Waitrose engages employees to build a culture of Everyday Innovation

wazoku Blog

Employee engagement is on the tip of the tongue of pretty much every HR or internal communications specialist these days. But engagement without a purpose is, quite frankly, a pointless exercise. It should look to harness positive energy and suggestions to drive an organisation forward successfully. British food retailer Waitrose is a best-practice example of how this can be done.

It developed its Partner Ideas programme, which engages all 60,000 employees in putting forward innovative ideas to help improve the business. Anyone from senior managers to assistants on the shop floor can contribute through online idea management platform, Idea Spotlight.

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To ensure the programme was, and still is, successful; Waitrose ensured it developed a strong culture of innovation and engagement to support it. Those heading the initiative educate store managers about the programme and platform, and give them special business cards to inform and engage in-store staff. Waitrose regularly promotes the scheme and recognises the best Partner ideas in its internal magazine, the Waitrose Chronicle. Staff whose ideas are implemented are also awarded bonuses.

To date the programme has successfully engaged employees to generate:

  • Over 1,000 ideas from Partners around the business, including: Supermarket Assistants and Operation Managers to name a few
  • An average of over 22 innovative new ideas a week since launch, demonstrating just how well sustainable and repeatable innovation has been built into everyday working life across the organisation
  • Significant company cost-savings achieved with just the initial burst of ideas enabled, with more in the implementation pipeline
  • Ideas from a cross-section of the innovation spectrum:
    • Incremental innovation – An example of which saw the formatting and management of till receipts transformed, allowing the retailer to save over £100k annually
    • Differentiated innovation – One idea from an Supermarket Assistant in the Berkhamstead store saw the way the audit team deal with temporary pricing tickets improved, halving the time taken to complete the task – representing a significant saving in terms of valuable Partner-hours
    • Disruptive innovation – A selection of ideas which have a longer lead time to value creation are currently being reviewed by the Partner Idea programme leaders and senior management

Feedback from Partners across the business is incredibly positive:

“The scheme allows Partners to have better input in the business. I have had quite a few go through and it makes you smile on the inside to think you have been heard.” Supermarket Assistant, Berkhamstead branch

“It’s great and it makes you feel valued knowing your ideas are listened to.” Supermarket Assistant, Torquay branch

And it’s generated measurable business benefits:

“I’m really proud of the success of the scheme…its fundamental to delivering efficiency.” Alison McGrath, Head of Operational Strategy, Waitrose

As Waitrose has shown, employee engagement works best when it is given a clear purpose and put at the centre of an organisation. Engaging staff in Everyday Innovation in this way can generate fantastic results which support corporate objectives and measurable ROI; as well as reveal, recognise  & reward previously hidden talent and drive employee engagement with a positive purpose.

You can learn more about Everyday Innovation in the report we’re going to be launching in the autumn – sign up in advance to receive a copy of it here.