Sarah Willett, chief people officer at The Very Group – which was named Best Place to Work at the Salesforce Retail Week Awards 2022 – gives her top tips for engaging with colleagues in the hybrid working environment, ahead of our Innovation Summit next month.

1. Brilliant basics

Leadership meeting

‘Whatever the purpose is, companies need to give their people opportunities to engage’

The world of work has altered, but the fundamentals of what motivates people have not. At a time when competition for talent is hotter than ever, you have got to get the basics right. Engaged people are paid on time; their workspaces are fit for purpose – whether in an office or remote – and they are led by people who are committed to their growth.

Of course, the basics need to be reinvented for the hybrid working world, which is why we refurbished our offices and invested in tech to support hybrid working. We also recognise the greater need for leaders to focus on wellbeing, cultivating shared purpose and developing trust. This is why we are placing emphasis on development in areas such as authentic leadership and inclusivity. 

2. Listening

The world is constantly changing, which means our teammates’ worlds are changing too. It has never been more important to listen to our people and take action. We do this through regular engagement surveys, ad hoc listening and our people labs – team forums that provide a qualitative overlay to our survey data. The findings are owned and managed by our departments, managers and teams. It is everyone’s responsibility to deliver change and help shape our culture. Listening and acting should not be a top-down exercise.

3. Inclusion

You will get the best out of people if they feel they can bring their authentic selves to work. That makes them feel more included and committed, and brings real business benefits too. We have made great progress, having reached a Glassdoor diversity and inclusion rating of 4.2 out of 5. But we recognise we need to go further and have articulated our ambition and made commitments to diversity and inclusion that we aim to hit by 2025.

We bring these commitments to life across our hybrid office and fulfilment sites through personal commitments, digital and in-person events focused on inclusion, and celebrations for key events such as Pride.

4. Purpose

People want to be part of something that matters. Not just for the company, not just for them personally, but for real people, communities and the environment. Whatever that purpose is, companies need to articulate it in the right way and give their people opportunities to engage with it.

For us, it is about helping families get more out of life. In a hybrid environment, we use digital conferences, video resources, elearning and our performance management processes to help our colleagues personalise our purpose.

5. Growth

In my experience, people want to grow with organisations. As the business changes, they want to develop and move forward in their careers too. We place great emphasis on developing our people by exposing them to varied and interesting work. Because we integrate multicategory retail with flexible payments, and we are investing significantly in transforming our technology, there is always loads to have a go at, and we try to create a culture where people can grasp new opportunities.  

Innovation Summit

Want to hear more from Sarah? She will be taking to the stage at Retail Week’s Innovation Summit on November 22 to discuss how retailers can win the war for talent and engage their workforce.

You can also hear from Kingfisher’s Chief Technology Officer, Lego Group’s Senior Vice President of Retail, DFS’ Chief Operating Officer and many more.