HI LTD is the second largest DIY retAIler in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. The first HI store opened in Brighton 40 years ago, when DIY was a hobby of the few. Professional building supplies were mainly found at builder's merchants. The founders of the company wanted to bring value, longer opening hours and a broader prODuct range to everyone. Although initially called Home Improvements, the name was soon shortened to HI.
The company expanded rapidly tHRoughout the 1970s and 1980s. When the business went public in 1979 there were 26 stores; by the end of the 1980s the company had grown to 280 stores and was offering customers larger stores and an even greater product range, sourced from around the world. In 1996, the first larger warehouse store was launched and two years later HI’s first store outside theUnited Kingdomwas opened inTaiwan. HI merged in 2000 with a major French DIY retailer, Bricolage SA.
HI currently operates two different kinds of stores: the larger warehouses cover up to 12,000 square metres and stock more than 35,000 different products; the largest Supercentres are 6,000 square metres in area and stock 17,000 products. There are also four distribution centres, each employing about 500 people.
The key results last year were:
● 9.9 per cent of the repair, maintenance and improvement market in theUnited Kingdom(includes DIY and builder’s merchant sales);
● turnover of ￡2.7 billion;
● profit of ￡250 million;
● 16,700,000 square feet of sales space;
● over 27,000 full- and part-time employees.
The financial results showed a decline on the previous year’s figures and an analysis of the performance of stores indicated that a number of them were not delivering the targeted results expected of them.
The following message to the hr director and the rest of the senior management team was delivered by the chief executive at the beginning of the current financial year:
The 21st century has brought companies squarely into a business world where people can make or break an organization, forcing companies to recognize that the strategies that once brought them success may no longer deliver high performance. We are told that our most important assets, knowledge and talent, are at a premium and they are a powerful source of competitive advantage.
With an increasingly competitive marketplace, it was never more vital for HI to maximize the capabilities of its employees. What's more, labour market changes, such as an increasing number of women, ethnic minorities, older workers and those with caring responsibilities in the workforce, make the need for a strategic review of all aspects of our HR policies and practices ever more urgent. Quite simply, the workplace had altered dramatically in the 30 years or so since HI was established and some of the old methods are no longer appropriate.
He asked the HR director to present her conclusions on the development of HR strategy at an ‘away day’ meeting of senior managers in two months’ time.
The HR Director decided that there were two main areas in which the HR strategy should be developed: learning and development (which would include talent management) and reward management. These areas was headed by a senior manager as two of the core members of the company’s centre of expertise (the other was the head of employee relations – the company is strongly unionized at sales assistant level in stores). An HR service centre was managed by the head of HR services and an HR business partner had a senior post in each of the company’s eight regions (including the international operation), reporting to the regional or international director. The larger stores had an HR adviser. Smaller stores had to rely on help from region and the company HR service centre. The distribution centres each had an HR adviser reporting to the distribution manager.
The heads of learning and development and of reward were both asked to produce a proposal on the strategy the company should develop. The head of learning and development (a new appointment) was asked to focus on the stores at this stage as this was where the major business problems were occurring. She established the following facts about what was happening:
● A recent leadership survey carried out by the head of employee relations identified weak team leadership skills at all organizational levels but particularly in stores.
● Stores managers are all exposed to a three-day leadership course run by the head of training but the process is never followed through.
● Team leaders also attended a three-day team management course run by the head of training.
● A standard one-day induction course was provided for newly engaged sales assistants but no attempt had been made to EVAluate its impact or to follow it up.
● No use was made of e-Learning nor, apparently, had there been any attempt to develop a blended learning approach.
● The HR business partners at regional level were mainly preoccupied with recruitment and employee relations issues.
● The HR advisers in the larger stores were also mainly concerned with recruitment and dealing with day-to-day problems; they ran the induction course but there was evidence that many of them were not particularly good at it; in the smaller stores a senior team leader ran the course, again with mixed results.
● A performance appraisal scheme for team leaders and stores managers had been introduced two years ago; it was very much a top-down affair, focusing on identifying weaknesses rather than identifying development needs.
● There was no process of personal development planning or mentoring.
● Customer service levels had been consistently high until fairly recently but surveys showed that they were now declining – not alarmingly but causing considerable concern to the director of stores operations.
On the basis of the above information, draw up a learning and development strategy for HI, indicating what steps are necessary to introduce it and how it would support the business strategy.