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Pioneers of Trust at Europe's Best Workplaces: Specsavers

Europe's Best Workplaces Specsavers
5 December 2023

Every company that is ranked in the Europe’s Best Multinational category has offices in multiple countries. But one of them has more than 450 locations in Northern Europe alone. With their ‘quality vision and hearing for all’ philosophy, Specsavers serves – among many other countries – the UK, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. And this year, 92% of their 4,900 employees in Northern Europe called Specsavers a Best Workplace. 


Managing Director of Specsavers Northern Europe, Richard Owens, explains his philosophy for ensuring that the Specsavers vision remains on track. “In general, you can’t train someone to have different values, so we make sure to recruit people who are truly aligned with our values and behaviors. Our five Cs guide our behavior: collaborative, curious, courageous, compassionate, and commercial. But those five Cs constantly evolve in terms of what is expected of our leadership.” 

Siv Skovgaard is a Sales Assistant at Louis Nielsen – the Specsavers brand in Denmark. Siv and Richard’s philosophies are fully aligned. “The values have become part of everyone who works here,” she begins. “I felt those values when I found Louis Nielsen while looking for an apprenticeship – I felt the openness right away. I was even comfortable telling them I’m dyslexic during our first conversation. It made a huge difference that I could be so open.” 


Listen to the quietest person in the room 

Richard says the best advice he ever got was to surround himself with people who challenge your thinking, and always ask plenty of questions. “Being curious and seeking different perspectives is key to being successful. Often, the quietest person in the room has the great ideas. But unless you ask the right questions, you might never hear them.” 

Pioneers of Trust facts + figuresSiv says that being heard is never an issue in Denmark – and that honesty is always the rule of thumb. “I meet with the Partners (store owners) a half-hour before my shift begins, so we can sit down and discuss things. Whether it’s everyday matters or ideas for improvement, they always listen and are open. They never, ever give false hope, but rather tell me right away if it’s a good idea or one that’s not feasible. It’s so great to get clear answers.” 


Proud to belong 

Richard attributes their great Best Workplaces score to the fact that Specsavers is, at its heart, a family-owned business. “Our culture, values and behaviors have supported an open, caring, and trusting culture for decades. Last year, we also made a global commitment to further enhance our Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) agenda. Our ambition is to create a workplace where we are all proud to belong.” 

Europes Best Workplaces Specsavers Stat 2Siv says that Partners play a significant role in the culture, too. “They are always ready to help you. They support our future opportunities, and have supported me as I’ve grown in the company towards my goal. Even though my Partner knows I’m aiming to be an Optical Partner at another store, they support me through training, mentorship, and opportunities for more responsibility in the store.” 


Become truly Great 

Beyond simply being proud of being ranked on Best Workplaces lists, Richard says the Trust IndexTM employee surveys are an annual lesson – and a kick in the pants. “We listen to the feedback from the Trust Index surveys. We use it to adapt our way of working and office spaces. I read every single comment that colleagues add – whether it’s a store colleague in Finland, a Partner in Sweden or a support office colleague in Denmark. Thank goodness for Google Translate! The feedback is extremely valuable. It creates clear areas of focus and connects to our business plan for leadership." 

Siv says that the same level of commitment can be felt in the stores, too. “Partners aren’t just bosses. We’re all on the same level and they never act superior to us. They take out the trash and empty the dishwasher. We gather for evening meetings with food and wine, there are great employee events and social activities too. Partners aren’t afraid to invest money in helping us bond as a team.” 

Europes Best Workplaces Specsavers Stat 1“In our business, we look for simplicity,” Richard continues. “Great Place To Work has given us a simple, overarching platform that everyone can relate to. It’s even created some competitive energy in the business. Colleagues are curious about what others do in our market to deliver their results. It has enabled us to talk about our business to the outside world in a humble way, about our great culture and our people focus. As Managing Director, the annual survey creates another level of urgency to ensure we keep moving in the right direction and continuously improve. It keeps me on my toes.” 


Keep on growing 

Siv says that this urge to move forward trickles down to the stores, too. “I think many of my friends feel a bit stuck in their jobs. They remain stagnant. At Louis Nielsen, you can try it all. I could become an Optical Dispenser, an Optometrist or a Partner. There are so many possibilities. And I’ve got so much support, I’d never have to do it alone. Even if I become a self-employed Partner, I know I’ll have all the support I need to make it a success.” 

Want your global company to feel family-owned? Ready to spread your services across borders, time zones and cultures? To be a Best Workplace like Specsavers/Louis Nielsen, you’ll need a strong culture, a business plan led by your values, and a formula that ensures that no matter how many times you replicate it, it remains as fresh, new and inviting as your very first location. 


Leaders at Europe's Best Workplaces are pioneers of trust. See the full list now.


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