For many of us, working in retail was the inevitable rite of passage that led us out of our school or uni days into the world of work. After all, retail is the UK's largest private sector employer, sustaining the livelihoods of three million people.1
But staying with the same retailer for 6-20 years: that’s almost unheard of. And yet, it’s become the experience for over a quarter (28%) of employees at Savers Health and Beauty.
So how did Savers achieve such an enviable retention rate? The answer may lie in its managers’ consistently great style of leadership.
Who are Savers?
Founded in 1988, Savers has become one of the UK’s top high street discount retailers, offering customers an extensive range of trusted branded products at consistently affordable prices.
More than 5,000 employees work across its 520 stores and the Dunstable headquarters.
Some of their most notable Trust Index employee survey scores include:
Transformational leadership at Savers
Transformational leadership is a people-centric approach to leading. In this style of leadership, bosses go beyond managing by diving into people’s worlds to find a deeper connection with the needs and aspirations of individual employees.
In doing so, transformational leaders raise employees’ motivation, advance personal growth, and provide a moral compass for decision-making. The ultimate goal for these leaders is to help individuals reach their full potential which, in turn, helps their colleagues, the organisation, and the broader community.
After reading just a few responses to their latest employee survey, it quickly became clear that transformational leadership was a common style demonstrated by Savers’ managers across the country.
When we asked employees what they feel makes Savers "a great place to work", one worker’s response to the Trust Index survey showcased these characteristics of transformational leadership in practice:
“It’s a place where you are actually loved for being you. I feel truly at home at Savers where I want to always do my best because of this. I’ve been given lots of opportunity and have already had two promotions. My manager is more than a manager: she is my mentor and helps me with all aspects of work and home life. She is a huge credit to Savers and really influences the whole business in such a positive way.”
Another employee shared with us:
“My company believes in me and gave me the opportunity to develop myself when other retailers turned their backs on me.”
How transformational leadership builds trust
When employees feel higher levels of trust in their manager, they are more likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction, engagement, and feeling of wanting to stay with their employer.
Transformational leaders foster trust by providing a compelling vision, open communication, and creating avenues for people’s voices to be heard.
At Savers, there is a strong sense that employees feel empowered to share ideas and be involved in decision-making, which has cultivated a sense of inclusion and value throughout the company.
As Amy Davies, People Director at Savers explains:
“Over the past few years, we’ve introduced several initiatives to promote idea-sharing. For instance, our ‘We Love Ideas’ initiative serves as a dedicated platform for employees to share innovative ideas or different ways of working. All colleagues are able to submit their ideas, which undergo a thorough review by the business. These ideas are then responded to and, where feasible, implemented.”
How transformational leadership inspires loyalty
Another initiative is the Savers’ 'Back to the Floor' scheme, which encourages head office staff, field teams, and support teams to spend a few days each year working in local stores.
By walking in the shoes of their employees – figuratively, of course – leaders at Savers can take a more empathetic approach to leading, which is characteristic of transformational leadership.
“This first-hand experience helps these teams understand the challenges faced by our store teams, and provides an opportunity to offer feedback on optimising various processes,” says Sean Watret, Sales Operations Director.
“Our Executive Team also formulates our strategy through an annual process that involves temporarily stepping out of day-to-day operations for a few days. During this period, the Executive Team thoroughly reviews, refines, and advances the existing strategy. Throughout these sessions, a focus is placed on examining our strategic pillars and establishing key projects to be pursued in the coming 12 months.”
This approach, combined with the many inclusive policies and programmes delivered by Savers, has resulted in 73% of their vast workforce saying “I want to work here for a long time” (vs. the UK retail sector average of just 56%) and 86% of their workforce saying "I can be myself here".
Proof that when you put your people at the heart of everything you do, you'll deliver a great work experience that benefits both employees and employer.
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