5 Minutes With Debs Chapman, Director of Reward & People, Shop Direct

How can retailers use employee recognition software to embed its company values and encourage greater participation in shaping the organisation’s future direction? We spoke to Shop Direct's director of reward, employee relations, people services and diversity, Debs Chapman, to find out.

Q&A with Shop Direct's Debs Chapman, director of reward, employee relations, people services and inclusion
Shop Direct's Debs Chapman enjoys making a difference in staff participation.

Tell me a bit about what you do for Shop Direct.

I lead the design and governance of reward, employee relations, people services and inclusion at Shop Direct. We’re the company behind Very and Littlewoods.

As part of our people leadership team, I also contribute to setting the direction of our people strategy. I love having a wide-ranging role and it’s safe to say that no two days are the same.

Tell me a bit more about Shop Direct’s employee recognition platform.

Shine is a social media-style tool that we launched five years ago with our partner Achievers. It helps us to recognise everyone while reinforcing our values and boosting engagement.

Each month, every colleague is allocated five pounds worth of Shine points to award to anyone across the business for behaviour they think has delivered on our purpose of “making good things easily accessible to more people”.

The points can be exchanged for vouchers or experiences. Over the years we’ve added new features, such as the ability to boost existing recognitions. That’s helped to keep things fresh.

“Knowing what colleagues want isn’t always easy, but a good place to start is by asking them”

Colleagues make Shine recognitions under three headings. As well as “delivering our purpose”, there’s “living our values”. That’s for when someone’s attitude and ways of working have demonstrated our company values, which are together, ambitious, proud, innovative and trusted. The final category is “let’s celebrate”, for marking birthdays, promotions and other life milestones.

Shine’s evolved with our culture. We refreshed our corporate values recently and used Shine to promote them by updating the iconography and values descriptions.

What are the some of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome to achieve this?

A common hurdle with employee recognition is creating something that feels authentic and people buy in to. Knowing what colleagues want isn’t always easy, but a good place to start is by asking them. When we did that five years ago, we identified that colleagues felt we weren’t great at recognising success in a consistent way. Shine was developed, launched and has continued to evolve with this in mind.

Today around 94 per cent of our colleagues are live on the system, sharing 12,000 recognitions a month.

What do good employee recognition schemes look like?

They should be engaging, empowering and help to drive a culture in which people value and respect each other. Reach is important too, especially when you have thousands of colleagues based across numerous sites as we do. It needs to be easy for people to recognise and engage with others beyond their own teams. Online tools are ideal for that.

How do you see your approach to recognition changing in the future?

We’re moving towards a focus on quality over quantity. Recognition leader boards have been replaced with our quarterly Shine Heroes Awards. Colleagues put each other forward for truly outstanding achievements by using #hero in their post, and it’s possible to win with a single nomination. There are five winners, one for each of our values, who receive £50 worth of Shine points each.

“We’re moving towards a focus on quality over quantity”

We’re in the process of appointing colleague champions to promote Shine within the business and directly help to shape its future direction. We’ll keep celebrating colleagues going above and beyond with our Shine Heroes Awards and add new features regularly.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m from Glasgow and started my career as a PA in an insurance company there, before moving into its HR department. That’s where my interest in financial services began. I then spent 14 years at RBS in Edinburgh, leading the employee reward programme.

I’ve always loved retail so when an opportunity arose at Shop Direct it felt like a dream come true. Working for the business behind Very and Littlewoods has allowed me to bring my knowledge and experience together in a new way.

You could say my career path hasn’t been a typical one, but I’ve always worked hard and grasped any new opportunities that came my way.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

My combination of financial services knowledge and HR experience was a great fit for Shop Direct and I’ve enjoyed building on that during my four years with the business. Growing up in Glasgow, where everyone loves to talk, also set me up with the people skills needed for this type of career.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I’m a good multitasker but being able to divide my focus across a number of priorities at any one time can be challenging. Thankfully I’ve got a great team around me. We support each other when it’s needed and celebrate successes too.

And the most rewarding?

I’ve always wanted to make a difference so working on our diversity and inclusion agenda is extremely rewarding. Seeing our colleagues really get behind our recent Pride activity was brilliant.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

Go for it. These days there are so many different ways to get started on a career in retail, so be open minded and do your research into apprenticeships and other entry level opportunities.

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