Case study: Superdrug's Everyone Matters D&I strategy


Superdrug has worked hard over the past 18 months to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace, with plenty of positive results

The organisation

Superdrug is the second-largest health and beauty retailer in the UK. It was founded in 1964 by brothers Peter and Ronald Goldstein. As well as selling a variety of branded products it has its own lines and offers various other services such as prescription filling, opticians, nurse clinics, and eyebrow threading. Superdrug has 830 UK stores, as well as distribution centres in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and Pontefract, West Yorkshire. It is a subsidiary of the AS Watson Group, which is in turn part of Hong Kong business CK Hutchison Holdings. It maintains strong links with sister companies Savers and The Perfume Shop, which are also owned by the AS Watson Group.

The retailer has focused heavily on vegan and cruelty-free products in recent years, particularly in its own-brand offerings. Superdrug’s own lines have been approved by Cruelty Free International since 2010.

The problem

As the brand has gone from strength to strength and both store and employee numbers have increased, the retailer needed a solid people strategy. As part of the work done around this it came to the business’ attention that more could be done around diversity and inclusion.

Although the organisation had already set up some employee networks it was felt more people could be represented.

“We already had our gender equality and wellbeing networks up and running, and we had such great interest in them and a huge level of engagement from people in both those networks,” explains Jo Mackie, Superdrug’s customer and people director.

It was clear that efforts could be pushed further though, and so the brand’s desire to be more inclusive and engaging for both staff and customers was shaped into its D&I strategy Everyone Matters around 18 months ago.

The method

Everyone Matters is made up of six pillars – gender equality, LGBTIQ+, BAME, wellbeing, social mobility (known as Access All Areas), and flexibility at work (called Make Work Work). These were formed from a combination of employee feedback, external research on what other organisations were doing with D&I, and discussions among the leadership team.

“So we could understand what people wanted and what future employees wanted we did surveys, some listening groups, and looked at what best practice there was around. And we ended up with six networks at Superdrug and Savers based on our employee base,” Mackie says. “These really seemed to resonate with the business, and they’re all areas we’re passionate about, that colleagues are passionate about, but also that we knew we could do more to push forward.”

Each pillar is made up of a director sponsor, a steering group comprised of employees from across the business, and a senior member of the HR team.

Getting executive buy-in was very straightforward as there was a lot of energy from the C-suite around the pillars and the strategy as a whole. HR ran engagement sessions, unconscious bias testing and one-to-one meetings with the executives to ensure they were truly on board and establish who might be a good fit for each pillar. Mackie herself leads Access All Areas.

“Each pillar is now headed up by a director sponsor and they are actively involved in the steering groups and support the networks. Not just as a figurehead, but also working with the teams to help them and direct them,” she explains.

Superdrug CEO Peter Macnab is particularly passionate about Everyone Matters, and even creates podcasts to help inform and engage the workforce around D&I.

Steering group members have a range of roles within Superdrug and come from retail, back office and the distribution centres. While most members volunteered to be part of a pillar’s steering group, Mackie says they “tapped a few people on the shoulder” if it was felt they could particularly add to a group’s effectiveness. To get the word out to all business premises and gather volunteers Superdrug used its internal communications platform The Hub. Mackie admits that although all areas of the organisation are represented in the steering groups they are (understandably) retail dominated and more needs to be done to even things out.

Steering groups “manage the overall direction and what that particular pillar wants to go after,” Mackie says.

“Last year we put in a senior inclusion manager as part of my team who now pulls all of that together. It was getting a little bit unwieldy; there was so much going on we knew we needed to pull it together so that the groups not only go and do their own thing but it then forms part of the overarching strategy.”

The groups put on various events and campaigns and celebrate key dates to raise awareness of their pillar.

Some of these include a panel for International Men’s Day with a mixture of colleagues and external influencers; a session for National Coming Out Day, where LGBT employees talked to a group of 40 senior leaders about their experiences and what inclusion means to them; Summer work experience for care leavers as part of Access All Areas; and a store manager social mobility pledge.

“We’ve had 100 managers sign up to our social mobility actions, which are things like giving additional interview feedback to candidates to help them when they next apply for roles, or providing quality work experience and making sure that there’s good feedback on the back of that,” says Mackie. “We’ve done quite a lot with different activities in the pillars. And then we’ve also got some partnerships with external organisations.”

Some of the external partnerships are with organisations such as the LGBT Foundation, Carers UK, Drive Forward Foundation, and Retail Week’s ‘Be Inspired’ campaign.

“They’ve been incredibly useful in two areas. One they’ve given us credibility in what we’re trying to do, but they’ve also been able to offer us advice and support in how we move things forward,” Mackie says.

Superdrug has been making good use of internal resources as well, for example its nurses attending employee events to give health checks such as blood pressure tests as part of the wellbeing pillar. Mackie says many employees have made changes to their lifestyles as a result.

The result

Everyone Matters has been received extremely well by staff. Feedback from managers and assistant store managers has all been positive, and in the latest employee survey engagement was at an excellent 82%. Other impressive figures include getting 500 apprentices into the business and having 70% internal succession.

The strategy has been recognised externally too. In a Europe-wide ranking of 700 companies by the Financial Times Superdrug came fifth in retail and 52nd overall, beating businesses like P&G, L’Oréal and Sainsbury’s.

Going forward, Superdrug has a full calendar of D&I events for 2020, with more than 100 days of celebration and recognition planned.

“We’ll do more inclusion leadership training for our store managers and more employee panels. We are also doing more around getting people from disadvantaged backgrounds into work as we go through 2020. And then we want to explore around what we do with race and ethnicity and disability. We’re looking at and considering the Race at Work Charter and basically looking at other schemes to see what else we could buy into,” shares Mackie.

The business also wants to analyse how it can measure the reach and efficacy of Everyone Matters and is considering introducing pulse surveys. It has an eye on potential future legislation such as ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting too.

Mackie says: “We want to be prepared for either of those coming through. We’ll carry on listening to our colleagues and making sure what we’re offering is what they want. Just to keep building on Superdrug and Savers being an inclusive place to work and open to everyone with opportunities for everyone.”

This piece appeared in the February 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk