1.0 Background of the Organisation
Boots is a member of Alliance Boots, an international pharmacy-led health and beauty group. Our purpose is to help our customers look and feel better than they ever thought possible. Boots customers are at the heart of our business. We’re committed to providing exceptional customer and patient care, be the first choice for pharmacy and healthcare, offer innovative products ‘only at Boots’, with great value our customers love. To further enhance the experience for our customers, we have a Multi-Channel site; Boots.com, where our customers can browse and shop for 1000s of products, and, can also get advice on numerous health issues via WebMD. Customers are also able to order prescriptions through our online site. Our people are our strength and they tell us that Boots is a great place to work. We aim to always be the employer of choice, attracting and retaining the most talented and passionate people. Boots has over 2400 UK stores, employing approximately 55,000 people.
The main HR function is based within the shared services centre in our Nottingham Head Office. The shared service centre has a number of key roles; HR partners, HR managers, HR advisors, learning & development roles, recruitment administrators & resourcing roles. All roles contribute towards the company people plan, with some roles being field based, supporting managers in stores to drive performance and legendary customer care. The North West Region has, in its Regional Leadership Team, a Regional Manager, Regional HR Manager and 2 General Managers and 5 Area Managers. There are 102 stores in the Region. Each store is a different format, varying from the Flagship stores which have a number of managers supporting the General Manager, to the small local pharmacy store run solely by a store manager. Boots employs a high number of seasonal staff each year, to support the busy Christmas trading period. The recruitment usually begins in August for the larger businesses with some staff still being recruited in November in all sizes of stores. In the majority of stores, the seasonal staffing period ends mid-January.
The Project Manager (referred to as the PM), has been seconded by the Chief Executive to investigate the company’s recruitment and selection processes. Angela Paterson, Regional Manager (North), reported in the Christmas Insights and Feedback report 2013, that, ‘during the early stages of the Christmas 2013 recruitment and selection process, stores were overwhelmed with paper application forms. Managers felt unable to cope with the volume whilst implementing the first stages of Christmas preparation and merchandising. Store management teams struggled to adhere to the company selection and interview processes, leading to a lack of consistency across the board. The calibre of ‘recruits’ was poor in some stores. Seasonal staff were recruited with incomplete paperwork, resulting in issues at payroll and a number of stores later found that recruits didn’t have the relevant work permits.
The overall impact at customer level was apparent in lower customer care results and store presentation. Learnings and improvements need to be made from this, with a view to better supporting stores at this crucial time, and, protecting the Boots brand.’ Therefore, the PM will investigate the seasonal recruitment process to understand the issues at store level, and, to further investigate improvements that can be made to this process. In order to understand the impact of this, a SWOT analysis has been carried out to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the seasonal recruitment process. (Appendix 1)
3.0 Project Planning Tool
For the purpose of managing this project, the PM has produced a Gantt chart (Appendix 2) ‘The Gantt chart is widely used for planning and communicating the timeline of simple projects’ (Horn P416) The PM is using a Gantt chart as this is a method currently used throughout the company, therefore the team will find it simple and easy to follow.
4.0 Project Plan
‘A project is a connected sequence of activities involving a range of resources, designed to achieve a particular outcome and frequently used as an instrument of change. It takes place within a defined period of time and is the responsibility of a single individual or agency’ (CMI p17) Elbeik and Thomas (1998) identified ten key requirements of a successful project;
1. Clearly defined objectives
2. Good planning and control method
3. Good quality of Project Manager
4. Good management support
5. Enough time and resources
6. Commitment by all
7. High user involvement
8. Good communications
9. Good project organisation and structure
10. Being able to stop a project (CMI p18)
It is important to consider who the key stakeholders are within this project as they will help to support the success of the project and be instrumental in approving any changes that are recommended. These people are the management teams within the stores, as they will want a process that is simpler and has less impact on the store operation and customers. The recruitment team within the shared services in Nottingham head office will be consulted and could help in advising or supporting a change that is better for stores. The regional teams will want a process that supports a seamless transition into Christmas trading, having little impact on customer care and helping to focus on driving sales. Finally the Senior Leadership Team will want a process that encompasses all of these points, is more cost effective, meets legalities, therefore protecting the Boots Brand. To deliver on all of this, clearly defined objectives will need to be agreed. Mullins 2013 (p507) states; ‘A commonly used mnemonic to summarise the characteristics of good objectives is SMART. Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound’
The objectives for this project are;
1. Devise a simpler and more cost effective seasonal recruitment process for stores and candidates. 2. Improve the adherence to legalities when recruiting new staff. 3. Improve the quality of seasonal recruits.
The project team have identified a number of activities from the above objectives, that once delivered will ensure these objectives are achieved. Deliverables
1. Improve the seasonal recruitment process by aligning it with year round recruitment and selection processes online, thus eliminating paper applications. 2. Improve the document and reference checking procedure by completing these checks through the recruitment centre as part of the online recruitment and selection process. 3. Improve the quality of seasonal recruits by utilising experienced recruitment consultants to screen applications as part of the online application process. Activities
The activities will be; to consult and liaise with head office recruitment consultants to gain an understanding of process, workload and costs, to discuss the impact on the online jobsite with IT to understand capacity and cost implications and to discuss the interview process with store managers to enable a process to be devised for planning and delivering interviews and inductions.
The Chief Executive has set a timescale of six months for this project. The Gantt chart has been produced in line with this to enable the PM to monitor, evaluate and review the activity progress through to completion. Armstrong and Stephens 2005 (p129) state that ‘milestones that can be used to monitor the project should be identified. Progress should be identified against the agreed objectives’ 5.0 Risk Assessment
‘Project Risk is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objectives, PMI 2013 (p5) The project team have assessed the project using the SWOT analysis in comparison with the Gantt chart. One risk identified on the SWOT analysis (appendix 1) is ‘increased stress at the recruitment centre due to increased workload could lead to poor implementation of a new process’ This could lead to conflict between store management teams and the recruitment centre. Forsyth 2009 (cited in Taylor & Woodham p94) states that ‘There will, of course, be times where individuals have competing agendas or requirements, and this is when conflict often can arise.’
Mullins 2009 (p323) states that ‘the perception of their role may differ from the expectations of others, A solution for the PM to consider would be to ensure that both store teams and the recruitment centre teams are aware of their roles and understand the processes being followed, further to this, the individuals would need role clarification to understand the impact of the changes to their current roles. A second potential risk identified from the PESTLE analysis (appendix 3) is ‘Recent merger could pose a risk on investment in areas such as recruitment as the company reviews is strategic plans’. The costs involved in making any changes will need to be clearly investigated and outlined to enable a decision on recruitment process changes to be made. March and Simon 1958 (p765) state that ‘Decisions made under uncertainty are the most difficult since the manager even lacks the information with which to estimate the likelihood of various outcomes and their associated probabilities and payoffs’ The PM will analyse this with the project team using creative thinking techniques.
6.0 Creative Thinking
Research by Kohn and Smith (Mullins p350) suggests that ‘fixation on the ideas of others can lead to less creativity’ One part of the project that will require creative thinking will be in the activity to devise a cost effective online seasonal recruitment process. The PM will adopt Edward De Bono’s approach to creative thinking, the six thinking hats. Each hat is a different colour and represents a different thought process. De Bono states that ‘in a meeting context everyone would wear the same colour hat at the same time and would examine the issue or problem from that perspective. The meeting would work through each hat in sequence, considering the issue or problem from every angle.’ (Martin p474) By using this technique to generate creative thinking, the PM will ensure that the whole team is focussed on the same way of thinking at the same time, but, generating different thoughts and ideas.
Another method of creative thinking is brainstorming. Mullins states that it; ‘involves the group adopting a freewheeling attitude and generating as many ideas as possible, the more wild or apparently far-fetched the better’ (p349) This type of thinking allows individuals to follow their natural style of thinking and is a more relaxed or informal approach to thinking. It enables the group to bounce ideas off each other to further expand the initial thought. This can also be an effective method to use during the formation of teams, when ideas need to be generated quickly and freely. Tuckman’s model of group formation identifies ‘storming’ as being the second stage of group or team formation. Tuckman states ‘the storming stage is important because, if successful, there will be discussions on reforming arrangements for the working and operation of the group, and agreement on more meaningful structures and procedures.’ Mullins (p312)
7.0 Project Team
‘Huczynski and Buchanan (2010) tell us that teams can take many forms in our organisations’ Taylor & Woodham (p94) The Chartered Management Institute maintains that a team is ‘a group of people working towards common goals and objectives and sharing responsibility for the outcomes, developing good working practices enabling the team to steer and develop the work and reach their goals’. Mullins (p302) The PM has chosen the project team to include key roles from across the business, Area Manager, HR team members, Store Team Managers, Store Managers, Recruitment team members and IT team members.
To help the PM in understanding the individual team member’s strengths and weaknesses, and the general balance within the team, each person will complete Belbin’s Self Perception Inventory. Buchanan & Huczynski (p337) There are five stages to move through for a group to become a team and these will be explored by the PM to enable formation of an effective working team. Tuckman and Jensen (Buchanan & Huczynski p304) identify these five stages as; Forming
The initial 2-3 weeks of the project will be when the formation of the group will occur and brainstorming of ideas will happen, allowing the team to set norms and move toward the third stage. This will then allow for the team to work in the norming and performing stages for the majority of the project time. Leadership; It is important that the PM considers their leadership style whilst supporting the team to work together effectively, therefore, the PM will adopt Adair’s action centred leadership style. ‘This focuses on interaction of needs (Mullins p374) Task needs
Team Maintenance needs
Action by the PM in one area of need will affect one or both of the other areas.
In the ACAS booklet ‘Managing Conflict’ (p10) reference is made to Tuckman’s model and they state; ‘it is in the storming phase that conflict is most likely- as people form cliques and jostle for position. However, this conflict is essential to the development of a successful team’ According to Sisson 2010 (Taylor, Woodhams p131) ‘Conflict, which can be defined as the discontent arising from a perceived clash of interests, can involve individuals and/or groups and take a number of expressions’ The PM will need to show they can apply the behaviours of ‘Skilled Influencer’ as defined in the CIPD HR Map (accessed 27/10/14) which states that they will need to ‘Demonstrate the ability to influence to gain the necessary commitment and support from diverse stakeholders in pursuit of organisational value.
The PM will also need to be skilled in having difficult conversations, as they perceive that conflict could arise between the store managers and the recruitment team as they attempt to work up a process that ‘fits’ both store and recruitment processes and procedures. A solution to this could be for the PM to hold a team building event where everyone needs to learn to put their skills to good use for the best possible outcome. This would enable those people to think from a different perspective.
8.0 Political Behaviour
Political behaviour, or power as it is often referred, can come about for a number of reasons. ‘Pfeffer observed that; Power is more important in major decisions, such as those made at a higher organisational level, and those that involve crucial issues such like reorganisation and budget allocations; for domains in which performance is more difficult to assess such as staff rather than line production operations; and in instances in which there is likely to be uncertainty and disagreement.’ Buchanan & Huczynski (p852 ‘Power and status issues cannot be ignored, and Huczynski and Buchanan (2010) highlight that power-plays and the negative use of political activity can hamper a group’s effectiveness’ Taylor, Woodhams (p94) An example of how political behaviour can affect this project has been identified in the SWOT analysis; ‘Increased stress at recruitment centre due to increase workload could lead to poor implementation of new process’ This could result in the recruitment team members trying to influence the project team to continue to manage seasonal recruitment at store level. The PM will need to use effective influencing and negotiating skills to manage this behaviour, should it arise.
This could also impact on the timescales of the project, as negative behaviour can take time to resolve. In continuing to focus on their leadership style, as mentioned earlier, the PM will ensure that team and task needs are being met to minimise conflict and political behaviour. Secondly, other political behaviour could be seen from the stakeholders within the senior leadership team, due to the issue mentioned in the PESTLE analysis; ‘Recent merger could pose a risk on investment in areas such as recruitment as the company reviews is strategic plans’ ‘Yemm (2008) argues that in order to successfully influence others, time must be spent thinking about the broad message and how it is to be conveyed. It is important to understand the need to influence to bring about change or to gain buy-in’ Taylor, Woodhams (p95) Taylor and Woodham state that ‘Effective negotiation skills help all professionals to resolve situations where what one person or group wants conflicts with what another person or group wants.’ (p95) Both of these methods will be useful in managing all the possible conflict and political behaviour identified above.
9.0 Recommendations and Conclusions
Assuming that the project identifies several ideas for improving processes, the PM and the project team, will need to consider how they will present these recommendations to the Chief Executive and senior leadership team. The businessdictionary.com gives the definition of decision making as; ‘The thought process of selecting a logical choice from the available options. When trying to make a good decision, a person must weigh the positives and negatives of each option, and consider all the alternatives. For effective decision making, a person must be able to forecast the outcome of each option as well, and based on all these items, determine which option is the best for that particular situation’ (accessed 27/10/2014)
When looking at cost-benefit analysis, the same definition is applied, however, this has to be quantifiable. When making the recommendations, the PM will refer back to De Bono’s six thinking hats to explain how the thought process has been carried out by the team. Prescriptive methods of decision making have been developed by Vroom & Yetton looking at three situational factors, Quality, Acceptance and Time. Buchanan and Huczynski (p757) This model allows the PM to move through the group to present the findings, to show the support of the group in the decision making process, thus enabling the acceptance from the Chief Executive and the senior leadership team, to implement the findings. The presentation will include a clear plan on costs and implementation, aligned to the company strategy and linking in with the CSR aims, to influence further with the board.
ACAS, June 2014. Managing Conflict workbook pdf, s.l.: www.acas.org.uk – accessed 24/10/2014. businessdictionary.com, n.d. business dictionary.com. [Online] Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/decision-making.html [Accessed 26th October 2014].
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