Archive: Aug 2014

  1. Wholefoods: The Model Of Involvement

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    How would you feel waking up in the same room as your boss? Brushing your teeth together? Sharing breakfast?

    Weird, right?

    Well, it’s a little unorthodox, but the Wholefoods approach to employee engagement is having a huge impact on their company culture – and their bottom line.


    Company Sleepovers?


    “I know this sounds weird, but there’s something about sleeping in the same house and then fixing breakfast or dinner together that is very much a bonding experience”

    John Mackey

    For Wholefoods Chief Executive and founder John Mackey, escaping the constraints of the office and spending time with colleagues in a more personal setting is the best way to build up a trusting relationship. He believes that it allows workers to connect on a deeper level, and become more involved.


    “His approach stresses the importance of emotionally involved leadership and creating a culture that allows workers to flourish.”


    Mackey’s main goal is to make a job with Wholefoods mean more than just a payslip. His aim is to foster a team who feel like they matter. That’s why Wholefoods are currently ranked 44th in Fortune magazine’s 100 best companies to work for.


    Wholefoods – How They Get It Right


    Founded in 1980 from just one store, Wholefoods now has 80,000 staff across 373 shops in the USA, Canada and the UK. In 2013, they reported the best sales in the company’s history, with a sales increase of 12%, to £7.8 billion.

    So as barmy as you might think their engagement strategies sound, they are clearly working!

    Wholefoods emphasise a strategy of “caring leadership” from the top down. Team members are nurtured and developed and leadership make a conscious effort not to promote “jerks.” New employees start their life at Wholefoods on a two-month probationary period, and only when they achieve a 66% approval rate among their colleagues by secret ballot can they be kept on permanently.

    This approach to development and recruitment ensures that all permanent team members fit with the company culture, and are on message with the values and goals of the company.

    Wholefoods have engineered a model example of a decentralised leadership structure, and of encouraging employees to self-manage. Pay is egalitarian, and no one earns more than 19 times the average pay of a full-time worker. All meetings are ended with “appreciations” – expressions of gratitude for specific contributions staff members have made to the firm.

    These initiatives have had a revolutionary impact on staff relations, and have created a more dynamic and involved workforce.

    If you want to know more about the Wholefoods culture from the chief executives, watch this video. Or to find out how we could help you get your workforce more involved, please just give us a call.

  2. Do Coffee Breaks Increase Productivity?

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    Do we need coffee to be productive? The 1.6 billion cups of coffee we collectively consume every day says we do!

    Many of us can’t function without that first hit of caffeine in the morning.

    However you take your black gold, it has long been the belief that coffee makes you more productive.

    According to a survey carried out by Life Hack:


    “46% of workers claim they are overall less productive without their java. 20% of coffee drinkers claim that it allows them to better socialise with their co-workers and 10% say that it helped them focus before giving a presentation.”


    Those figures are far from conclusive.

    The question we want to ask, is whether it is the coffee that increases productivity, or the break itself that allows space for fresh ideas and creativity?


    Coffee And Productivity?


    “Coffee breaks were associated with higher fatigue, not lower.”



    Many working people will turn to caffeine, when their eyelids begin to droop and their concentration lapses, to help them mine a few more hours from the day. Caffeine is a stimulant, and is proven to keep you awake and allow you to work longer hours.

    But does working longer hours mean greater productivity?


    “Longer hours do not make you more productive, and can in fact have the opposite effect”

    The International Labour Organisation


    The logic that the more hours we work, the more work we get done is what made us pull all-nighters at University, and why your boss pulls you into work at weekends. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true. You’ll get less done, and the work you do will be of poorer quality.

    But what is really important, is not whether coffee can keep you awake at your desk for longer, but whether taking a break can improve creativity, collaboration and engagement.


    A Fresh Perspective


    “Our brains do need to have a little rest – they just can’t be on all the time. And it’s often in the breaks where you get your creative ideas.” 

    Dr. Suzy Green, HR Daily


    Some of our best ideas and brightest flashes of creativity come to us in the shower, in the car, or while sitting over a coffee. It is amazing what can happen when your mind is allowed to wander.

    A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping them can lead to stress and exhaustion.

    When it comes to fresh ideas, putting some distance between you and your work, can improve productivity dramatically. Removing yourself from the coalface for a while means that you will return to it recharged and refreshed.




    “The simple act of sharing a coffee break is an opportunity to sit down, listen and learn”



    Sitting over a coffee as a means of socialising, catching up on the issues of the day and sharing information is a social convention that dates back centuries. Some of the greatest ideas and movements in history were born in coffee shops.

    The coffee break offers the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and speak freely without fear of scrutiny by managers and superiors. In a time when face-to-face interaction is becoming more rare, the chance to communicate in person is precious – it is always more effective than email, phone calls or video conferencing for exchanging information quickly and clearly.

    People from different teams come together, encouraging cross-fertilisation of ideas.

    Think about that the next time you are feeling guilty about popping out with a colleague for a quick espresso hit!