Asda Cheers on its Staff (and Their Namesakes)

Discussion
Apr 09, 2008

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network

Anyone reading the small print of Asda’s press ads would apparently see announcements of staff birthdays and special occasions. This is one way in which the supermarket chain, owned of course by Wal-Mart, celebrates along with its staff and makes sure the world knows what a family-oriented business they are.

As an added twist, one store manager pointed out that his fruit and vegetable department is looked after by one Bob Hall who shares a name with a horse running in the Grand National. The annual steeplechase is one of the biggest and most popular races in the country. To honor their own in-house Bob, Asda decided to back the 100 to one outsider and encourage everyone to yell their support on the day. If the horse won, produce Bob would get the takings, estimated at more than £4000 ($8000).

Store manager, Nigel Palmer, said “It’s part of our drive to show everyone at Asda that they are the most important people in the company. Our colleagues have made Asda the successful company that it is today, and we want to make all of them famous.

“Bob does a really good job in our store, and so when we saw that a horse called Bob Hall was also running on Saturday, it makes perfect sense to throw the company’s support behind it. We’re only sorry that we can’t do it for all of our workers – but unfortunately we don’t employ anyone called Cloudy Lane, Slim Pickings or Comply Or Die.”

Asda’s Bob responded, “I’m really chuffed (Trans: “I’m really pleased.”) to know that everyone in the company will be cheering my name as they watch the Grand National on Saturday. My chances of winning the race may not be great, but at least I’ll be able to say I took part in the Grand National, in my own small way.”

Discussion questions: Are programs such as Asda’s Bob Hall contest worth pursuing by large retailers? How would you assess their impact on employees and customers? What other feel-good programs would you recommend for larger chains looking to bond with local employees and local communities?

[Author’s commentary]
The winner of the Grand National this past weekend was Comply Or Die (7-1), followed in respective order by King Johns Castle (20-1), Snowy Morning (16-1), and Slim Pickings (10-1). Bob Hall (the horse) pulled up before the finish line.

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15 Comments on "Asda Cheers on its Staff (and Their Namesakes)"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

If this were creatively used a lot, with attendant publicity, it could become schtick and attract a real following. I think what Asda is doing is great, but it’s always wise to keep an eye on mission, so you don’t lose track and go off on a tangent. I once knew a shoe factory owner who, on hot days, would alert the media and bring up school buses and take all his employees to the beach. (Mandatory, BTW, or workers were docked a day.) He got lots of wonderful publicity. One of his competitors sneered, and told me, “I air conditioned my factory.” Guess who was in business longer?

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 1 month ago

I felt good just reading the story about Bob Hall. I guess that answers the question about the effect of such warm personalization has on employees.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
14 years 1 month ago

I believe strongly that it is critical to a retailer’s long-term health to develop a culture that consistently creates opportunities to recognize individual and team efforts, small and large. The key is the recognition must be spontaneous, sincere and well-communicated both inside and outside the organization. This is not a “program.” Rather, it must be a true cultural phenomenon developed over time and led by c-level management who provides the example.

Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
Guest
Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
14 years 1 month ago

Any motivational programs pursued by any organization must be fair and equitable to all employees. If not, those programs will tend to demotivate employees and the organizations would be worse off than they were before.

Also, motivation is internal. There is nothing that an organization can do if an employees does not have proper attitude and aptitude for the position he/she is in. Motivation works only when an employee is the right person for a given job. What this means is that unless an organization has a good system of screening employees and placing “round pegs in round holes” motivational programs are wasted efforts.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 1 month ago
I’m a little confused; Asda is wagering money on a long shot in a race because it has the same name as one of their employees? What if Bob Hall was the caulk at even money? Would they still do it? I’m all for employee recognition. However we must be careful not to make it trivial so it has little meaning, such as “employee of month” plaques and parking spaces, insignificant awards, and minimal time off. If employee Bob Hall is truly worth recognizing, perhaps Asda should pay him the $4000 and not attach his reward based upon the improbable outcome of a horse race. The best feel-good program I know of is awarding cold cash and stock options for a job well done. Publix, Woodman’s and Hy-Vee are good examples. Sporting tickets are nice to give. Not the cheap-seat tickets given out by DSD vendors but rather, entry into the luxury boxes with the executives. Maybe let the produce manager sit next to a senior VP and be treated with respect and appreciation.
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
14 years 1 month ago

Asda has hit the nail on the head when it comes to associate recognition. This kind of corporate culture goes a long way to improving and maintaining employee moral and productivity.

The simple equation is happy workers equals happy numbers. Retailers should involve staff more often in policy changes and corporate direction. Training and recognition are key components in keeping staff content. If you allow employees to take ownership in what they do, they will.

One program that made sense is the Extra Mile program that one of the large pharmacy chains has here in Canada. The manager nominates an employee who has gone above and beyond each month. That associate gets recognition from the CEO and other executive members and there is a quarterly draw from all the nominees and the prize is a vacation. That’s something employees respond well to.

Max Goldberg
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Happy employees are motivated employees. Motivated employees make the consumer shopping experience better. Happy consumers are a retailer’s best advertisers. Sometimes it’s not the big things that make people happy.

Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I forget who said: “We judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intentions.” The right intention is there–we just have to be careful we don’t get too slick and clever. What this does is humanize the workplace. These employees are real people with real lives and real dreams. For far too long we’ve had the pretense that they are “our greatest resource” and it’s time we put some substance behind the claim. If we want corporate success we must get back to the success of the individual.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

This is spot-on. What amazes me is that it is essentially Wal-Mart and not an independent who thinks of such things. Brilliant and Kudos to Asda’s management.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Asda has it right. Research shows that over 60% of customers would go someplace else to shop if they felt the experience there would be more fun.

Well over 60% of your employees would go someplace else to work if they thought it would be more fun to work there.

Asda is making work a little more fun.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I think that it is a great idea to recognize the achievements, or in this case, the similarity of names to other celebrities. What is also important, though, is to include the customer in this activity. Tell the shoppers the important service that these employees do for the customer, and also occasionally recognize a customer in the same way. Everyone likes to see their name (or photo) in the press.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 1 month ago

What an interesting statement: “It’s part of our drive to show everyone at Asda that they are the most important people in the company.” “Everyone” at Asda comprises the entire company, so now we understand that “everyone” is the most important among “everyone.” Enlightening. If I were an Asda shopper, I’d wonder where this statement placed me in the Asda importance continuum. Last?

Justin Time
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Me too. It reminds me of the parking lot pancake breakfasts Quaker Oaks sponsored at my neighborhood Kroger store 50 years ago.

I was just a 5 year old child, but for those three consecutive years that Kroger held the event, that was heaven. Half of the parking lot was roped off, and everyone sat down to a great stack of Aunt Jemima pancakes and syrup, all in sharing community spirit and appreciation for being part of the community.

That happened on a perfect June Saturday morning, and on another perfect July Saturday morning, a third of the parking lot was roped off and Ralston Purina sponsored a dog contest, which I participated with my neighbors dog, Shawnee, a dalmatian.

What great memories. Would Kroger today ever do that? NO!!!!

But just think if a national retailer here today would sponsor something “feel good” for the community, one store at a time, just how much better off the customer–and the associate–would feel about a national retail chain store.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I know one retailer that pays its folks “competitively” (meaning: the least possible wage), has 120% annual staff turnover, high shrink (big surprise) and buys one lucky employee per store 2 free baseball tickets each month. Think the free baseball tickets are big morale builders? Think those tickets accomplish a lot?

Janis Cram
Guest
Janis Cram
14 years 1 month ago

I think this was creative and fun. Kudos to Asda for thinking outside the box for new ways to recognize their employees.

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