The “Asda Way” Becomes Wal-Mart’s Way

Dec 06, 2004

By George Anderson

Wal-Mart’s Asda division is growing and the chain’s people director knows why.

“We know that making our business the best place to work will also make it the best place to shop,” David Smith told The Independent. “Customers expect great products, quality and value for money, but our customer numbers are increasing because people also see friendly faces and feel welcome.

“Unhappy people don’t smile and chat with customers. Our staff do because they genuinely enjoy coming to work. We believe many of our ideas for releasing the potential of colleagues and increasing job satisfaction can be used throughout the Wal-Mart family.”

The folks in Bentonville agree with Mr. Smith. Wal-Mart has sent executives from the U.S. to study the “Asda Way” and they’ve come away impressed.

Bryan Miller, the people director for Wal-Mart International, said Asda has “set the benchmark” for the rest of the company to reach.

“Being the best place to work is not just about financials, it’s about being a respected part of a team,” said Mr. Miller. “Asda provides a balanced work environment that’s interactive, flexible and fun. This formula translates into exceptional service to our customers.”

A number of Asda initiatives have already been exported from England by Wal-Mart.

The retailer has set up training stores or “stores of learning,” each running eight-week courses combining classroom instruction and store-level experience to reinforce best practices.

Wal-Mart also intends to adapt Asda’s manager recruitment and development program for use in the U.S. Asda’s management selection process not only assesses an individual’s experience but also tests their leadership abilities and problem-solving skills using board games. “When recruiting and developing colleagues, we don’t just look at people as they are but at what they can become,” said Mr Smith.

Some elements of the “Asda Way” are strikingly similar to initiatives that have helped make Wal-Mart the world’s most successful retailer. Employees, for example, are called colleagues in the U.K. In the U.S. they are referred to as associates. Asda also puts great stock in contributions from its colleagues. Just as in the U.S., store-level personnel are encouraged to offer suggestions for improving the business.

Moderator’s Comment: What lessons can Wal-Mart and other retailers learn from the “Asda Way”?
George Anderson – Moderator

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