Iceland is a great place to work – and you don’t have to take our word for that. It is a fact 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 eleven 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 Straight Talk staff surveys, which show industry-leading levels of engagement and job satisfaction throughout the company.
‘Feels like family’
Although we have sales of over £2.7 billion and employ more than 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. Our board members are available and approachable, and our store and head office teams bond at regular social events.
Richard Walker (Managing Director, The Food Warehouse)
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, and have been placed at No 11 for the last two years, we have continued to be ranked Number One for giving our staff a Fair Deal. In 2017 72% of our people expressed great confidence in the senior management team, and 71% found their own managers excellent role models who helped them to fulfil their potential
Our founder Sir 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.
What do our people really think?
Anyone can produce a website saying that they offer A Great Place To Work, but what do the people who work for Iceland really think? We are very happy to let them speak for themselves:
Open, honest and inclusive
Our twice yearly Straight Talk survey records industry-leading response rates and levels of engagement, with 86% overall positive scores from both retail and head office staff in summer 2017. This places us in the top quartile of companies in the External Benchmark for Employee Opinion, topping comparative engagement scores in many categories within a peer group that includes Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose as well as Boots, John Lewis and New Look.
We communicate with our store and head office colleagues regularly and clearly, sharing our news honestly whether it be good or bad. Business headlines and people stories are communicated through our Iceland People newspaper, and through regular departmental and store meetings. By updating everyone on our progress, we seek to engage the whole Iceland team in driving our business performance. We are also famous for celebrating success, notably through our Christmas incentives which offer great cash rewards for our winning store teams and a “millionaire’s weekend” for the winning store managers and their partners.
All our people policies reflect our commitment to equality in the workplace, and to providing opportunities for all regardless of race, religion, gender or disability.
Each and every one of our stores elects a colleague to our nationwide Talking Shop forum. This and its head office equivalent, Deeside Voice, provide effective and trusted two-way communication channels, enabling colleague representatives to drive change from the ground up. Growing recognition of the effectiveness of Talking Shop and Deeside Voice is reflected in our Straight Talk staff surveys.
Our annual National Talking Shop event held at Deeside provides 80 colleague representatives with an opportunity to talk directly to our founder Sir Malcolm Walker – a real highlight of the year for both Malcolm and the representatives. Answers to their questions are always honest and direct: and when one representative asked in 2016 if she could attend a board meeting, the response was naturally “yes”.
Keeping it simple
When Iceland’s founder Malcolm Walker returned to the business in 2005 our recovery plan was based on three key principles: Simplification, Focus and Accept Reality. Although the business has become more complex in recent years, we constantly challenge ourselves – and are challenged – to keep things as simple as possible, and to focus our efforts on delivering customer satisfaction and so generating sales.
We set out clearly to our employees what we expect of them, but we also celebrate individual initiative where this helps to add a personal touch that can make all the difference to our customers.
Speed, energy and enthusiasm
Iceland must move 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 not afraid to take decisions, and are keen to get things done. Our stores are supported by a 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!
Looking after our people – paying as well as we can
At Iceland, we have built our success on giving more: better value to our customers, and better rewards to our staff. 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.
We remain committed to paying our people as well as we can, and have pledged that Iceland will always pay more than the National Living Wage introduced in 2015. A 3% pay award in April 2017, following 2% awards in April 2016 and October 2015, increased our standard rate for front line colleagues to £7.63 an hour (£8.38 within the M25), compared with the increased National Living Wage of £7.50 an hour.
While the National Living Wage only applies to those aged 25 and over, Iceland once again stands out by paying the same basic rate to all employees, regardless of their age, and makes no deduction for new starters as they gain experience.
The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey has long underlined Iceland colleagues’ satisfaction with their pay and conditions through our Number One Fair Deal ranking. 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.”
Looking after our people – improving conditions
All our stores include staff rooms providing free tea and coffee, and our rolling programme of store refurbishments is delivering a much better working environment for our staff as well as easier and more appealing shopping to our customers. Staff uniforms are provided free of charge, and recent design improvements have been made using feedback and suggestions from our colleagues.
The completion of a company-wide LED lighting conversion programme has improved working conditions for our colleagues in stores and head office alike. Deeside head office colleagues have also benefited from a £2.5 million investment programme that has included the replacement of all seating in the offices, the installation of a new air conditioning system, and refurbishment and expansion of the renowned Roxy staff restaurant, including the installation of a completely new kitchen.
Presided over by Michelin-starred restaurant chef Mike Truelove since 2005, the Roxy is simply one of the best staff restaurants anywhere. It offers a mouth-watering daily selection of at least two different hot dishes and freshly griddled fish, plus cooked to order pasta and a well-stocked salad bar. The prices, too, are truly exceptional, with the heavily subsidised lunch costing £3.50 for a main course, including a wide choice of vegetables or salads to accompany it. Healthy menu options are always available and fresh fruit is provided free of charge. The Roxy also serves breakfast and includes a subsidised all-day Costa Coffee bar.
Looking after our people – other benefits
We encourage our employees to shop in our stores with a staff discount card offering a 10% saving on their purchases in all Iceland and The Food Warehouse stores throughout the year; a double discount of 20% on all colleague purchases is traditionally offered for a period in the run-up to Christmas. This is a really important benefit to us, and our way of saying a sincere ‘thank you’ to all of our colleagues. Our colleagues save over £3 million a year 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.
Iceland is committed to helping all colleagues find a healthy work-life balance 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.
Through our membership of the RetailCURe credit union, we are able to offer our colleagues access to savings accounts paying better rates than the market average, which in turn afford access to loans at similarly advantageous rates. We also offer employees access to a will-writing service that is free of charge to almost everyone.
Looking after our people – helping those in need
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 other instances in which we have been able to provide pastoral or financial support for colleagues in need. We have our own Wellbeing Fund to support colleagues in hard times, and also work in partnership with the Retail Trust, which offers support and assistance to working or retired people in the retail industry. This support can include financial assistance, scholarships and bursaries. At a time when serious incidents of assaults and threatening behaviour towards store staff are sadly on the increase, the Retail Trust provides face-to-face support to those affected, and can offer counselling where it is needed. A voluntary company donation means that all services provided by Retail Trust are free to our Iceland employees.
Our Occupational Health Service enables us to establish more quickly when employees are unable to work, and to speed up referrals for treatment for both physical and mental health issues.
Looking after other people – our charity commitment
Iceland’s annual Charity Week is a great opportunity for store and head office colleagues to have fun together raising money for good causes. Our 2017 Charity Week raised a record £567,000 for our charities of the year, The Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland, through a range of activities including cake bakes, sponsored walks and cycle rides, mountain climbs, marathons, sponsored silences and even an 8.5 tonne truck pull. Iceland has also worked in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society to become the first ever UK food retailer to make all store colleagues Dementia Friends. For more information on our charity work, please visit the website of the Iceland Food Charitable Foundation.
Encouraging brand ambassadors
We recognise that our people are the best advertisements and ambassadors for our business. We are proud that, in our Summer 2017 Straight Talk survey, an industry-leading 87% of our retail staff said that they were proud to be ambassadors of Iceland; 94% would recommend Iceland as a good place to shop and 85% as a good place to work.
Our staff discount card is not just a money-saving benefit to employees: it also encourages them to try our products and recommend them to our customers. We also promote trials of new lines by regularly offering vouchers to our colleagues, while the head office team at Deeside have the opportunity to participate in frequent food tastings and feedback sessions through membership of our IceClub of critics and connoisseurs. In 2017 we harnessed the enthusiasm of colleagues throughout the business for our food in a recipe and cooking competition like ‘Masterchef’, Our Food Challenge, culminating in a Grand Final in the £2 million Iceland Kitchen at Deeside.
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 conduct individual performance reviews designed to identify strengths, ambition and potential, and are strongly committed to providing opportunities for everyone who wishes to do so to move on to the next level within the business. Our development programmes include a Leadership Improvement Programme that focuses on improving the resilience, leadership and communication skills needed to drive the performance of others effectively.
Many of our most senior leaders have grown their careers through Iceland from initial front line roles on the shop floor, and very many of our store managers have attained their positions through internal promotion. We focus on promoting our colleagues while never being afraid to look outside the business for the talent we need to drive Iceland forward.
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 the low labour turnover Iceland has traditionally enjoyed.
New opportunities through apprenticeships
We have embraced the Government’s new apprenticeship levy as an opportunity to increase our investment in training, attract the best 18+ school leavers into our business, build a loyal and capable team of young store managers, and drive down labour turnover. Entrants to our new apprenticeship schemes for supervisors and store managers will be paid the going rate for the job while being funded to learn for a formal qualification. With an apprentice store manager earning £24,000 p.a. (compared with minimum apprentice wage in the first year of £3.50 per hour), we believe that we are equipped to attract the very best talent and to offer a real alternative to running up substantial student debts at university.
Looking after our people – making work fun
Since 2005, Iceland’s fourth governing principle after Simplification, Focus and Accept Reality has been “and hopefully have some Fun”. 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 at our annual conferences for retail managers and our head office team. These videos show some of the highlights of many years of outstanding conferences: