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Cobblers to engagement!

A weekly 16pp newsletter for Timpson employees produced by The Jools Payne Partnership.

There can be few better examples of successful Employee Engagement than our client, Timpson. But they don’t have employees – they have colleagues!

The Timpson Group is one of the UK’s most successful privately-owned retailers with over 900 shops across the country trading under the Timpson and Max Spielmann brands.

Under the leadership of Chairman, John Timpson CBE, it has adopted a style of management that places those who serve customers as the most important people in the business. Everyone else in the organisation exists to support them. John calls it Upside Down Management, an inverted pyramid with John and the Board of Directors at its base and 1800 or so branch colleagues at the peak.

Timpson doesn’t have an HR department, it has a People Support team. These colleagues are charged with doing all they can to support Timpson’s most precious asset – its people. John Timpson is a business leader whose actions meet his rhetoric. We know, we’ve worked closely alongside John and the senior leadership team for the past 17 years. It’s a business we know well and admire greatly for its simplicity, innovation, altruism and achievements.

Colleagues around the UK receive a weekly 16 page newsletter (which The Jools Payne Partnership produces) packed with news from every area of the business and, more importantly, 90% of the content within it is generated by the people in the business every single week. If that’s not engagement then I’m the tooth fairy.

The Timpson training programme is designed to provide each and every colleague with the opportunity to progress. There is no limit to ambition – anyone is given the chance to progress from an apprentice to a regional manager. Indeed, there are people currently in place who are the living embodiment of Timpson’s talent management programme. Every single area manager (there are 18) started their career as a cobbler in a shop, including the associate director of operations and all four regional managers.

The Timpson leadership has put some creative thinking into developing a range of employee benefits that is wide, diverse and predictably, off-piste. All colleagues receive a card and their birthday off – awarded as an extra day’s holiday each year. Those big birthdays, you know, the ones with a nought on the end, come with Champers and cake and a personal note from the CEO.

The Timpson holiday homes, of which there are 7 scattered around the UK and Europe, can be used by colleagues completely free of charge. Those who are struggling with debt or unexpectedly large bills have access to a Hardship Fund, where the company offers an interest free loan, and for colleagues nurturing a long-held wish of any kind, Timpson operates a discretionary Dreams Come True Fund to help people realise their ultimate dream.

A recent initiative is that each area manager now has an unlimited budget (provided it is justifiable) for social events to bring branch colleagues together to celebrate area achievements and create camaraderie. Area field teams also reward colleagues simply for a job well done, or going the extra mile to help customers or colleagues alike. Awarded on a daily basis, they often take the form of a scratchcard where colleagues can ‘win’ a modest cash prize, a bottle of something or a meal out.

The culture of engagement is totally embedded in the company’s psyche and that of its leadership team, and is resourcefully applied across every area of this highly successful £160m turnover business.

Having worked closely with the Timpson leadership over the past 17 years we’ve enjoyed unrivalled access to this most visionary of businesses. It is a beacon employer with a raft of awards to prove it. Indeed, we prepared the bid for Timpson the year it won the coveted Retail Week Retail Employer of the Year Award in 2004.

Given its commitment to colleagues it’s no surprise Timpson appeared in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list on the five occasions it entered the index of the UK’s best workplaces.

And it is equally unsurprising that we look to the Timpson model when advising our clients on their employee engagement challenges. Why? Simply because we know it works. And it works precisely because it is simple.

Who do you look to as a model employer and more importantly, why?

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