A honed feedback cycle for the retail sector.
Thoughts from Peter Wilde, MD of Employee Research and Rebecca Marsden, Engagement lead at New Look.

Retail is often considered a challenging sector to survey. Why?

Peter: Two reasons. 1) turnover – when staff change so frequently, getting employee feedback once a year makes no sense, but more crucially 2) the rate at which their work environment changes.

Rebecca: Previously we have had to wait months to get the reports which can soon become dated in our ever changing business.

Peter: It’s not just seasonal collection changes – for an employee in a retailer like New Look, and more widely across FMCG – their work environment changes all the time. That’s why we need an approach that reflects this style, so that’s what we did.

So what else needed to change?

Peter: There was another big change to make to the programme – the questions we asked staff. Previously they had been restricted to using items from question banks set out by the incumbent provider instead of asking timely, relevant questions about the situation on the ground.

This meant they moved away from benchmarking everything, something that the big survey providers tell us is crucial – but why prioritise benchmarks when the questions you’re asking are irrelevant? This is a cultural shift in any organisation that is modernising their survey programme, and an approach we champion. Focus on what’s happening in your own company, not how it differs from a random grouping of others!

“The online survey is a vast improvement on our previous supplier.
People just click the link and it’s there. Two minutes and it’s done.
HRBPs have fed back about usability in a very positive way.”

OK, so what does the new survey look like?

Rebecca: The online survey is a vast improvement on our previous supplier. People just click the link and it’s there. Two minutes and it’s done. HRBPs have fed back about usability in a very positive way.

Peter: We ask a few questions per month about events and changes – the questions change each month to reflect what’s going on. All staff get the chance to answer every time and we release the results in beautiful, graphically designed infographics to all managers the day after the survey closes. Mangers have conversations with staff that week. We’ve heard that the open comments are really key here – they give managers something tangible to talk about with their people.

Tell me more about the open comments…

Peter: This is one of our massive breakthroughs. Placing greater emphasis on open comments has a twofold benefit. Firstly, it feels genuine to staff – they actually get to speak about what concerns them – regularly – and have a conversation about it with their manager the week after. Secondly, it adds a whole new level of insight at all levels.
Comments are so valuable but so underused in traditional surveys. We process all comments using AI and machine learning, meaning managers get all of their comments, themed accurately, the day after survey close. I think this has a massive role to play in the future of employee feedback.

What’s been the biggest success?

Rebecca: Employee Research have developed a fantastic tool which really supports our fast paced, ever changing business. The bespoke reports have been used to drive impactful change throughout the business. The reports are available almost as soon as the poll closes meaning the results give us a live insight into what the employees think and feel right now.

Peter: People used to fear a drop off amongst participants if you poll ‘too’ regularly. The participation rates speak for themselves. Between 80-90% of staff participate each month because they get to express their views and see the result of their effort.