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Seasalt, workplace culture and the power of surveying staff

The use of technology in the modern workplace is often feared by staff as something that might replace them, but at Seasalt a new platform is being used to make staff feel more at home.

No robots stocking shelves or self-service machines are currently in sight at the fast-growing Cornwall-based business – instead a new cloud-based survey platform has been installed to ensure the voice of employees is heard by head office.

The retailer, which specialises in unique fashion and accessories – often nautically-themed and typically influenced by its home region – started using Culture Amp last year to survey staff throughout their time at the business. According to James Hampton, head of development and engagement at Seasalt, it is using results garnered from the system to make relevant changes.

“I joined Seasalt two and a half years ago and I wanted to find out more about what was going on around the business as we grew,” he explains to Essential Retail.

“It was really important the system was agile enough to work with as we grew but also gave us some rich data that we could analyse.”

Following the first Culture Amp employee engagement survey in 2018, which saw almost 90% of staff participate and provide over 4,000 comments in total, Seasalt acted on results by increasing holiday benefit and introducing well-being sessions. Teams have also been encouraged to assess the data, and set departmental or store level targets.

A repeat engagement survey in 2019 showed improvements in every survey focus area, and overall employee engagement was up by 4%, Hampton notes.

“You can see that a highly engaged store is in general a high-performance store from a sales point of view – and we can see how managers are impacting on that positively,” he adds.

Winning hearts and minds

Seasalt has 64 stores and over 1,000 employees across the UK and Ireland, and it has opened an average of 11 shops per year since 2014. That growth is expected to continue following last year’s £16 million investment from Business Growth Fund (£11.5 million) and Santander Corporate & Commercial (£4.5 million).

“We’re about to launch a learning experience platform and we’ll look at how we integrate that with Culture Amp – I’m keen to see how learning and career development have an impact on employee experience,” comments Hampton.

Internal communications tool Microsoft Teams is also used by Seasalt to encourage staff interaction and foster community.

Hampton says he prefers digital surveys over the paper-based questionnaires previously deployed across the business, which he deems too time-consuming to analyse.

And with over half of Seasalt employees located in stores around the country many do not have access to a company email, so Culture Amp’s ‘Kiosk mode’ provides a unique code that allows these staff to answer the survey anonymously via personal emails.

“We send three main surveys a year, and we also ask new starters questions throughout the probation period – at week one, week six and week 12,” Hampton explains.

“And we ask exit surveys as well so we are trying to get an understanding of what’s happening for people throughout their whole employee lifecycle.”