A great place to work
We have always said that Iceland is a great place to work – and we are delighted to have this independently confirmed by the annual Sunday Times Best Companies survey, which has ranked Iceland among the Best Big Companies To Work For in the UK every year for the last ten years and has twice awarded us the Number One spot, in 2012 and 2014. These excellent results provide authoritative, external confirmation of the results of our own regular staff surveys, which show industry-leading levels of job satisfaction throughout the company.
'Feels Like Family'
Although we have sales of over £2.7 billion and employ around 22,000 people, our staff agree that working for Iceland feels like being part of a family. We believe that the key to success in retailing is looking after our customers properly, and that starts with looking after each other. While we naturally expect our employees to stand on their own two feet, they can also expect to be treated with respect by their colleagues, and to be part of a team where everyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and help out when support is required.
Everyone at Iceland is on first name terms with each other, and we share a strong sense of pride and common purpose. The 2014 Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey ranked Iceland Britain’s Best Big Company to Work For because it “can’t be beaten for its levels of Wellbeing or for giving staff a Fair Deal”, with 79% of staff reporting that they love their jobs. This echoed the 2012 survey which attributed Iceland’s top place to “having the happiest workers in the country. Iceland is second to none when it comes to staff Wellbeing, work relationships expressed in our survey factors My Team and My Manager, good Leadership and a Fair Deal. People don’t just like working for Iceland. They love it.” Although we slipped to 10th place overall in the 2015 survey, we were again ranked Number One for giving our staff a Fair Deal. Our people say that their teams are fun to work with (77%) and that they feel a strong sense of family in their teams (73%). They also feel motivated to do their best by their managers (70%), who ensure that they have the resources they need to do their jobs (76%).
Our Chief Executive Malcolm Walker was named the UK’s Best Leader of a big company in 2012, achieving top scores across a range of measures, with 81% of staff expressing a great deal of faith in him and 75% finding him inspirational. He was also runner up in the Best Leader category in 2013 and 2014.
The Best Companies results mirror the findings of our regular Straight Talk staff surveys. These place us in the top quartile of companies in the External Benchmark for Employee Opinion which includes businesses such as Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose as well as Boots, John Lewis and New Look.
Keeping it Simple
The key to the revival in Iceland’s fortunes since 2005 has been simplification: refocusing on our traditional strengths in innovative, value-for-money frozen food and making life simple for our customers in every way we can. The same principles have been applied to the way we work, ensuring a clear focus on the things that really matter, like service and quality. Although we give our employees clear objectives and expectation, we also allow more freedom for individual initiative than most other retailers, as we believe that it is ultimately this sort of personal touch that can make all the difference to our customers.
We ask our colleagues in our twice yearly Straight Talk survey how easy it is for them to serve our customers well, and we consistently learn from these results and take action to improve our performance wherever we can.
Speed, Energy and Enthusiasm
Iceland moves like a speedboat among the supertankers of UK food retailing. We’re always keen to keep moving forward and to make the most of every opportunity. This makes for a lively and fast-paced working environment, in an organisation that is open to new ideas and suggestions and willing to try them out. Our managers are never afraid to take decisions, and are keen to get things done. Our stores are supported by a lean head office team that is totally focused on retailing and believes in action, not bureaucracy. Anyone who temporarily loses sight of this can expect a sharp reminder from our founder and CEO!
Developing our talent
Iceland is a successful and growing business, and to maintain our momentum we want to help all our people to fulfil their ambitions and realise their full potential. We take pride in training and developing our people, and focus on promoting our colleagues while never being afraid to look outside the business for the talent we need to drive Iceland forward. We conduct individual performance reviews designed to identify strengths, ambition and potential, and we are strongly committed to providing opportunities for those who wish to develop their careers. Many of our most senior leaders have grown their careers through Iceland from initial front line roles on the shop floor, and over 60% of our store managers have attained their positions through internal promotion. Iceland is a company that gets under your skin. Not many people plan to stay forever, but with fantastic career prospects, great rewards and a hard-to-be-beaten culture, we are proud of the high number of long-servers and low labour turnover Iceland enjoys.
The Bottom Line
At Iceland, we have built our success on giving more: better value to our customers, and better rewards to our staff. In October 2011 every one of our front line staff shared in an industry-beating and inflation-busting £14.6 million pay award, which delivered store staff an average pay increase of 6.3% and a maximum possible increase of 45.5%, while home delivery drivers received an average increase of 13.1% and a maximum possible increase of 22.1%. Over the first six years after Malcolm Walker and his senior team returned to the business in 2005, Iceland increased its hourly pay rate for store staff by 33.7% and for home delivery drivers by 49.8%, making the Iceland team among the very best paid on the British high street. Our commitment to rewarding our colleagues well has been maintained by further pay increases every year since 2011.
In July 2015 we announced the abolition of the “training rate” previously paid to new colleagues in the first six months of employment, making all our employees eligible for the same rate of pay, regardless of their age or experience. Since then we have awarded two further 2% pay increases, in October 2015 and April 2016, lifting our basic hourly rate for front line colleagues to £7.41 outside the M25 and £8.14 within the M25, and putting us well ahead of the new National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour (for over-25s) that took effect in April 2016.
The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey underlines that Iceland delivers good pay and conditions, in addition to a friendly work environment and high levels of job satisfaction. Our overall Fair Deal ranking in 2016, as for several years before, is simply the best in the UK. In 2012 the Sunday Times noted that our “employees are far happier with their pay and benefits than anyone else on the list”, with a satisfaction rating of 81%, beating even the bankers at Goldman Sachs. This top ranking was maintained in 2014, when the Sunday Times reported Iceland “people are happier with their pay and benefits than any other employees on the list (80%), including those at PwC, where a typical chartered accountant earns almost £50,000 a year.”
In 2015, as well as earning a special Lifetime Achievement Award to mark our five years in the Top 10 Best Big Companies, we received a special award for Wellbeing. The Sunday Times wrote: “A holistic approach to wellbeing across the company sees managers close enough to their people to be treated as confidantes in tough times. When employees heard a colleague wanted to take his son to Disney World before he lost his sight, they helped fund the trip, and when three members of staff from one store died in the same week, Iceland supported the families and arranged cover so that people could attend the funerals.” There are many more instances in which we have tried to fulfil our commitment to being a caring employer.
- At Iceland we pride ourselves on offering offer our people a healthy benefits package that is not only competitive with other employers but also unique to Iceland. To achieve this, we constantly monitor our competition to ensure that we continue to be a Best Big Company to Work For.
- We encourage our employees to shop in our stores with a staff discount card offering a 10% saving on their purchases in all Iceland stores throughout the year; a double discount of 20% on all colleague purchases applied during November 2015. This is a really important benefit to us, and our way of saying a sincere ‘thank you’ to all of our colleagues. In 2013/14 alone, colleagues saved over £3 million on their shopping by making purchases with their discount cards.
- Iceland Spend & Save is another important part of the fantastic benefits package available to all our employees. Colleagues can find discounts at thousands of the country’s top retailers online, with saving opportunities ranging from ecodes and gift cards to earning cashback on their everyday purchases.
- Running alongside our Iceland Spend and Save platform we also offer exclusive access to the Hotpoint Privilege Purchase Club which offers discounts of up to 30% on a huge range of appliances
- Iceland is committed to a healthy work-life balance for all of its staff and our childcare scheme is a great extension to that. Our employees benefit from saving money on childcare costs by taking advantage of childcare vouchers via a salary sacrifice scheme.
- It is not unusual for individuals to encounter problems at certain points in their lives and Retail Trust works in partnership with Iceland to provide support and assistance to working or retired people in the retail industry. The support can range from an employee wellbeing service, financial assistance, scholarships and bursaries. The services provided by Retail Trust are free to our Iceland employees.
Simply the Best Place to Eat
The 500-strong team at head office in Deeside benefits from one of the best staff restaurants anywhere: the Roxy, given a £400,000 makeover in 2005 and run by top restaurant chef Mike Truelove. It offers a mouth-watering daily selection of at least two different hot dishes and freshly griddled fish, plus well-stocked pasta and salad bars. The prices, too, are truly exceptional, with lunch costing between £3.00 for a main course, including a wide choice of vegetables or salads to accompany it. The Roxy also serves breakfast and has an all-day Costa Coffee bar. Fresh fruit is provided free at the The Roxy and staff who over-indulge in Mike’s excellent hand-cut chips can work off their excesses through heavily subsidised membership of one of several local gyms.
Mike Truelove says
I’ve been at Iceland for nine years now. When Malcolm came back I was running the Crabwall Manor Hotel near Chester and he rang me up and said ‘My staff restaurant needs sorting out.’ It had been outsourced to contract caterers who used the cheapest possible produce, and the staff hated it. My brief from Malcolm was simple: ‘I want it to be the best staff restaurant in Britain, one that is worth a Michelin star.’ When I worked at the Box Tree in Ilkley I was the only English chef in the country to have two Michelin stars, so I knew how to go about it.
I started by sourcing good quality ingredients and putting some skill back in the kitchen; there is no convenience food here. That put some pride back in to people’s work. I have the most brilliant team: I inherited them when I arrived and kept them all, and I’ve given them chances to broaden their skills so that they can all have a go at different things like cooking on the griddle or serving at the Costa as well as working on the till. I multi-task, too. I started my career in the kitchen and I still cook on the hotplate every day.
My team are a fantastic bunch of people and they really love working here; we always come out on top in the Iceland staff satisfaction surveys. One of the best things about Iceland is that it is structured to train and develop staff, which is not something I’d ever really come across in the catering trade. Here we have one-to-ones and appraisals and there is no place to hide; it’s one of the really good things I have learnt here.Image of fruit in The Roxy
As for the prices, you would be paying a minimum of three times as much to get food of the same quality anywhere else. We just cover the cost of the ingredients and the company chips in for the wages and other overheads. Malcolm started giving away free fruit as a perk after the head office conference in 2008, and it was costing us £300 – 400 a week. So he came back to me after a year and told me to put even more out: he said ‘I want it be like a harvest festival’. Now we’re spending nearly double that. Those struggling to get through their five a day can always pick up a fruit smoothie at the Costa.
From my own point of view I think Iceland really is a great place to work. The hours are civilised and the people are brilliant. They are really grateful for what they have got. They treat you like part of the team and it’s so nice to be appreciated. We serve around 350 lunches a day and I have had to deal with precisely two complaints in three years: one from someone who thought they had been overcharged for their salad, and one that our bananas were on the small side. Other than that it’s all been positive feedback!
View a sample menu from the Roxy.
The Best Conferences
Iceland is a fun place to work, and we like our people to be able to get together, let their hair down and enjoy themselves as well as learning more about the business and their colleagues.
Store Managers’ Conferences
2005 Iceland emerged from The Dark Ages with a store managers’ conference at the ICC, Birmingham. Star of the show was Iceland’s founder and newly returned Chief Executive Malcolm Walker, who gave a candid sofa interview about the Iceland story from the day he opened the first store in 1970 to the point where he was thrown out of the company in 2001, and his vision for the future. The evening’s entertainment took the form of a Bavarian Christmas dinner complete with pitchers of beer, an Oompah band, ice rink, carousel and Christmas village.
2006 Back at the ICC we planned to base our conference around writing a story called “Winning: The Iceland Way”. We had a 22-foot high mechanical book on stage along with a Ferrari intended as the prize for our best performing store manager. But the night before the conference the set caught fire, causing some £500,000 worth of damage. There could be no better illustration of the Iceland spirit of rolling our sleeves up and helping out than in the way we managed to salvage most of the set and wheel it round to the borrowed Birmingham Symphony Hall, where the conference went ahead as planned. The evening concluded with entertainment inspired by Cirque du Soleil.
2007 We took 900 people to Disneyland Paris in two chartered planes, where our managers were entertained by Iceland’s directors performing a Christmas pantomime and set a team challenge to perform in the theme park (where their enterprising decision to wear fancy dress proved too much for the management’s Gallic sense of humour). The evening was spent on the rides of another theme park and dancing to a band.
2008 We held our conference nearer to home in Liverpool, holding a fashion show of Christmas products with lots of razzmatazz provided by cheerleaders and acrobats. We offered a BMW Convertible as the prize for our best performing store manager, along with a wide range of cash incentives for the best performing store in each region. The evening was a black tie awards gala dinner – The Iceland Oscars – hosted by Kate Thornton and supported by the Manchester Camerata Orchestra with entertainment including an opera singer, dancers and pyrotechnics, and concluding a live performance by Girls Aloud.
2009 At the end of his speech to the 2008 conference, Malcolm Walker told the managers that, if Christmas was good, the 2009 conference would be taking place in Florida.
So, in celebration of a fourth amazing year of double digit like-for-like sales growth, in September 2009 Iceland chartered jets to fly almost 800 store, regional and area managers across the Atlantic to spend five days at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The conference itself took no longer than usual, giving our managers ample free time to explore the Disney theme parks and other nearby attractions including Universal Studios, Sea World and the Kennedy Space Center. Highlights of the visit included an exclusive performance of the Lion King, evening events offering private access to many of the theme park rides, and a spectacular fireworks display.
Managers also enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of the staff areas under the Disney theme parks to give them an insight into Disney’s remarkable staff culture, incredible attention to detail and total dedication to customer service. Helping our managers to understand this world class approach was one reason for our £4 million investment in what was agreed by all to be our best conference ever; though our principal aim was simply to give our key people a great time in recognition of everything they have done to achieve the astonishing transformation of the business over the last four years.
2010 For the 2010 retail conference Iceland returned to the ICC in Birmingham, where we brought together a record 1,650 people, including not just our store managers but service champions for each store chosen by their colleagues. As well as revealing the highlights of our Christmas range (in 3D) and the incentives for our best-performing stores, we laid on a fashion show for the new uniforms designed by our staff. In the evening, the Band of the Life Guards led a fancy dress parade to Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena, where we celebrated Iceland’s 40th anniversary at a huge street party. Entertainment was provided by iconic tribute acts from each of the last four decades, Marc Almond, the legendary Peter Kay and X Factor winner Alexandra Burke. We also presented a giant cheque to our Charity of the Year, Help for Heroes, and enjoyed all the fun of an indoor fair.
2011 The 2011 retail conference was again held at the ICC in Birmingham and featured a host of innovations including a keynote address by retail guru Mary Portas, a lunch menu made up entirely of Iceland’s own new Christmas range, and constant audience feedback throughout the day through SpotMe handheld technology. The Christmas incentive was new, too, with reward opportunities open to all stores and a top prize of a “live like a millionaire” trip to Monaco by private jet; though there was also the traditional giveaway of a car, with an unusual twist. The conference ended with a Riverdance routine performed by all Iceland’s area and regional managers as the introduction to next year’s conference venue in Dublin.
2012 In October 2012, we took over 1,000 store managers, area managers and the Iceland Retail field team to Dublin to see for themselves how the Irish bring the craic to life and deliver an unforgettable customer experience to their visitors!
Delegates were welcomed to Dublin by store colleague volunteers who bought an Olympic spirit to the conference.
The Retail team were introduced to Iceland’s family of investors, listened to the challenges ahead and the importance of allowing our colleagues’ personalities to bring service to life in our stores and saw the launch of the 2012 Christmas incentive - a trip like no other to New York!
2013 In October 2013 over 1,000 Iceland managers converged on the ICC in Birmingham for a retail conference with the theme of “Make the Ordinary Extra-Ordinary”. Directors completed a series of daring feats with CEO Malcolm Walker emerging from a 50,000 volt Faraday cage to underline his contribution to putting a creative spark in the business; CFO Tarsem Dhaliwal being cut in half by a circular saw and later miraculously recovering to take to the air on a flying carpet; and Nick Canning and the regional managers taking part in an “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here”-style challenge hosted by Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts. Delegates also enjoyed the traditional preview of Iceland’s Christmas product range and advertising, and news of the Christmas incentive.
2014 The 2014 retail conference was again held in Birmingham, though this time in a hotel and with a rather less lavish feel than previous events. Delegates enjoyed a tasty buffet lunch of brand new Iceland products before an afternoon of presentations on the theme of “It’s Time”, focusing on how to make Iceland even better.
In the evening there were regional break-outs enabling store managers from each region to get together and spend time with their colleagues and Regional Managers, who used the sessions for reward and recognition celebrations. The whole company then got together and partied in true Iceland style with a disco and free bar.
2015 The Iceland retail conference returned to central Birmingham in 2015. Delegates arrived for a buffet lunch followed by an afternoon of presentations by the directors relating to Iceland’s current positioning and future plans.
The evening celebrations included guest appearances by Paul Potts and Peter Andre and a Reward and Recognition event for top performing managers. The evening meal was a feast of Iceland’s own products showcased to present the 2015 Christmas range.
Head Office Conferences
2007 We decided to hold our first head office conference in 2007, but the event planned for Chester Racecourse had to be relocated at short notice as a result of flooding. So, in another fine example of the Iceland gift for pulling together and improvisation, we managed to turn the old grocery warehouse behind our head office into a venue suitable for 600 people, with a full rock and roll style stage. The daytime conference was followed by a funfair in the head office car park and dancing to a live performance by the Sugababes.
2008 This year the grocery warehouse wasn’t available so a huge marquee was erected in the head office car park. The daytime conference included a game of Family Fortunes with all the directors, and the playback of video clips from a Big Brother-style video diary room which had been set up in the Roxy restaurant for the previous week. In the evening a quiz night hosted by Gabby Logan and Phil Tufnell saw the head office departments competing with each other for free Christmas party tickets.
2009 Some might have thought that Iceland was skimping on the head office conference when they saw the simple marquee erected in the car park for the afternoon presentations. But any such thoughts were blown away when the 550 guests reached their evening’s entertainment in the grounds of Malcolm Walker’s own house. In fact, the conference budget was bigger than ever before. Even this could not guarantee good weather and, in the finest tradition of English outdoor events, it rained. But the head office team were still able to enjoy walking around the beautiful gardens to the music of a jazz band, keeping up their energy levels with refreshments from numerous bars and a barbecue. Then it was into the warmth of a gigantic marquee for an evening of fine food, music and dancing, including a performance by Abba tribute singers the Fabba Girls, with the night rounded off by a fantastic musical firework display.
2010 The 2010 Deeside Live conference was held in the head office itself, with colour co-ordinated cheerleaders leading staff to five different meeting rooms around the building. Here everyone was linked together electronically for a combination of a live Question Time and Iceland’s Got Talent in the form of a series of hilarious videos – written, directed and produced by each department.
The traditional evening celebration took place in November in Liverpool, where the head office team marked Iceland’s fantastic 40 years at an extravagant black tie Decadance dinner show featuring over 40 dancers and cabaret performers lead by Jason Donovan.
2011 The 2011 conference for head office staff was held at Chester racecourse in December and featured presentations on Iceland’s innovations in both products and customer service, together with the presentation of awards to high achievers in every department.
In the evening the team celebrated at Iceland’s traditional Christmas party, featuring dinner, live entertainment from Stacey Solomon and The Overtones, dancing and all the fun of a snowglobe and bucking rodeo reindeer.
2012 The 2012 head office conference was again held at Chester racecourse, where highlights included presentations on a successful year, a video message from Malcolm Walker recorded before his departure for Antarctica, and a performance by Iceland’s own choir.
The Christmas party that evening whisked the head office team away to the German-style Iceland Christmas Markets.
2013 2013’s head office conference was held in a transformed Deeside depot and delivered a very clear message to the 600-strong head office team from the four executive directors on why the four principles of our business – Simplicity, Focus, Accept Reality and Have Some Fun – are more important now than they have ever been.
Our Christmas party lived up to the very high standards we’ve set ourselves over the years as colleagues were whisked off to a New York themed Christmas Wonderland.
2015 This year's head office conference was held onsite in our Centre of Excellence, where colleagues heard key motivational business messages direct from our executive board. Our Christmas party that evening was a magnificent Mexican Christmas fiesta, featuring a varied choice of street-style food, fine wines and entertainment including samba dancers, a competitive limbo challenge, a selfie station, and a DJ to inspire colleagues to dance the night away in true fiesta style.
Interested in joining our winning team?
Click here to see the opportunities currently available on the Iceland careers website.