CIPD L&D Show 2015: Resilience training is working, says Tesco
15 May 2015
By: Cathryn Newbery
Troubled supermarket says employees are coping better with change
Training programme to boost resilience at work has helped Tesco employees cope with the market fluctuations and uncertainties swirling around the troubled supermarket chain, said group training manager Jeremy Howell, at the CIPD L&D Show this week.
“People who’ve been on the programme tell us it’s been really, really helpful,” Howell told the audience. “I’ve spoken to business leaders in Tesco and in other organisations, and one of the key elements of resilience is being clear about what your values are. Our programme helps employees reflect on what’s important to them - and that’s ultimately our customers.”
When asked by a conference attendee about the return on investment Tesco has seen from the initiative so far, Howell admitted that the programme was introduced in 2013 without a comprehensive measurement initiative.
To gauge how effective the courses have been, Tesco has relied on questions in its annual employee engagement survey. “Because the world is changing so much, we just wanted to get this stuff out there, rather than delaying it while we created a specific measure,” said Howell. “But we are now working with academics to think about how we measure resilience. Sickness absence rates are a good hard measure, but we want to assess well-being more widely, too.”
Tesco has identified resilience as one of the five key traits its leaders need to successfully guide their teams through the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) retail environment. While basic resilience training, in the form of e-learning modules and diagnostic tools, is available to staff at all levels, managers and directors have a responsibility to delve deeper into the topic, Howell said.
“With managers, we spend a lot of time thinking about creating team resilience,” he explained. “Just like when you put on your own oxygen mask first if your plane gets into difficulty, you have to get yourself in a great place before you help anyone else. You need to think: what do you need to do to create the right behaviours, cultures and actions in your team?”
The retailer is also working with its well-being partner Nuffield Health to use tools such as bio-feedback to assess directors’ fitness levels and lifestyle choices.
To make resilience work for its 500,000 global employees - 350,000 of which are in the UK - the majority of whom work in warehouses or on the shop floor, Tesco has created a framework that breaks resilience down into four distinct areas: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Each of these helps the individual create balance, and ‘thrive’ in their work and home lives, said Howell.
“Our overarching definition of resilience is ‘knowing your source of energy and make yourself fit for life’, but we recognise this means different things to different people,” he says. “For example, staff in our stores won’t have problems achieving 10,000 steps a day, but that’ll be a real challenge for our desk-bound workers at head office. For colleagues in store, eating the right food for physical energy will be more of a focus.”