Halfords – The smaller retailer’s solution – a response to the internet and supermarket giants?

Halfords get more personal with their branch teams to create a national service campaign.

Someone on the Halfords board had a word in someone’s ear about having a word with a consultancy known to them called Wingivers. The idea was to discuss how to run a pilot programme, perhaps using a fresh approach.
 We met and subsequently set up a project to launch a store trial that aimed to test out some new working practices concerning in-store training activities, mystery shopper, “helpfulness” and the area manager role. Our role was to support a mixed design team to create a successful blueprint to roll out the new practices to other stores.

Our first encounter with the group revealed much about the Halfords culture – strong on getting on with the task with an energetic can-do attitude. We were impressed with the knowledge, talent and enthusiasm within the group. To describe a balanced picture, we also encountered the “shadow”; this was a group of people used to a JDI culture, (Just Do It! – though there is a less polite version which has an F in it), used to doing, then more doing, all good unless it becomes a singular approach to everything, omitting the occasional moments of reflection and planning.

A key task became slowing them down to pause and reflect on not just the What that needed implementing, but the How.
Other important insights emerged. They were a mixed group of 4 different grade levels from shop floor to area manager; some shyness and reluctance to speak up was inevitable. The two more senior guys present showed the way with our encouragement. Permission to speak with authenticity became more of the norm. The task eased; the session completed with clear outcomes on the blueprint, but most notable was the shift in energy and involvement of the participants. There were numerous comments about feeling valued and pride and gratitude about being included in the project. It signposted very important clues for Halfords to reflect on ways of engaging colleagues concerning important business changes. Inclusivity, respect and the shift in the core relationship dynamic of Parent-Child to Adult-Adult dialogue were some observations that Wingivers added.

We therefore ended this phase with some clear learning for the business about how attention to cultural habits and behaviour can play as big a part in operational issues influence as the intended operational activity itself. One Area Manager inspired us with his humble and insightful self reflection as he re-examined his whole approach to leadership.  Inside these golden nuggets of awareness, Halfords was discovering the enormous power of helpfulness which was later to become their new strapline “That’s helpful, that’s Halfords”.