Tony Elvin, Touchwood, Employee engagement should be a business critical priority
The Touchwood Centre operates within an extremely competitive business environment, and in order to drive commercial success, we must continually enhance our offer to visitors, shoppers and retailers. Our aim is to ensure we remain a destination of choice as a relevant contemporary shopping and leisure location that Solihull is proud of.
At the centre of the work we carry out to support this ambition sits our employees. They are a critical part of our success because it is only through their commitment, abilities and attitude that we can deliver on our business vision and bring our collective values to life, without them, Touchwood is just expensive wallpaper. In any business I have ever run, my own team and their engagement with our vision has been business critical.
Furthermore, as an employer, I believe it is my responsibility to manage people the right way, to provide opportunities to learn and grow, to provide a positive and respectful environment where people feel valued, accountable and that their opinion actually counts. It would be crazy to think that I or any other business manager had all the answers, but collectively, as a team we can meet any challenge. As such, we spend a lot of time asking our team for their opinions.
In my experience, the effort put into these activities is always returned ten-fold through additional sales, reduced cost, greater team retention and higher team morale.
Our team engagement strategy is encapsulated by a new initiative introduced at the centre some 18 months ago.
‘Together Works’ is an umbrella programme that has driven a raft of changes to further enhance the working culture at Touchwood, but also give our employees pride in their jobs and the confidence to grow and develop within the centre.
The initiative was created on the back of detailed employee research and workshops to gather and gauge honest staff sentiment about their working environment and job role, and where we could look to improve.
While many areas were praised, others such as communication, culture, recognition and workloads were highlighted as issues that required attention.
‘Together Works’ does this.
We first of all launched the new initiative at a series of team events timed to suit the varied shift patterns in use at Touchwood. We explained that ‘Together Works’ was the centre’s practical response to what employees are asking for.
We now hold regular team forums and open meetings to exchange views and share ideas between team members, supervisors and management, and ensure the positive working culture is continually supported.
Communication channels such as e-mail and newsletters are regularly used to keep the team fully up-to- date with news about the centre, while succession planning processes allow structured progression for both team promotion and the opportunity to learn new skills.
And beyond working hours, team social events – including a free summer event hosted within the centre – are regularly held to foster a spirit of comradeship. Finally, the introduction of an employee award scheme takes the ‘Together Works’ philosophy a step further, as we publicly recognise and reward employees who are excelling in their roles.
While the commercial success of Touchwood continues to be something we are proud of, the impact of ‘Together Works’ has been significant in recent times.
We are now retaining higher numbers of employee than ever before, and have announced a record level of internal promotions and training opportunities. Absence days have been cut by a third, and agency staffing costs have been slashed – indicators that the important work carried out to make staff feel more engaged through ‘Together Works’ is, indeed, working.
‘Employees are your most important asset’. Tangible rewards await businesses that support, listen to and develop their employees. By doing so, companies will feel the benefit of a fully engaged workforce who understand and contribute to the overall vision for the business and, ultimately, help deliver its ongoing commercial success.