Q&A with Emma Taylor, Tesco’s UK & ROI People Director

Written by
Emma Taylor, UK & ROI People Director, Tesco

11 Nov 2020

11 Nov 2020 • by Emma Taylor, UK & ROI People Director, Tesco

At a time when her colleagues were focused on helping others, Emma Taylor explains why sustaining their mental wellbeing should be a top-down effort.

1. How has the pandemic affected how you lead and manage your people?

We have a clear set of values that underpin our culture, which ensure every colleague understands what is important – how we work together as a team and how customers are at the heart of what we do. Those values are what I’ve come back to throughout the last few months in leading my team - in particular, treating people how they want to be treated. 

2. Do you believe that staff wellbeing and mental health is a strategic priority for your business? How is this manifested?

We are committed to helping to make it easier for our 300,000 UK colleagues, as well as millions of shoppers, to live healthier lives. Our goal is to create the UK’s leading workplace health programme, helping colleagues to be their best at work and at home. 

We deliver this through our wellbeing programme, working alongside our charity health partners, concentrating on 3 streams; mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing and nutrition. In 2018, we launched our first (and the UK’s largest) workplace health and wellness survey, which we have repeated this year, providing valuable insight to help us shape our programmes and measure impact. 

3. What steps are you taking to prioritise mental health for employees, and what results have you seen (e.g. increased productivity, anecdotal positive feedback, less attrition)

When addressing mental wellbeing within our workforce, we have three main priorities. These are creating a supportive workplace experience, using interventions and resources that colleagues and managers are skilled to use, and ensuring we’re all equipped to respond effectively when a colleague needs support.

We provide a range of learning, services and resources to support colleague’s mental wellbeing, with compulsory training for new managers in all our stores. Our nationwide colleague wellbeing weeks help engage colleagues in the programme. 

As part of an event in May this year, colleagues across the UK got involved in a mental health campaign #imhereforyou, encouraging more conversations around mental health and reminding colleagues they are not alone when it comes to their mental health. We have continuous colleague listening channels, helping us respond and adapt our plans to colleague needs and the current situation. 

4. Can you outline details of the employee wellbeing programme with Headspace for Work

The pandemic has brought many challenges into all our lives. At a time when the nation was told to stay home to stay safe, our colleagues continued going to work, not just in the shops but also the huge team effort from across distribution and office network to ensure the supply chain of goods for customers, adapting to an ever changing situation. 

At a time when Tesco colleagues were so focused on helping others - going to incredible efforts in taking care of customers, playing their part in the communities we serve and taking care of each other, we wanted to help colleagues focus on themselves and support their mental wellbeing whilst building on the resources already available to them. Headspace for Work helps colleagues to do this, encouraging them to take more mindful moments both for themselves and their teams. 

Whether colleagues are looking to focus more, sleep better or stress less, Headspace provides simple, easy techniques to experience a calmer, clearer mind, all in just a few minutes a day, making it feel very accessible for everyone. We were delighted to be able to offer this across the Tesco Group to over 400,000 colleagues in the UK, Europe and Asia across both Tesco and also our subsidiary businesses, including Booker. 

5. What are your future plans for workplace wellbeing; how do you ensure this stays at the top of the priority list in such a competitive retail landscape?

We’ll continue the delivery of our workplace health programme using insight from our colleague health survey and other colleague listening channels, working alongside our charity health partners and other collaborators and experts and weaving it throughout the colleague life cycle.

For mental wellbeing this includes (through our partnership with the Prince’s Trust), funding research into young people and their mental health so we can better support both young people working at Tesco and those in the workforce of the future. 

January sees the launch of our Wellbeing champions programme across the UK, helping drive colleague engagement and participation in our wellbeing programme. 

6. What’s your advice to other leaders, how can they ensure that staff wellbeing is a priority? Why is it good for business?

Coronavirus has brought many challenges and struggles to people’s lives. What it has done in a positive way is shine a spotlight on wellbeing. Never has it been more important to look after our wellbeing and has given businesses a platform and a willing audience of people to listen. 

For staff wellbeing to be a priority, it needs to be led from the top down. Of course, it’s beneficial to invest in services, learning and resources for staff, but creating a supportive workplace experience is even more important.