Our clients


Wm Morrisons plc is the fourth largest food retailer in the UK, with 439 stores, 132,000 employees and an annual turnover of over £16,479 million (2011 figures). The arrival of Marc Bolland as CEO in 2006 marked a new era in the Bradford-based retailer. While many of the strengths that had made the chain successful were retained, it was clear that the company was suffering from a perception that it represented a low-cost, northern brand and as a result was failing to win over potential new customers.

Group HR Director, Norman Pickavance was hired to drive change through the organisation, working with the board to build a new people agenda that supported the overall business plan. Independent began working with Wm Morrisons in September 2007 and continues to provide support in overcoming HR and resourcing challenges across the Group.

HR requirements and achievements

  • Strategic HR guidance – supported the development of a new HR model as part of the business change programme, which included the recruitment of a senior HR leadership team.

  • Talent management - implemented a talent management system and embedded an internal and external succession planning process, which included talent mapping the competition.

  • Organisational design and development - implementation of job profiles, performance management processes, competency based assessment and leadership development plans.

  • Vision and values - Independent helped define and deliver the organisation's vision and values to all Morrisons' employees.

  • Training and coaching - an embedded Independent consultant is leading training in Morrisons' manufacturing and logistics divisions and introducing a new management trainee scheme. In addition, Independent is working with the supermarket chain to measure the impact of its coaching programme on personal performance. The results will be used as a platform to extend coaching throughout the company, with the goal of creating a coaching culture focused on improving performance and ultimately customer service.

  • Social mobility – Independent has been working with Morrisons and Leeds Metropolitan university on a research project exploring how social mobility impacts on staff development, particularly for those who have progressed to management level. Independent liaised with Leeds Met to design the methodology, conduct the research and prepare the report with recommendations for further action. The outcomes of the research will directly affect the future development of the company's HR strategy.

Resourcing challenges and achievements

One of Independent's most immediate tasks following the instigation of the change programme was to support the business and deliver against its resource plans. As a result, an on-site recruitment team was embedded within Morrisons to support its under-resourced, over-in-house recruitment team. The ensuing resourcing programme had a number of key phases:

  • Control and management – Building a quick line-of-sight for all current activity and implementing a robust resource planning process up to board level Independent's resource plan was approved by the Board for the first time in Morrisons' history.

  • Consistent process - Previously, hiring was carried out in various ways across different divisions and consequently was highly inefficient and costly. Independent implemented a resourcing organisational structure aligned account management to ensure consistent, cost-efficient processes across all major divisions. As a result, over £500k of recruitment savings were made in the first six months.

  • Employer Brand - Wm Morrisons had been low profile in the recruitment marketplace and was often targeted by competitors for talent. Independent worked with the existing advertising partner to establish a new employer brand, both internally and externally and resulted in the launch of a new and acclaimed careers website www.iwantafreshstart.com

  • Senior level resourcing and selection - recruitment of an entire senior team e.g. Head of Organisational Development and Talent, Head of Reward, Head of Leadership Development, HR Business Partners.

  • Volume recruitment – Independent was initially tasked with supporting Head Office recruitment, delivering 500 new hires in less than 12 months. This requirement expanded to include supporting the delivery and management of recruitment in the logistics, manufacturing and retail divisions. In addition, over 800 staff were hired for the new Wm Morrisons distribution site in Sittingbourne, Kent.

  • Attraction and assessment - Independent managed the attraction and assessment of staff from factory floor workers to site managers.

"Independent has played a key role in our HR change agenda. Supporting our talent, resourcing and development plans, they have provided good on-site skills and expertise and proven to be a flexible and effective partner."

Norman Pickavance, Group HR Director, Wm Morrisons Supermarkets