Nailing B&Q’s Employee Engagement Challenge
The Paul Stalker & Raise Your Game Partnership working with B & Q Case Study developing and nurturing a new customer facing culture.

When Sir Ian Cheshire first took the reins as CEO of B&Q UK, he quickly identified the damage being caused to the business by the high levels of disengaged colleagues regularly reported by Gallup engagement surveys:

“In some cases employee disengagement was as high as 1 in 3 colleagues…We were finding it easy talking to people who talk about customer service without understanding the link to engagement, or engagement without understanding the link to service…”

B&Q contracted The Extra Mile Partnership to address the challenge of disengaged, unfocused colleagues who were contributing to declining sales across the estate of Warehouses and Superstores.

Our outcome was to develop and nurture a new customer facing culture, transferring the principles of our training programme into the fabric of the workplace and embedding it within B&Q’s existing operational model.

Having been given four under-performing stores to pilot our programme, The Extra Mile Partnership initially conducted a diagnostic with the key directors, regional managers, store managers and ‘DHRPs’ (Divisional Human Resource Partners – B&Q’s specialist in-house trainers).

The purpose of the diagnostic was to reveal the root causes of the current high levels of disengagement in order to custom build a programme for effective, sustainable change.

We employed research tools such as colleague attitude surveys and one-to-one interviews in order to gauge bottom-up opinion in the stores. These were combined with customer exit surveys, current mystery shop scores and ‘harder’ store performance metrics such as revenue versus budget and average transaction values, to create a balanced scorecard of KPIs for each store – this would track and measure the impact of our programme.

This diagnostic process not only enabled us to get under the skin of the business and understand the existing operational model and processes, but also to temperature check the quality of relationships and behaviours and the systems through which they were communicated.

We also identified the key advocates for change whose job would be to ensure that the central teaching of our programme was actioned at the frontline in the stores.

The ignition for change was a series of life-changing engagement training courses led by Stalkie, attended by the 4 pilot store management teams, the maximum number of store colleagues as possible, DHRPs and project stakeholders.

Incorporating the principles of the Raise Your Game Now! programme, delegates learnt how to improve self-awareness, to face fears, to use applied positive psychology in daily life, to set personal goals, communicate empathetically and how to channel these skills and energy into delighting customers.

“Many felt the new training skills they acquired will influence how they work and behave for the rest of their lives”, reported Tim Beer, B&Q DHRP who has subsequently been involved in around eight Extra Mile B&Q store turnarounds.“Stalkie’s approach ultimately makes people enjoy their jobs and look forward to work rather than dread it. Raise Your Game Now! is so energetic, fun and engaging that participants are far more likely to commit and learn”.

Tim’s view is that delegates returned to daily life with a fresh mind set, so that they lived their lives understanding the benefits of engaging more directly with customers, colleagues, family and friends.

“They learnt how to fix themselves first, and then to fix others. Taking back the power and having personal confidence and a positive attitude to life has led to happier staff who smile at customers, talk to them and engage with their needs”.

The second element of the Extra Mile programme, which B&Q called ‘Leading the Way’, brought together store managers, sub-managers and their teams, assisted by the DHRPS, for action planning sessions, creating a blueprint for B&Q to ‘DIY’ and drive the project internally.

From practicing awkward conversations with challenging store colleagues, to product knowledge role-plays, these interactive seminars focused on how to embody and drive behaviours necessary to bring a culture of outstanding customer service alive in their stores, together with the required reward and recognition systems that bring all the principles to life.

DHRP Karl Davies, who has since supported Extra Mile training at 11 B&Q stores, says taking up this primary role of supporting the management teams as they drive business goals was fascinating and rewarding; “The end results have been re-energised stores and re-energised workforces. As a company B&Q measures staff engagement levels in stores, and this training has had a massive impact on results achieved. Having the right talent, engaged staff and the right training and feedback will give you improved profitability in the business. We have seen it played out in reality. It’s about winning people’s hearts and minds.”

“My team has learnt new things about themselves” says Sue Edwards, HR Manager for Central and Ireland. “I have seen them really thrive on the energy Stalkie instils. For them, seeing results come through in the stores was particularly rewarding.”

In addition to the Extra Mile’s unique system of engagement seminars, further ‘drilling in’ interventions were devised to take the project to the next level such as in-store ‘inspirer’ days, one-to-one coaching sessions for key management personnel and the dissemination of Extra Mile training materials – in print, DVD and online – to aid the teams in their regular in-store coaching sessions.

Over a 20-week period, our 4 B&Q pilot stores reported a series of outstanding results across their balanced score cards, including:

  • Store reached budget in 21 out of 22 weeks, having missed budget in the previous 30 weeks
  • Store’s sales increased versus budget by over £500k in 20 weeks
  • Store’s YTD mystery shop score of 183% placed it 15th out of the entire estate of 343 B&Q stores, including 3 monthly scores of 100%, 96% and 90% in a six month period
  • Store achieved over £1million showroom sales per month against a monthly target of £734k.

This profound change prompted Sir Ian Cheshire to say: “What The Extra Mile Partnership deliver is a tailored programme that allows you to drive your business from the base, which is the right staff engaging in the right way with our customers. On a really practical level, they figured out how to make the link between engagement and service work and how to deliver real results”.

Having rolled out The Extra Mile programme across 50%+ of its stores nationally, B&Q went on to win the Global Gallup Great Workplace Award for employee engagement with Sir Ian citing The Extra Mile Partnership as “playing a critical role in helping us on that journey”.

By reducing the numbers of disengaged colleagues across B&Q from 1 in 3 to 1 in 7, Martyn Phillips, HR Director reported, “this increase in engagement liberated an extra £100 million of resources that had been previously burned on paying salaries to disengaged staff”.

The Paul Stalker & Raise Your Game Partnership working with B & Q Case Study developing and nurturing a new customer facing culture.