Two years ago, global menswear retailer Charles Tyrwhitt began a largescale project to update its organisational values, purpose and behaviours. Alongside this, it refreshed its reward package to better reflect its new cultural approach.
Sarah Mortimer, talent acquisition and employer communications manager at Charles Tyrwhitt, says: “We had a set of corporate values previously and they definitely served their purpose at the time, but they were tired, old-fashioned [and] not really fit for purpose.”
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Charles Tyrwhitt’s senior leaders collaborated to redefine its purpose, ‘making it easy for men to dress well’, and clarify what factors, or Tyrwhitt Truths, drive it. The leadership team recognised the importance of the organisation’s customers, its British style and its desire to make everyone feel uplifted, including employees, shoppers, suppliers and stakeholders.
Both the Tyrwhitt Truths and the new overarching business purpose were then used to create key values and behaviours, under the name BEing Tyrwhitt: be the boss, be the customer and be the best.
These values were introduced to staff in October 2018, initially via a management conference in London for team leaders and store managers. This enabled staff to discuss and challenge the new tenets, ensuring they resonated with employees across the board.
“It’s really become a deep part of our business,” Mortimer says. “It means something different to everybody, depending on where they are in the business.”
To cement these values, Charles Tyrwhitt launched peer-to-peer recognition e-cards in October 2018, used by staff to laud behaviour that reflects the three Bes, as well as for thank yous, celebrations and occasions.
Each senior leader has a personalised e-card with which to thank employees for a job well done. “People feel great when they get one,” Mortimer says. “They’re trying to collect them all, collect all the different cards from all the different leaders.”
In September 2019, the organisation launched a new digital instant reward programme for its 900 UK-based staff, named after its core purpose: the Making it Easy (MIE) awards. This initiative aims to embed the business’ values and to allow employees to be easily recognised wherever they are based.
The programme, provided by Reward Gateway, has initially been rolled out for retail employees, but will be extended to staff in Charles Tyrwhitt’s London head office and two contact centres by the end of the year.
The initiative enables managers and senior leaders to award staff with points, which can then be converted into values in pounds, dollars or euros, at a rate of one point per unit of currency, and spent through Charles Tyrwhitt’s employee discounts and communications platform, The Link.
The points are earned by employees who live the organisation’s values, as well as in recognition of long service or hitting targets. For example, retail staff who receive a positive review on the customer review website Feefo receive a set number of points, while those involved in sales receive them on achieving £1,000, £2,000 and £3,000 sales targets.
“These awards being digitalised means we can send them from anywhere to anyone,” explains Mortimer. “Our retail director, for example, who is based in London, could send an instant award within moments to somebody in Manchester or Birmingham. For the employee, they feel invested in and they feel connected.”
Charles Tyrwhitt has also refreshed is its long-service awards, which are being re-launched for all employees during October 2019.
Employees will receive reward points recognising different lengths of service, with 250, 500 and 750 points being awarded at five, 10 and 15 years service respectively. Staff will also be given a physical memento shaped like bronze, silver and gold buttons, representing Charles Tyrwhitt’s expertise in shirt making. The buttons are stackable, together creating a pen holder.
In January 2019, Charles Tyrwhitt introduced its first year-long wellbeing strategy. Every month of the year has a different theme, with corresponding blogs, events, competitions and speakers. These focus on various aspects of wellbeing, including fitness, nutrition, financial wellness, general health and mental resilience.
July 2019, for example, was financial wellbeing month, during which Charles Tyrwhitt introduced a range of new benefits, such as debt consolidation, low-cost loans and financial education, all provided by Salary Finance. Other themes so far this year have included work-life balance and sleep.
Running alongside the rolling wellbeing calendar is a continuing focus on mental health. This was implemented in direct response to staff feedback, obtained through the organisation’s physical and virtual suggestions and questions post boxes.
“We knew this was something our people were passionate about, so we started to build out an entire year-long focus on mental health that runs alongside the other themes, because all the other themes seem to influence mental health,” Mortimer explains.
In preparation for its dedicated awareness month in May 2019, Charles Tyrwhitt trained 14 mental health first aiders. A second cohort underwent the training in September 2019 to correspond with stress and resilience month; this took the total number of mental health first aiders in the business up to 30.
“We’ve got people working in different ways at different places at different times,” Mortimer explains. “We wanted to make sure that everyone could have access to a mental health first aider at any time that they needed them.”
The first aiders meet once a quarter to discuss macro mental health topics and provide recommendations for what could be implemented by the organisation in the future. These sessions also enable the individuals to refresh their training and support one another.
To access wellbeing information, benefits details, training and development, reward and recognition or corporate communications, employees use an overarching digital platform, The Link, which was launched in September 2017 to address an existing disconnect.
“Previously, we didn’t have one form of communication that reached everybody in the business,” Mortimer explains. “If [we are] not able to communicate to [our] people what’s going on and what we stand for, they’re not possibly going to live it. It was a real gap for us, and [The Link] was a real attempt to address that problem.”
The platform, which is available as an app, offers employees access to Smart Spending, a programme which provides retail discounts at stores such as B&Q, Tesco and Marks and Spencer. As at August 2019, employees had spent over £500,000 via the platform since its inception.
Staff are also able to create their own blog posts on the platform, sharing stories across previously unconnected areas of the business.
Gauging the impact
The main measure of employee experience at Charles Tyrwhitt is the annual Best Companies survey, which it has completed each October for the past three years. “We really see not just where the gaps are, we analyse the data really carefully to understand what our people are asking for and what they feel is missing,” Mortimer explains.
This is used alongside a shorter annual pulse survey, as well as monthly statistics taken from the organisation’s HR dashboard, pertaining to topics such as retention, long service, benefits take-up and engagement.
“[It has] been so rewarding to actually think we’re making a tangible difference here, as well as seeing shifts in things like retention levels and long-service awards going up,” concludes Mortimer.
“Retail is very tough; competition is always changing and we need to stay very relevant. We need to make sure we are appealing to all of our employees and we have multiple generations in the workforce. We need to be able to retain people with additional benefits and to be able to offer benefits that make sense to them; [we have our] ear to the ground in terms of what people are asking for.”
At a glance
Charles Tyrwhitt is a global menswear clothing brand, famous for its shirts and for representing a quintessentially British style. It employs 1,100 staff worldwide, including 900 employees in the UK, and has head offices in London and Manhattan.
Within its head offices, Charles Tyrwhitt operates corporate departments, such as finance, IT and HR, as well as its e-commerce arm; approximately 70% of Charles Tyrwhitt’s business is conducted online or via mail and catalogue orders. The remaining 30% of sales occur through physical stores, where the business employs sales assistants and retail managers.
Charles Tyrwhitt also operates contact centres with staff who can speak numerous languages. In addition, it employs a separate design team, which deals with buying, merchandising, sourcing materials and pricing.
Staff ages range from 18 to 68, and the average age is 31. More than half (55%) of the workforce is female and the average tenure is three years.
- To fulfil the organisation’s purpose: making it easy for men to dress well.
- To plug the clothing knowledge gap for men aged between 40 and 60, equipping them with the know-how to dress well for every occasion.
- To produce innovative clothing to appeal to younger customers, and to increase understanding around this generation’s clothing demands.
Sarah Mortimer, talent acquisition and employer communications manager, joined Charles Tyrwhitt three years ago.
Initially, Mortimer was hired on a 12-month contract to lead the organisation’s operational recruitment and develop an employer brand; at the conclusion of this, she accepted a permanent position to tackle employee engagement and communications. Her role has since developed to include wellbeing, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and recruitment.
Prior to her role at Charles Tyrwhitt, Mortimer took a two-year career break following nearly four years at Tiffany and Co, where she most recently acted as talent acquisition and programmes manager, Europe.
For Mortimer, the business changes that have been implemented during her tenure rank as her proudest achievements. “The changes that we’ve seen as a business, the cultural shift in terms of the employee experience has been incredible, and I can hands-on-heart say that I’ve been instrumental in that journey,” she says. “We’ve established a whole communications function, we’ve developed our CSR agenda [and] we’re doing things in wellbeing; we’ve never done that before.”