Harrods: how the retailer is engaging its workforce

By Lucy Whitehouse contact

- Last updated on GMT

Harrods: how the retailer is engaging its workforce

Related tags: Management

In this interview, we speak to Harrods about how the company is responding to the rising focus on internal engagement of workforces.

A new report from Positive Luxury suggests that beauty brands and retailers are seeing a rising demand for engaging employees in new and innovative ways.

Positive Luxury, which describes itself as a platform that ‘connects luxury brands with consumers that care’, released the report entitled ‘The World is Ruled by Emotions: Breaking Tradition the Millennial Way’ via its site, and it is available here​.

Harrods is a leading department store based in London, UK. It offers an array of brands across beauty and personal care, particularly in the luxury category.

This article is part of a series of interviews with retailers and brands featured in the Positive Luxury report.

Why is the trend for better employee engagement a focus for you?

From its inception, Harrods has been a business focussed on its most valuable asset – its people. Harrods recognises that engaged staff are happy, consistent performers who feel compelled to progress their careers with the store.

Engaged employees forge good relationships right across the business; with line managers, senior management; as well as with customers.

For this reason, employee engagement is an important part of Harrods’ strategic vision.

How are you responding to it?

Harrods has invested in initiatives that ensure employees enjoy a healthy working culture and gain the experience and training they need to develop their careers.

A dedicated Learning & Development team offers training and accredited educational opportunities unrivalled by any other retailer.

This offering is boosted by placements, secondments; career coaching and staff led career week initiatives.

Rewards for employees include the Harrods 100 programme and the Harrods Award for Excellence, which involves a celebratory, black-tie evening event. Employees can be nominated for awards, regardless of their role within the business.

Harrods Corporate Responsibility programme also has engagement with employees at its heart.

The business regularly carries out surveys to identify the issue which employees are prioritising – for example, business ethics, climate change, gender equality or social issues such as homelessness or child welfare.

The store’s employee engagement policy has had a dramatically positive impact on the business.

Over the last 10 years employee engagement has increased from 62% to 85%, with labour turnover and absenteeism dropping by 50%.

Do employee engagement demands vary for different employee groups across company operations?

Every year, Harrods challenges itself to improve employees’ experience.  

The recently reviewed  benefits package offers employees a range of over 6,500 offers from gym discounts to healthcare plans available to each every employee to really help them feel the benefit of working for Harrods in their daily lives, whichever area of the business they work in and wherever their interests lie.

Harrods updates staff on the wider business strategy and development at regular all-company Town Halls.

This engagement and feedback process allows Harrods to ensure employees from every area of the business feel part of the success of the store.

At the most recent of these Town Halls, the team were updated on ‘The Taste Revolution!’, a redevelopment and restoration of the store’s famous Food Hall, with an engaging presentation from the store’s Director of Food & Restaurants.

Is it important to differentiate your offering to meet different employee engagement demands, and if so, how can this be done?

Harrods has discovered that employees of all demographics and from all areas of the business are keen to learn about and get involved in charity and philanthropic opportunities– and as such, a significant proportion of its employee engagement is focused around this.

Millennial employees are particularly engaged within this area, and are particularly  resourceful in their fundraising ideas and activities.

This focus on community leads to skill enhancing opportunities for Harrods employees, thanks to volunteering, mentoring, team-building and more.

Harrods also operates an employee engagement and dialogue forum called "Your Voice", built on a sustainability framework of workplace, marketplace, environment and community. Issues discussed include key sustainability topics such as recycling, innovation and ethics.

A number of Harrods employees live and work in the wider Kensington borough and the business is committed to championing and giving back to the community in which it operates.

Harrods has worked closely with a number of local charities including the Kensington & Chelsea Foundation, an umbrella group of more than 300 local charities across the borough, which highlights local needs and creates campaigns to combat these needs, as well as championing the work of charities whose work benefits local residents.

Harrods employees feel passionate about playing a role in the local community, regularly offering their time and skills to local causes; volunteering at food banks such as St.Cuthbert’s Centre in Earls Court, taking part in Age UK’s ‘Big Knit’ campaign and engaging in takeovers of local charity shops.

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