A company's culture is based on the values and beliefs that are shared across the organisation. It is challenging yet essential to ensure the organisation's culture reflects its strategy and focus on the customer. A key element of the new approach has been to change the corporate culture at Argos and build an environment within the firm that values: customer service which focuses providing an experience that is enjoyable and friendly as well as efficient teamwork, because this leads to greater co-operation and the sharing of best practice taking ownership for decisions so that managers solve problems themselves rather than pass them on to others respecting each other so that everyone feels they can contribute having the competitive will to win so that everyone is aiming to improve and to succeed.
The commitment of Argos employees to these values seems extremely high: in its 2003 Speak Out employee survey, the company found that among its employees:
82% believe the company wants to beat its competitors
74% believe strong teamwork is a major contributor to the Argos performance
77% believe the business is customer focused.
At the heart of these changes is a culture of effective communication through which employees know what they are supposed to be doing and what the business as a whole is aiming to achieve.
Around 80% of Argos employees say they clearly understand the company's goals and objectives and 89% say they know what is expected of them in their job. These are comparatively high figures; many companies would struggle to match them but Argos wants to continue improving them.
Building a team
Argos also continues to work at building what it calls its 'employer brand' - a clear set of values representing the attitudes and beliefs of its employees. In 2003, after consultations with staff, these values were stated as: change makes us better and more successful we are impatient to win as much opportunity as you can handle where teams work.
The new management team have managed to recreate an Argos culture that: believes in winning believes that change is important and necessary seeks new opportunities encourages co-operation.
Values such as these have played a vital part in improving the firm's competitiveness through innovation and through working effectively together.
To achieve such a cultural change, Argos provides on the job and off the job training, career development opportunities and appropriate rewards for good performance. For example, new employees take intranet-based training tests on key areas such as customer service and shopping at Argos and every employee's progress is tracked through the different training modules.
New employees are assigned a 'buddy' who helps them to become familiar with the business. After their induction training all employees are set performance objectives. Their performance is then monitored on a regular basis and discussed in appraisal sessions with their line managers.
Argos also provides opportunities for individuals to progress within the business; over 80% of all Argos retail management appointments are internal. Performance is rewarded not just through competitive basic pay levels but also through numerous bonus and incentive schemes that are used to encourage high levels of sales and good customer service. The company has widespread recognition schemes such as Simply Thank You and MAD (Made A Difference) to acknowledge employee performance and to motivate staff.
In 2003, the company's work was formally recognised by Retail Week magazine when the company won the 'Retailer of the Year' award.
The marketing mix at Argos
As well as changing the culture at Argos, management appreciated the need to change the extended marketing mix to improve the customer experience. Argos has always been associated with 'low prices, more choice, less hassle'. The management team wanted to build on these values and develop the