By helping people be at their best both inside and outside work, we can increase already world-class levels of colleague engagement, believes Currys chief people officer Paula Coughlan
Written By Paula Coughlan, Chief People, Communications and Sustainability Officer
The Covid-19 pandemic was a deeply challenging time for everyone in retail and put so many of our colleagues under immense strain.
But it also taught us important lessons. Along with many of our peers, we at Currys are trying to take the learnings from this extraordinary time to become better businesses and, crucially, better employers.
One of the positives to emerge was a greater focus on the wellbeing of our colleagues.
Both individual businesses and the organisations that bring us together – like Retail Trust, Retail Week and the British Retail Consortium – have really focused on the reality that taking care of the people we rely on is the right thing for responsible retailers to do, as well as good business sense.
For us at Currys, the lightbulb moment was in our On the Pulse survey in October 2020.
“A big part of the challenge has been making sure colleagues understand the full range of support that is available”
One of the questions was: ‘does Currys take an interest in your wellbeing?’ And while we have always sought to do the right thing by our colleagues and had a range of services in place to support them, the responses showed that the pandemic had brought the strains on colleagues to the fore and there was plenty of opportunity for us to do more.
On reflection, it is not surprising that the pandemic brought colleague wellbeing into the spotlight.
Our stores were closed and many colleagues furloughed, while others were continuing to deliver to customers’ homes and other support centre colleagues were working from home. The resulting feelings of anxiety and isolation were inevitable.
A big part of the challenge, especially in a business where colleagues are geographically dispersed and work varied hours, has been making sure colleagues understand the full range of support that is available.
It is so much harder to ensure awareness when your colleagues don’t sit in offices all day, particularly when there is so much change inside and outside the business.
The first step after the survey was the launch of Wellbeing Corner, an online hub that brought together all the support we already offered with mental and physical health, and financial wellbeing, into one place for colleagues.
Mental health emerged in the survey as a key area of concern for our colleagues and so we prioritised the training of 1,400 mental health first aiders. We also appointed our first full-time wellbeing manager to put a real structure around our commitment and to give wellbeing a voice at the leadership table.
Last month we made our biggest and most significant step yet with the launch of our partnership with Champion Health, a leading workplace health platform, to provide access to personalised health and wellbeing support to every one of our 15,000-plus colleagues in the UK and Ireland.
We like the Champion Health solution because it felt to us like a ‘Netflix of wellbeing’. It provides advice and support on aspects of wellbeing from women’s health to financial wellbeing, energy levels to parenting.
Our agreement with Champion Health doesn’t just cover our colleagues, but also three family members or friends of their choice, which we feel is an important part of how we offer support.
It is also incredibly personalised, which we also feel is important. In a business of our size, our colleagues face many different situations and so having a solution that works for all, whatever they do, wherever they work and whatever their family circumstances, was key.
“Wellbeing is not something you can easily measure, but there is a lot of research that shows a happy, healthy base of colleagues will deliver better results for customers and business”
It is also designed to provide constructive and engaging solutions to the wellbeing challenges colleagues face, not just help them to identify problems.
Wellbeing is not something you can easily measure, but there is a lot of research that shows a happy, healthy base of colleagues will deliver better results for customers and business.
By helping people be at their best both inside and outside work, we believe we will continue to increase our already world-class levels of colleague engagement, and build loyalty to Currys as an employer.
While the app is a big step forward, it can’t be the solution on its own. We need to support each other and our colleagues to be our eyes and ears to help team members who might be struggling – and that’s where our 1,400 mental health first aiders around the business play a vital role.
I am not afraid to say that in the past we, and our industry as a whole, didn’t focus enough on the question of wellbeing.
The pandemic gave us the wake-up call we needed. Retail as an industry is wholly reliant on its people to deliver the service our customers deserve, which in turn is vital for delivering returns to our shareholders.
Doing everything we can to help them be safe, happy and well is the least we can do for them.