Former Waitrose boss calls for workplace happiness revolution

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Mark Price, a former minister and managing director of Waitrose, has challenged retailers to prioritise workplace happiness in order to boost productivity and profit.

Speaking at the ACS Summit in Birmingham yesterday, Lord Price argued that workplace happiness was vital for business sustainability and the future of capitalism itself.

He cited research revealing that businesses with happy workplaces achieve 20% higher productivity and profit than average, as well as lower staff turnover and sickness.

“If you have really happy and engaged people they’ll be more productive and loyal and your business will be more sustainable long term,” he said.

“Those of us who believe in capitalism must make the case for a happier workforce.”

He said “we should care more than ever” about workplace happiness, in light of growing public concerns about the inadequate state of public services, the divide between rich and poor, the next generation’s ability to buy houses and job security, among others. Such anxieties resulted in the vote for Brexit in the UK and for president Donald Trump in the US, he added.

Lord Price, who has written a book entitled Fairness for All: Unlocking the power of employee engagement, outlined six steps to high employee engagement: reward and recognition; information; empowerment; well being; sense of pride; and job satisfaction.

Highlighting the importance of ‘reward and recognition’, he said employees are told on average they are doing a good job just three times a year. In retail specifically, ‘being heard’ was a key area for development, he added.

Elsewhere, Hidenori Tsunematsu, CSR manager of Japanese c-store chain FamilyMart, discussed how the business was adapting to the country’s ageing society. FamilyMart services for the elderly included diet management products, a home delivery business that included a health check for customers, and dementia training for staff. In addition, new store layouts focused on high-tech toilets and communal eating areas.

On technology, the executive editor of Wired magazine, Jeremy White, said the next level of digital assistance software was on its way. Viv, a Samsung product created by the developers of Siri, responds to highly detailed questions such as ‘where is the nearest place in town to buy bleach’.

He also stressed the importance of adopting a tailored social media strategy. “A tremendous amount of companies have a social media strategy without knowing why. If you tailor what you want to do with it, you can be very successful,” White added.

He lauded the Eat 17 store in Bishop’s Stortford for generating high footfall on a Sunday by using social media to promote its Sunday opening hours.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Lord Price presentation at ACS Summit was one of the best I have ever seen.
    The packed audience was in awe of such a powerful deliverence from a successful businessman.

    So many companies have a lot to learn about the work place culture.
    Happy staff are inevitably more productive and feel valued.

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  • Workplace happiness would be much improved if manufacturers and suppliers simplified everything, from pack sizes, price marks, bogof and 2for£x offers, multiple barcodes, irrational substitutions.......not to mention EPOS systems that boast features nobody ever uses.
    Keep it simple! Our staff like it simple!

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  • The staff who got paid off when JLP closed distribution centres ain't happy.

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  • Joining a successful business without outside shareholders as a graduate trainee and negotiating the internal politics to get to the top entitles you to lecture independent retailers on how to run their business???? ACS needs to get a grip.

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  • Of course happy staff are more productive and better for business but how can we make sure our staff are happy? Waitrose staff will be happier than most as they are the shareholders.

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