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Homebase: Q&A With Neil Hill, Head Of People & Leadership

Homebase Bathstore 725

Homebase has published a Q&A with Neil Hill, Head of People & Leadership.

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Q: Tell us about your role at Homebase?

A: As Head of People and Leadership, I help our fantastic team grow. Whether it’s considering new development opportunities or just taking the time to listen how our team are feeling, I’m responsible for making sure everyone has what they need to do their job well so that we can offer our customers a fantastic experience when they shop with us.

Q: What does a typical day look like?

A: You hear this a lot at Homebase... I love how varied my role is! It means that no two days are ever the same.

I joined the team at the start of lockdown number two, which meant I had to create what ‘typical’ looked like in a very untypical time. I started my career working on the shop-floor, so I always try and get into our stores as much as possible. It’s so important to check in with store teams and to quickly support them if they need my help.

Bank holidays are busy so I’ll always try to go into a store, pop on an apron and help the team out. Spending time with customers is something I’m passionate about and it’s the best way to keep in touch with them, otherwise you’re likely to lose perspective of how they want to shop.

I also spend plenty of time coaching team members to set them up for future success. 

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about your job?

A: If I want to play my part in making Homebase a great place to work, I need to understand what other teams are doing, from Operations and Distribution to Finance and Business Development. I can then translate this into something that means something to the wider team, making sure that everyone is motivated to work together to help Homebase continue to grow. I need to think both commercially and about people to create a brilliant working environment. 

Q: What one word that would describe your leadership style, and why is that important to you?

A: I’d say supportive. While I’m driven by results and doing well, there’s a risk that this can make you too challenging and demanding. Someone in my team recently told I’m supportive and that makes me feel like I’ve got the balance right. 

Q: Why do you think HR is so important in retail?

A: Years ago, when I was a Store Manager, the CEO of the retailer I was working for told me that "retail is really easy, it's just a people business. Always do the right thing by your people and your customers and you can’t go wrong" - and I’ve carried that with me throughout my career.

For me, that meant not just thinking about selling products but also about how to keep everyone engaged and motivated. When I got into that mindset, my results went up 10% and they were sustainable.

If we constantly look to improve and develop our team, this will speak volumes to our customers, and our stores will be somewhere they enjoy shopping. 

Q: Why are you excited about being involved in the Kickstart Scheme?

A: I’m really proud of our involvement with the Kickstart Scheme – initiatives like this are close to my heart. I ended up having to live on my own at the age of 17, drop out of education and start paying bills, all while looking for a job. I remember the rejection I felt during this time but that ended when I signed up to the Government’s Youth Training Scheme which led to a 20-year career with the company that offered me my placement. Had I not been given that opportunity, my story could have ended up very differently. I can’t help but think of those starting their career who have so much potential and ambition and I’m over the moon that we can now offer more young talent the chance to join our family.

I have a son who will be going into the workplace in the next three years, so I know how tough it can be to get into the world of work these days. As an essential retailer, it’s important for us to give back to the communities in which we live and work. Kickstart is a fantastic example of this as we’re helping young people take the first step in their career.

We’ll be filling 300 placements in 83 of our stores across the country in either the Click & Collect service support teams or the multi-channel service support teams. This means our new recruits will provide brilliant service and will make shopping in our stores even easier for our customers – they’ll become a core part of our team. 

Q: Looking ahead, what do you think the big challenges and opportunities are as the world of work continues to change?

A:The past year has definitely changed how our customers shop. We know that shopping online can be more convenient, but we still need to be there for our customers who prefer to come into one of our stores to touch and feel a product before they buy it. That’s why we have to empower our store teams to not only help our customers but inspire them too.

We’ve moved away from simply scanning products through the till and we’ve now become the home and garden experts – customers come to us for the advice and inspiration they need to give it a go in their own homes. This will continue to evolve and we need to make sure we’re giving our team the tools they need to help our customers with all their home and garden projects.

We know that flexible working will stick around and our team perform at their best when they can work from where works for them, whether that’s from home, our Store Support Centre (what we call our head office), or from our stores. And it’s down to each and every team member to decide what their routine looks like. 

Q: What are your top priorities for the rest of year in your role?

A: Continuing to develop our team members. We’re in an exciting chapter of growth and our team is driving it. We’ll always offer our team the development opportunities they deserve, whether it’s getting them involved in a project unlike anything they’ve ever done before or funding places at business schools.

Our culture and our team’s wellbeing is incredibly important and that’s because we’re a family. We want to keep growing the tight-knit culture that we’re lucky to have. While development is important, it means nothing if we’ve not created an inclusive environment for our team to be proud of.

Source : Homebase

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13 September 2021

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Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

Martin Elliott. Chief Executive - Home Hardware.

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