John Lewis & Partners offers its ‘Better Jobs’ programme to all UK suppliers to help create more rewarding jobs for the people who make its products

John Lewis & Partners has announced that, following a successful trial, it is rolling out a new progressive supplier engagement programme called ‘Better Jobs’ to all of its 120 UK manufacturing suppliers. The purpose of the Better Jobs Programme, which is free to suppliers and replaces traditional ethical audits, is to create more rewarding and enriching jobs for the people who make John Lewis own-brand products.

The ethos of the programme is based upon a key principle which the Partnership was founded upon: ‘the purpose of the business is the happiness of all partners through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business’.

John Lewis developed the new approach in conjunction with a group of suppliers, as well as an advisory group consisting of representatives from The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Institute of Employment Studies, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

There are two parts to the programme: a framework which helps suppliers think about the ways they support, engage and reward their employees, and an employee survey.

The Framework has seven themes: voicing opinion, progression, reward, security, job design, respect and health & wellbeing. The anonymous, employee survey consists of questions from an annual survey which the Partnership asks its own Partners (employees), as well as some from the CIPD ‘World of Work’ survey, and covers all seven Better Jobs framework themes.

Following the survey, an action plan is then created with support from relevant John Lewis experts, and managers are given access to a custom-built portal with resources to aid them in delivering their plan.

The suppliers invited to take part have long standing relationships with the retailer, and have already undergone forensic style audits to confirm that they comply with laws on employment and human rights, and health and safety.

This year John Lewis will also begin to trial the programme with 15 suppliers in China using a mobile app to communicate directly with suppliers’ employees.

Commenting on the programme Nadia Youds, Partner and Social Impact Manager said; “The Better Jobs Programme was set up following discussions with suppliers about how the Partnership could support them with the challenges they face such as recruiting skilled people, future-proofing their industry and being more innovative.

“We wanted to support them to go beyond just meeting the law through ‘tick box’ audits which suppliers said they found restrictive; and to deepen our relationship with our suppliers and share some of our resources with them. So, we created the Better Jobs Programme which assesses continuous improvements that have a positive impact on their employees’ experience of being at work.”

The retailer has today published a report on the findings of the first year of the programme run with 23 UK suppliers and 800 of its employees. The key findings from the first year are: over 70% of employees felt they could voice their opinion; the majority feel their employer supports their wellbeing, almost 90% said they have influence over how they do their work, over 80% of suppliers have development plans in place for their employees but this needs to be offered to a more broad and diverse range of employees.

Commenting on their experience of the Better Jobs Programme, Rachel Cox HR Manager of Virginia Hayward who supplies John Lewis with hampers said; “We have really enjoyed being part of the Better Jobs Programme. The survey allows us to get a real insight as to the views of our people. We have used the data to structure our learning and development plans and management coaching programmes.

“During the first year Wellbeing was highlighted as an area that we could improve upon, this led to us working with Mind to draft a Wellbeing policy, convene a committee, train Mental Health First Aiders and launch a 12 month programme of wellbeing initiatives. Now in its second year, this is a scheme that has become embedded in our normal business life.”

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