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BHS - Outrageous ambition

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BHS has an ‘outrageous ambition’; to be the most successful family retailer in the UK by 2020. Ambitious, yes – but how outrageous is it? We take a look at a UK high street favourite on the brink of a new era of success, where the only limits are those of your own ambition.

As soon as you walk through the doors of BHS’s immaculate London head office you can feel a buzz of excitement in the air. The winds of change are sweeping through the business and it’s taking every team with it – from the HR team who are busy recruiting fantastic new talent into newly-created roles, to the buyers and merchandisers who are securing new and exciting products for the upcoming season.

It’s no wonder everyone is energized - earlier this year, BHS came out of the shadow of its parent company, the Arcadia Group and it’s already making waves. From digital to international to a new food and hospitality offering, the rate of expansion is truly awe-inspiring.

HR Director Sarah Gillett is busy balancing all the new recruitment for head office and Retail with the opening of BHS’s latest graduate campaign, due to go live this month. But despite the fast pace and the long list of jobs to do, she managed to find the time to answer some questions about what it’s like to be making history at one of the UK high street’s most famous brands.

Talk us through some of the changes that are happening – what’s the most exciting thing you are working on?

Since the sale, BHS feels very different…it feels like we are truly  building a business for the future, an independent retailer, ready to be at the heart of British retailing again.

It’s a very exciting time to be the HR Director, it’s not often in your career you get the opportunity to set up an independent Company. My focus is very much on the people elements of change, no matter how great the investment in our infrastructure, I believe it’s our people who will make the difference to this business.

We are busy recruiting for all the news jobs that have been created and have already made some exciting new appointments including a CIO and CFO and merchandising director for clothing.

As you know we have an outrageous ambition and I see my job as helping to turn our ambition into achievement.

Please describe the culture at BHS. What can new employees expect when they join?

One of the things that really struck me when I joined BHS was the people: loyal, hardworking and so proud of the brand, it really is quite unique…Two years ago we set out with the help of Best Companies, to become an employer of choice that displays the qualities of a top 100 Company, we wanted all our employees’ engaged in the brand, doing things because they want to not because they have to and we wanted our leaders skilled in engagement. Following the sale of the business, this agenda has become more important than ever before.

Our mission is to be ‘Passionate about your Lifestyle’, whether that be the customer or our employee’s lifestyle; it sits at the heart of everything we do and we have a strong set of values that underpin and shape the way we do things, they describe the way we need to behave so that we can deliver our outrageous ambition.

Who is the ideal candidate? What is the one thing you expect from the perfect job applicant?

The ideal candidate is someone who thrives on a challenge, is not afraid of hard work and wants to be a part of returning this iconic and very British brand to the hearts of people across the country. The one thing I expect is that they will thrive on and embrace our very special culture.

BHS has always been known for its fantastic career development offering – has this changed since the break from Arcadia?

BHS has always been very proud of its career development offering, but we want to do even more... We are currently one of the top providers of apprenticeships in the country and we have a great track record in delivering Talent Programmes, notably our Retail Grad scheme…where we have been finalists in 2 categories of the AGR, graduate development awards, and are ranked third in the Job Crowd, Top 100 Companies for Graduates, retail section.

We have recently extended this offer to our head office population and this year will see the launch of a brand new buying and merchandising and Leadership Development framework supporting the introduction of even more Talent Programmes across the business. We are also very excited about our plans for a School Leaver Programme which will provide an alternative route into buying and merchandising; giving students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of B&M and a nationally recognised qualification.

What other benefits do employees enjoy at BHS?

BHS employees enjoy all the usual benefits you would expect from a major retailer and we are passionate about rewarding individuals for their contribution.

We are constantly looking for ways we can do this whether it be the newly introduced Bonus Scheme for all our head office colleagues and store managers, or our ‘Little Touches’ programme which provides regular treats such as: your Birthday off, volunteering days, summer hours, ice creams when it gets hot, cream teas for Wimbledon week and our 12 days of Christmas programme. We are always looking at best practice and picking the best of what is out there to make our teams feel special.

What does the term outrageous ambition mean to you – how can candidates show this?

An outrageous ambition is a vivid description of the future that energises everyone in our organisation…Best Companies say an outrageous ambition should only be 50% achievable, which I love. A candidate can show this by having an ‘aim for the stars attitude’.

BHS aims to become the most successful family retailer by 2020, what are the next steps in the journey?
We have a very clear turnaround plan, there is a lot to do but we are confident we can deliver on this, our plans include the roll out of food stores in partnership with Booker, a strategic alliance with Compass revitalising our restaurants and cafes and working with exciting new concession partners to bring new products into our stores.
In addition we plan to roll out more modernisations incorporating our new logo into fascia and windows. We will continue to build on our already strong International business expanding into new territories and open new stores in existing ones. Digital remains a key area of growth where we are planning a real step change to take our digital channel onto the next level.

The road to 2020: Your steps to success

Development opportunities with BHS
At BHS the sky is the limit and that doesn’t just apply to new outlets and exciting projects. The growth at BHS is built on people and their learning and development offer is all about one thing – unleashing your potential. There are a variety of development opportunities from structured talent programmes to specialist workshops and personal development plans and all tailored to your individual needs…

BHS has been ranked in the top 20 for providers of apprenticeships alongside many blue chip companies. All training takes place on the job and earns apprentices a qualification in either retail skills, customer service or business administration at intermediate and advanced level.

Graduate Opportunities
Ranked in the top 100 companies for graduates to work for in 2015 and in the top three in the retail industry, BHS’s retail management and head office graduate programmes go from strength to strength, as do the existing BHS grads. Designed as a fast track route in to management roles the programmes offer live projects and placements and the opportunity to have a real impact on the business. BHS have also started to offer industrial placements for university students in buying and merchandising.

Secondment Opportunities
BHS is passionate about growing its own talent and knows that it’s important to provide colleagues with as many opportunities as possible to progress. With this in mind, they offer Secondment Opportunities across retail and head office that allow employees to broaden their knowledge, network with others and gain valuable experience within the wider business.

Talent Programmes
BHS have a suite of Talent Programmes designed to develop the technical, behavioural and leadership skills needed to progress to the next level. Workshops, projects and placements are just a few of the components which facilitate the training and development needed to take that next step.

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