Structured scheme wins staff for Kingfisher sourcing hub

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 March, 2006, 12:00am

Kingfisher Asia is part of Europe's leading home-improvement retailer with 700 stores in 16 countries and brands such as B&Q, Castorama, Screwfix and Brico Depot.

The Kingfisher Group's global sourcing hub is in Hong Kong, with Anthony Sutcliffe, director of the Asian arm's global sourcing unit, overseeing 250 regional staff, of whom 140 are based here.

Kingfisher launched a new training and development programme a year ago. 'Before that, we had a fairly haphazard and unstructured approach, done on an ad hoc basis,' said Mr Sutcliffe, who joined Kingfisher from British chemists Boots in 2001.

But, with business turnover up 75 per cent over three years and the Hong Kong staff doubling over the past five years, workers needed to be more effective in a strong growth environment, he said. Management also realised that structured training and development were vital for retaining and motivating good people.

The past two years have seen staff turnover hit 15 per cent, but the new training programme is showing positive results with fewer people leaving around Lunar New Year, when employees usually shift jobs.

Mr Sutcliffe distinguishes between training and development, defining training as helping people to be more effective today, while development is focused on the future. The company benchmarks the capabilities of individuals against core competencies, a mixture of their technical and other abilities. Having identified training needs, a multi-layered approach is taken. 'Then we mix things up with internal and external programmes to keep it interesting,' Mr Sutcliffe added.

Three types of training are given, including core technical skills. Then there are core softer skills, such as behavioural development, communications, time management, languages, and people-management with supervisory and leadership coaching.

Development is more about preparing staff for the future, through an appraisal and quarterly review. 'We segment our staff into three areas, based on performance and the individual's potential. Everyone is important and needs a development plan.'

Staff are classified into three group: the solid, reliable performers - probably the majority, Mr Sutcliffe said - the rising stars with promotion potential, and those earmarked to become future leaders and top managers.

Individuals' aspirations are identified by getting them to spell out where they see themselves in two to five years' time. This leads to a documented career development plan for each one.

So far, one-third of the staff have career development plans. The reasons employees cited for staying with Kingfisher in the Watson Wyatt survey were directly related to the training and development activity.