We recently caught up with Roger Roberts, former HRD of Supermarket giant, Tesco. Roger is due to speak at our Talented Workforce event coming up on 26th September in Basingstoke, and so we thought we’d ask him a quick fire round of questions to get an insight into what Roger really thinks about attracting and retaining a talented team.

In your opinion, how important is employer branding?

Roger: It is a critical element of the whole employer proposition and it’s often overlooked. Put it this way, you wouldn’t dream of marketing a product without thinking about how to brand it so why do so many businesses ignore their employment offer? It baffles me.

 How much difference do you think an engaged workforce makes to the success of a business?

Roger: You can’t ignore the facts, there is so much research that shows that engaged colleagues make a difference – their discretionary effort is higher and they are fundamental to maximising productivity- even if you dispute some elements of the theory, why wouldn’t you want to maximise the output from all your people? It’s even more critical in a time where so many employers are reporting skills shortages. To me, it makes complete business sense to invest in an agenda which helps to minimise turnover.

What do you think business owners can do to invest and retain in a talented workforce?

Roger: I don’t believe there is a one size fits all solution, but fundamentally it’s about the business plan – once you know your business objectives for the next 12 months and then 3-5 years you can start to build a people plan to support the business plan. This does not need to be complicated but getting the right people and holding on to them once they have been recruited should be integral.

Do you think SME’s can learn something from bigger brands and the corporate model?

Roger: Yes – there is so much information, case studies and best practice available but I think the challenge for SME’s is knowing how to tailor this to their own business and not over-complicating it. Also, when implementing change it’s important to focus on delivering a few things really well rather than lots of initiatives which are only ever half implemented.

What role do you think managers play in retaining a talented team?

Roger: It is an absolute fact that people leave Managers not organisations – never underestimate the influence of first line managers.

What do Tesco’s do to invest in their staff that smaller businesses could be doing too?

Roger: One of the key elements of Tesco’s success was that it had a very stable senior leadership team and this is something which is often a key feature of SMEs. Continually changing leadership teams can be a recipe for disaster especially if the strategy changes regularly – a clearly described plan which is consistently executed can be very motivational. Plus, SMEs by their nature tend to have fewer levels of management and that can make communication far easier.

Who is more important – the customers or the staff?

Roger: That’s a tough one – but I would say both. You need a great product which is delivered with high standards of customer service. But you will not get your people to give the best service to your customers if they themselves are not being treated correctly.

If you want to hear more from Roger then register today to attend our upcoming breakfast seminar on 26th September in Basingstoke.