Why House of Fraser’s undoing offers pertinent people management lessons

8 Jun 2018 By Hayley Kirton

Employers must think of staff as consumers, HR professionals told

House of Fraser yesterday revealed it was shutting 31 of its 59 stores – and according to Gethin Nadin, the announcement is a timely reminder for employers hoping to inspire loyalty from their staff. 

The director of global partnerships at Benefex was speaking to HR professionals gathered onboard the Stad Amsterdam – Randstad’s replica 19th century clipper ship – for the recruitment firm’s Positively Inclusive – Improving the Employee Experience for Everyone event.

“House of Fraser is probably a great example of a company that hasn’t kept up with the needs of its consumers and it’s paying the price for it,” said Nadin, who also authored A World of Good. He added that employers that didn’t heed the warning would be “going exactly the same way”.

Nadin noted how critical the media had been of Uber, Wells Fargo and Sports Direct for their reported less-than-stellar employee practices. After checking the controversial retail boss was not on board, he reminded delegates that Mike Ashley last month blamed negative press in the wake of MPs' ‘Victorian workhouse’ allegations for a dramatic drop in the company’s share price. 

Beyond picking on questionable employers, Nadin also cited the case of Disneyland. The ‘happiest place on earth’ identified that employees were queuing for as long as 45 minutes in the Floridan sun to collect and drop off their costumes for dry cleaning, and they were getting frustrated. “I don’t know about you but I don’t want to go to Disneyland and have a really pissed off Mickey Mouse,” he said.

The theme park addressed the problem by automating the process, enabling staff to use a key card to pick up their outfit direct from the rack in a matter of minutes. 

Nadin – who joked he’d put any bad reactions to his speech “down to sea sickness” – urged HR to think about employee experience in a similar way to consumer experience, adding: “If it’s enough for somebody to not buy a product and leave the store, it’s enough for an employee to say that they want to leave.”

Speaking at the same event, Hannah Foster, people director at Flybe, encouraged HR to look beyond the usual suspects, such as race and gender, when collecting staff metrics.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t do the metrics on things like diversity and inclusion. They are super important,” she said, but noted that a wealth of information on socio-economic status and social mobility could be gleaned from collecting statistics on factors like whether an employee received free school meals or whether either of their parents attended university. 

The former director of HR at the Church of England also said her experiences suggested that workplace exclusion was often “inadvertent”. She recalled encouraging members of the clergy to proactively tell their gay peers they accepted them, after receiving feedback that homosexual staff members were feeling unsupported thanks to the religious nature of the job. 

“if you didn’t actually have that conversation, that person might have felt excluded,” she said. 

Head of Workforce OD

Head of Workforce OD

Birmingham, West Midlands

Salary scale £63,751 to £73,664 pa

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust

People and Transformation Director

People and Transformation Director

DECA Sealand, North Wales or DECA Stafford, West Midlands

£64,520 - £75,293

Defence, Electronics & Components Agency

Associate Director of People Experience

Associate Director of People Experience

Leeds, West Yorkshire

£63,751 - £73,664 Per Annum - AFC Band 8c

Leeds & York Partnership NHS Trust

View More Jobs

Explore related articles