We’ve certainly seen demand increasing since Covid-19,” says Paver.
Mental health is rising in importance for workers. According to Glassdoor’s return to work survey, 58% of workers now place more emphasis on employee benefits and perks related to physical and mental wellbeing, such as mindfulness and fitness apps, private healthcare and access to online therapy.
The retailers that continue to be great places to work will need to pay as much attention to health and wellbeing as they do salaries and bonuses.
This ranking is based on UK-based reviews on Glassdoor between June 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020. Each of these companies had at least 30 reviews during this time. Ratings go to the thousandth and are rounded up.