The people in our business are fundamental to its success.
Much of the value we deliver to customers is through the expertise and experience of our people. Our sustainability relies on our ability to attract people with the right skills and behaviours and to motivate, develop, support and reward them appropriately.
We employ over 5,600 people across the UK, Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain. We believe that our ability to deliver fantastic products and service to our customers comes from the passion and commitment shown by all our people across all parts of our Group. We are proud of the work we do to develop and strengthen our teams.
We believe the continuous growth and development of our employees is pivotal to the success of our Group. In addition to our award winning apprenticeship programme, we actively promote the benefits of further learning and development for all our employees, at whatever stage of their career. We provide an extensive package of on-line training and development relating to technical skills, compliance and personal development as well as direct face to face training to our employees. During the year we provided over 8,000 training days to our employees. We will continue to invest and expand the training and development we offer to all our people.
We began our modern apprenticeship programme within DFS in October 2014 with a focus on recruiting and developing young people. We are very proud of our scheme which supports participants to achieve formal qualifications in their chosen field, complete the Duke of Edinburgh Gold award and gain valuable work experience. In February 2018 we were accepted on to the register of approved training providers which means we are able to deliver Level 2 apprenticeship programmes ourselves. To date, 55 young people have successfully completed the Level 2 apprenticeship and the majority of those now hold permanent positions in the Group, in a variety of areas including service upholstery, manufacturing, retail and administration. The success of our programme has been two-fold: firstly, providing young people with an opportunity to genuinely develop their talents and become productive employees and secondly, to build resources for the business in areas where there could otherwise be a skills shortage. During the year our Apprenticeship programme won the Large Employer of the Year with Qube Training 2019 as well as being a finalist in the Retailer of the Year Awards in the All About School Leavers category for 2019.
Good communication with our people is a key factor in the success of the Group. during the year we added to our existing programme of employee engagement with the introduction of the Employee Voice Forum. Our Voice Forum representatives did an excellent job of voicing their ideas and their colleagues’ feedback directly back to the Board of directors. This forum adds to our policy of open communication via Workplace; since 2017 Workplace by Facebook has provided a platform for our people from all our brands across the Group to connect with each other. News, updates and photos are posted and shared on a regular basis.
Employee views are sought through an active programme of engagement surveys, the results of which are communicated back to staff. Having achieved 23rd place in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work for List in 2018, we were very pleased to have made further improvement this year, reaching 22nd place. We also continue to receive external recognition for excellence in employee conditions by the retention of our Top Employer certification from the Top Employers Institute.
We reward all our employees fairly. In addition to competitive salaries, all employees are able to influence their earnings through reward schemes linked to performance. We also offer a Sharesave scheme to all UK and Republic of Ireland employees to give them the opportunity to share in the longer-term success of the Group.
We support the health and welfare of our employees and their families through a variety of benefits including life and critical illness cover, and an employee assistance service across each of our brands.
The health, safety and well-being of our employees, customers and partners is extremely important to us and we are committed to promoting a positive health and safety culture throughout the Group. We have continued to invest in training and development and in improving our processes and practices across our Group to ensure that we operate safe and secure workplaces no matter where they are.
All employees complete online training modules to ensure awareness of the Group’s ‘house rules’ for health and safety and these are reinforced with monthly safety messages to refresh and remind on particular subjects. More detailed, role-specific training is provided to store, production and supply chain managers. Other areas of the business receive focused training according to need.
Our dedicated health and safety teams have made further enhancements to training and internal audit programmes to consolidate the significant progress made in this area over the last few years. Although we are pleased with the advances that we have made, we recognise that continuous monitoring and development is essential to sustain this. Monthly health and safety governance meetings are held with operational directors to review incidents and activities in detail and share experience and best practice. Full reports are provided to each operating board and to the Board of Directors twice a year.
As part of our drive for continuous improvement, during the year, we introduced a H&S champion role within DFS Customer Distribution Centres to encourage further employee participation and assist management with control of H&S compliance at a local level. In addition, during the year, we invested in Airsweb – an online Health & Safety management system for improving the reporting incidents, completing onsite H&S compliance checks & conducting and issuing audits, across all DFS sites. We will complete the roll out of the system to Sofa Workshop, Dwell & Sofology early in financial year 2020.
In recognition of our efforts and progress in this key area we were delighted that DFS received a Silver Award from RoSPA having previously achieved a Bronze Award in 2018. We will continue to work to improve standards across the Group.
Our focus on the well-being our people continues through our wellbeing programme, through which we aim to encourage the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our people by providing information, self-help tools and support. During the year we increased our focus on raising awareness of mental health issues, and support for employees experiencing poor mental health issues. As part of this 52 employees have been trained as mental health first aiders. We will continue to work to support all our employees across the Group during the coming year.
We believe in the benefits of a diverse workforce. We are an equal opportunities employer, we aim to ensure that all our employees feel welcome, included, valued and recognised and have transparent access to career development opportunities. We will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. With the expansion of our Group through the acquisition of Sofology in 2017, we are able to provide more employees with greater options for career development and we actively encourage flexible and home working for those employees whose roles permit such arrangements.
Our people are expected to embrace a culture of diversity and to act respectfully and with consideration for others. We’re always exploring how we can help every member of our team make the most of their talents through:
- Fair and equal promotion and pay policies
- Transparent recruitment processes
- Individual career development
- Ensuring a healthy work/life balance
Gender diversity is a key area of focus for our Senior Leadership teams, the gender analysis of employee numbers is reported to the operating boards on a monthly basis and monitored against targets for sales and management teams. We are focused on driving improvement in this area.
It is the policy of the Group to support the employment of disabled people, wherever possible, both in recruitment and by retention of employees who become disabled whilst in the employment of the Group as well as generally through training and career development.
In order to achieve our aims a series of initiatives are in place across the Group. DFS has established a Diversity Steering Group to develop and implement these new and ongoing initiatives. One such initiative was for International Women’s Day on 8 March this year when we asked our people (both men and women) to join us in sharing who they thought were ‘Real Models’ and inspirational to them and how we can move gender diversity forwards to ensure #balanceforall.