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Research Case studies

Morrisons Supermarkets


The Policy Research Institute (PRI) and the HRD and Leadership Unit (HRDL) in Leeds Beckett University’s Faculty of Business and Law have been working with Wm Morrisons Supermarkets (based in Bradford, West Yorkshire) to support organisational change. The research and consultancy has focused on key factors that support employees to progress in the organisation. Two research projects have (i) identified the factors influencing career progression to senior management at Morrisons and (ii) the impact of a Human Resource Management intervention aimed at driving higher levels of performance and productivity.

From Shop Floor to Top Floor is an exploratory study of labour market progression in the Retail Sector. Morrisons commissioned the research to investigate the factors that impact on progression in the workplace and the effect of these on the social mobility of research participants. The study adopted the framework of ‘career development’ as a construct to explore progression, drawing on the employment and labour market experiences of employees at Morrisons who, having started on the ‘shop floor’, had progressed to senior management levels in the company. The study was based on their ‘life stories’ to identify the key factors associated with a successful career at Morrisons.

The research illustrated the potential of the retail sector for raising skills levels and provided an important contribution to developing human and social capital. It also highlighted how the sector provides employment opportunities for people from a variety of social backgrounds, often including local jobs for people living in disadvantaged communities. This case study demonstrated that employers like Morrisons have a key role to play in providing an important source of employment, progression routes and skills development opportunities and through this they can act as a vehicle to facilitate greater social mobility.

A key element of Morrisons’ approach to change is the development of coaching capability among its leadership population. The innovative Coaching for Performance Programme was developed to support organisational change. It is unique to Morrisons drawing on ideas from elite sports coaching and reflecting the interests of each Morrisons operating division. An evaluation based on an e-survey of over one hundred participants in the programme identified how much it had equipped them with the necessary coaching skills and the extent to which this had impacted on improved performance in the workplace. The results, published in a research report, provided positive feedback associated with the content and delivery of the programme, the use of the knowledge gained and its application in the workplace. The majority of participants have used some of the knowledge gained in the Coaching for Performance Programme to improve performance and used coaching to positively influence the behaviour of others.

The research and consultancy has provided a unique insight into the culture of a major national retailer and the Yorkshire and Humber region’s top rated business (based on market capitalisation). David Devins, the faculty’s lead researcher on the projects, says that “the extent to which organisations like Morrisons develop pathways and support careers for those in entry-level occupations is a key to unlock the potential of the labour market in terms of improving opportunities for social mobility”. The research has received significant media attention from both the regional press (Yorkshire Evening Post) and from business news resources (The Recruiter and thebusinessdesk.com).
people shopping in morrisons

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