John Lewis embeds coaching culture through sport

Written by
Changeboard Team

04 Nov 2011

04 Nov 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Employee engagement initiative

Why did you decide to facilitate an employee and community engagement initiative linked to the Olympics?

London 2012 will be a defining moment in the UK’s history and we wanted to give our partners (staff) the opportunity to really embrace it as well as the legacy it is set to provide future generations.

By offering them the chance to train as sports coaches, we are not only allowing them to improve their own wellbeing and the development of new skills, but also those who they coach in their local communities. What’s more, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to help our partners to develop and grow both in and out of work.

The Partners in Sport programme is a fantastic build on the training that we already have in place for partners and the link with the Olympic and Paralympic Games seemed like too good of an opportunity to miss.

Healthy lifestyles

Why do you believe in promoting the importance of a healthy lifestyle, both in and out of the workplace?
For us, a healthy workforce makes for a healthy and successful business. I’m a firm believer that employees who are happy and active will be more motivated in the workplace and ultimately deliver great results and it is this what Partners in Sport strives to achieve. Investing in the wellbeing of our partners has always been at the top of our agenda and this is another example of how we are helping our workforce to reach its full potential, both in and out of the workplace.

Sally Gunnell - sporting ambassador

How will Sally Gunnell add value in inspiring and engaging your workforce?

Sally is one of the UK’s most recognised and successful athletes and to have her as our ambassador will be a real asset for the final year of the Partners in Sport programme.

During her established career she has had to overcome many individual and team challenges and it is this experience which can help inspire the management teams at John Lewis over the next few months leading up to London 2012.

Furthermore, with Sally taking part in team events at a number of John Lewis shops across the UK, we hope this will undoubtedly encourage partners to take part and get active with the chance to compete alongside a former Olympic champion.

Elite performance & coaching culture

What can HR learn from the world of sport in terms of elite performance, health & wellbeing and coaching?

I think there is a great deal that can be learnt and a number of elements from the sporting world that can be translated into the workplace via management and training. Athletes do not reach the top of their game by luck, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication not only from them but also the team around them, including coaches. It is this coaching and supportive ethos which we look to transfer to our partners and Partners in Sport is just one way of helping them be the best that they can be.
It has been well established within the HR field, that coaching in an organisation can be a successful way to help develop and hone employees’ skills and abilities. Well-coached employees provide better customer service and are motivated to keep the organisation's best interests at heart. I believe that this school of thought can be successfully extended not only to enable a workforce to further develop its skills but also to provide the opportunity for them to live a healthier lifestyle. This is why I wholeheartedly believe in John Lewis Partnership’s Partners in Sport programme in terms of helping partners (employees) to develop skills, maintain a healthier lifestyle as well as helping out in the local community.

Business coaching

What are the results of this initiative so far and what is your end goal? 
Partner feedback since the launch of the programme in 2008 has been fantastic. We have to date trained more than 300 partners as sports coaches all of whom have been able to transfer a number of newly acquired skills back into their day-to-day roles at John Lewis. The core skills developed from being a sports coach can easily be transferred and applied to a coaching or mentoring role in the workplace. For example, a sports coach’s job is to train, develop and mentor their athletes to become better at the physical components of the sport. These same attributes can be applied to business coaching. The business coach sets specific goals and objectives, outlines how these can be achieved and works with the individual on professional and personal development, expansion of their skills base and offers practical and relevant advice and guidance.
Over the next twelve months we hope to not only increase this number, but also inspire our partners to continue to lead healthy and active lifestyles long after London 2012 comes to a close; ultimately helping us as a business to create a dedicated and motivated workforce of the future.

Partners in Sport Programme how it works

John Lewis Partners in Sport is an innovative programme that enables partners (employees) of John Lewis Partnership to engage in sport, touch the spirit of London 2012 and generally have a healthier lifestyle. Partners can apply for anything from training to coach in a sport, to helping to set up fitness clubs and facilities in their branch or even compete at national and international level for the UK.

The programme was launched in autumn 2008 and will continue through to the summer of 2012. The programme comprises of three key strands of activity: Discovering Sport, Coaching in Sport and Succeeding in Sport.

1. Coaching in Sport – Partner Coaching Programme

A core element of the programme is a strategic partnership with Sports Coach UK, the government-backed agency with responsibility for the development of the UK coaching system. John Lewis Partners in Sport will contribute towards the government's targets in grassroots coaching by training up to 800 partners to qualify as sports coaches in their local community.

The programme provides partners with access to courses and a mentor in order to gain a coaching qualification. At present 27 sporting qualifications are offered as part of the programme, this will be extended further to incorporate additional sports and disciplines.

2. Succeeding in Sport – Supporting Competitive Partners

Partners in Sport will provide support and advice to partners and their close family members who are competing at a national level or above in their chosen sport. Open to all working partners, the sponsorship will allow them to choose practical help as opposed to financial support – for instance, travel and accommodation, supplying specific foodstuffs in consultation with nutritionists or upgrading equipment.

3. Discovering Sport

John Lewis and Waitrose branches can bid for funding for team or group events, activities and equipment. To date, over 10,000 partners have benefited from funding to pursue personal or team sporting interests. Notable successes include the creation of fitness centres at several sites, the setting up of men’s and women’s five-a-side football leagues across the business and the sponsorship of dozens of fund-raising sporting challenges. 

About Laura Whyte, personnel director, John Lewis

Laura Whyte, personnel director, is responsible for setting the personnel strategy for the John Lewis division including recruitment, retention, personnel policy and procedure, learning and development and driving high performance. To maintain and develop an environment for our partners to deliver sustained, commercial success, in a way that continues to set us apart from other organisations.

Laura joined the partnership in 1982 as a trainee assistant registrar. She transferred to Peter Jones in 1987 and was a selling department manager until 1994 when she was appointed Registrar Caleys. After working at Bracknell and Kingston she became assistant chief registrar in 2000, and then divisional registrar in 2003. Laura was appointed personnel director (John Lewis) in November 2008.