UK retailer Waitrose has implemented an idea management platform from Wazoku to overhaul its long-established suggestions box and to better-engage Partners in driving the business forward. The Partner Ideas programme has delivered clear ROI multiple times over, and is gaining traction throughout Waitrose and its parent organisation, the John Lewis Partnership.
Case study key facts
|Organisation||Waitrose (part of the John Lewis Partnership)|
|Current goals||As an employee-owned business, Waitrose needed to provide a better mechanism to enable its employees (“Partners”) to contribute to the company’s success. It wanted a mechanism that engaged Partners more effectively, but also resulted in better outputs to drive continuous improvement.|
|Current approach||The company redesigned its innovation process, implementing a more focused and structured programme called Partner Ideas and underpinning it with an idea management platform. The initiative was implemented first across Waitrose’s Retail division in January 2015, and is now being adopted by other parts of the John Lewis Partnership business.|
|Outcome||In the two and a half years since launch, more than 2,000 ideas have been submitted to the Partner Ideas platform within Waitrose Retail. More than 350 ideas have been implemented, resulting in savings of £3.5 million. Of the 5,000 Partners who have participated, more than 60% are non-office staff, and the Operational Efficiency team that owns the initiative is encouraged that the programme is helping to break down siloes across the business.|
|Tools and suppliers used||Wazoku|
Opening its first store in Acton, West London in 1904, today Waitrose is a leading and well-recognised retail brand in the UK, with 338 stores across the country. The company has 59,000 staff, over 80% of whom are non-desk-based, working in stores, warehouses and logistics, for example. Waitrose reported revenues of £253.5m in the 2016/17 financial year.
Since 1937, the supermarket chain has been part of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP), which also operates 48 John Lewis shops, an online & catalogue business, a production unit and a farm. As the largest employee-owned company in the UK, the John Lewis Partnership’s profits are shared by its 86,700 staff, who are known internally as “Partners”.
Project background and drivers
In early 2014, as part of a major restructuring of its Retail business, Waitrose formed a new Operational Efficiency team within Operational Strategy. The team’s focus was to identify cost savings across the business, and to help teams improve their processes. As part of this responsibility, the new team took ownership of the company’s long-established Good Suggestions Scheme. Originally a paper-based suggestions box when it launched in 2005, the scheme had later moved to an email inbox, although the suggestions process remained largely the same – manual and unstructured.
By the time the Operational Efficiency team inherited the scheme, it was clear that it had languished for some time; some of the unopened emails were 6 months old. The team quickly uncovered the challenges with this email-based process; in particular, that there was no formal process for tracking ideas and moving them forward. The email address was effectively a black hole for idea contributors: once they’d submitted their ideas, they had no way of knowing what happened to them – whether they’d been considered, whether they’d been implemented, or whether they’d delivered value. There was no sense of achievement associated with contributing a good idea, because there was no feedback or acknowledgement, and no visibility of an idea’s impact.
The team’s own experiences with the scheme were echoed in the annual Partner Survey, which had seen consecutively falling scores under the area of “My ideas to improve the business are Welcomed” – an increasing concern, given that one of the key aspects of the “Partnership” is enabling Partners to contribute to the success of the business.