Fairness For All: About the Book
Mark Price began in Waitrose as a graduate in 1982. He rose to Managing Director, running the company for 6 years, before becoming Deputy Chairman for 2 years. In 2016 he left and became the Minister of State for Trade. In his book, ‘Fairness for All: Unlocking the Power of Employee Engagement’, his fondness for Waitrose oozes through the pages, whilst focusing us on the notion of the importance of keeping employees happy.
This book was £10.99 new and has about 270 pages. The book is less than A5 and more of a pocketbook in size. It contains around 45,000 words which would take the average reader about 3.75 hours to read, with 60% comprehension.
As someone from the world of Grocery, Supermarkets, and interested in why a promotion is on a gondola end (!), I probably would find this book engaging. In fact, I really did! I have also recently become interested in employee engagement, as part of training, and I had not expected such a voice of reason on the topic. Almost a lone voice on the subject. Someone from my industry waving the flag very vigorously for employees being happy. You can almost expect people to make fun. ‘Happy employees’. Yet Mark absolutely believes it and by the end of this book, you will too.
John Spedan Lewis Led the Way
I should have known. I did not, the history of Waitrose. One of the great companies that have made Britain Great. John Spedan Lewis, elder son of John Lewis joined the business at 19 and in 1914 assumed control of Peter Jones in Sloane Square, London. On his father’s death, he formed the John Lewis Partnership and began distributing profits among its employees in 1929. He transferred control of the company to the employees in 1950 and resigned as chairman in 1955. Unbelievable, and certainly a visionary of his time.
My reason for sharing his ethos was because Spedan was so forward-thinking and employee-centric for his time, that you can imagine other Victorian CEO’s laughing at him. The ethos that he created is the DNA of The John Lewis Partnership. Furthermore, it comes through Mark’s writing as if it were the only way. The gospel according to. Maybe it should be the only way because the JLP is certainly successful, and whilst employee engagement might be a modern fad, the JLP guys have made it work for over a century. Whereas others only speak of it and still fail. So, shouldn’t we at least understand what they have done, why it has worked, and adapt it for our company?
Mark’s philosophy was also formed from his father, who taught him that all people are born equal, but with different and unique skills & abilities. He taught Mark that ripping-off customers for a short-term benefit was not the recipe for long-term success. You could almost say that Mark’s father sowed the seeds of the right business principles, and Waitrose was just the right soil to make them grow. Had Mark started at Tesco things might have been a different story. Mark chose the right company to shape his career.
3 Pieces from the Book That Have Particularly Stayed with Me
‘A company that a generation ago had, say, profits of £10, would have paid out £1 to shareholders and retained £9 to invest in the future. Today they pay out £6 and retain £4. You don’t need to be an economics expert to understand that this is unsuitable in the long term’. Marks’ view is spot on and a worrying concern for future commerce.
A wonderful story about Mark having attended various business schools. After a number, he found the courage to raise his hand. In a room full of CEO’s the debate was around their purpose. They all said to make money. Mark said it was to make employees happy. I’m sure Mark would love to be compared to Spedan. A modern Spedan.
‘Employee engagement is the new battlefield for real competitive advantage’. Like customer service is the battleground of the top mobile network companies, or the energy companies, employee engagement, I believe, is here to stay. Furthermore, EngagingWorks (Lord Price’s company) will be in much need in the future.
Lord Price’s facts for supporting employee engagement are wonderfully relentless. For example, A Hewitt Employee Engagement Report found that in a company where 60-70% of the employees were engaged, the average shareholder return was 24%. In a company with 40-60% engagement, the return was just 9%. The facts are indisputable.
The 6 Elements of Happy Employees
These 6 elements provide a great yardstick to measure and focus:
- Reward and Recognition.
- Instilling Pride.
- Job satisfaction.
Final Thoughts on Fairness For All
If you are involved in HR, work in the Grocery Industry, or manage/lead people, you should read this book. You will see leading and managing people in a whole new light. I imagine that Mark is frustrated because it is so clear to him. I am beginning to see the light and as a business owner and, as a training provider, that is important.
Again and again, Mark competently argues the case for looking after your employees. Supported by facts, case studies, his own wealth of experience, and the groundwork laid by Spedan Lewis; would you argue the case for not making your employees happy?
The last part I’d like to leave you with is that the book talks of, ‘there are too many people checking the checkers of the checkers, rather than investing time and money into helping them be great at what they do’. A great thought for all leaders and managers.