Tesco is the largest British retailer and is also the world’s third largest grocery retailer with outlets
across Europe, USA and Asia. The business began in 1919 with one man, Jack Cohen, selling
groceries from a stall in the East End of London. Jack bought surplus stocks of tea from a
company called T.E. Stockwell. T.E. Stockwell and Cohen combined their names to brand the
tea Cohen originally sold – TESCO tea. In 1929, the first Tesco store opened in north London.
Tesco has expanded since then by a combination of acquisition of new stores, retail
services and by adapting to the needs of consumers. Tesco has net profits (before tax) of
around £3 billion. Tesco’s primary aim is ‘to serve the customer’. Keeping existing customers
happy is important, as they are more likely to return. This is more cost effective for the
business than acquiring new ones.
In the UK Tesco now has over 2,200 stores ranging from the large Extra hypermarket style
stores to small Tesco Express high street outlets. Tesco’s original product range of grocery and
general merchandise has diversified to include banking, insurance services, electrical goods
as well as telephone equipment and airtime. This move towards ‘one stop shopping’ means
customers can meet all their purchasing needs from one place. Tesco has also expanded its
customer base through its Tesco.com website which attracts one million regular users.
As the company has grown, so has its workforce. From one man and a stall, Tesco now has
approximately 280,000 employees in the UK and over 460,000 worldwide. To serve its widening
markets it needs flexible and well-trained staff that can recognise the needs of the customer.
Tesco’s employees work in a wide range of roles in both store and non-store functions, such as:
• Customer Assistants on the shop floor either directly assisting customers or preparing
orders for delivery to customers who have ordered online
• Department Managers leading a team of Customer Assistants
• Warehouse employees who help catalogue and store clothing, food or brown goods in
Tesco Distribution Centres or in stores
• Office-based staff working in a range of functions at Head Office, including Finance,
Purchasing, Personnel or Marketing
• Logistics staff who plan and carry out the distribution of products to stores.
Tesco recognises that increasing knowledge, improving skills and job satisfaction of
employees are all vital to the continued growth of the company. This case study looks at how
Tesco provides training and development opportunities for its employees.
Identifying training needs
Tesco’s aim to expand and diversify requires the business to have the right people, in the right
place, at the right time. Many factors affect workforce planning:
• The opening of new stores in new locations means that Tesco must adapt to different
demands made by consumers. For instance, stores in highly populated diverse areas may
need to sell a high proportion of speciality goods to meet the requirements of its customers,
so selecting that stock requires a clear understanding of the customer profile in that area.
• In-store and non-store based posts may require different technical skills and competencies.
• Employees with a wide skills range who can work flexibly are more productive for the
How training and development
supports business growth
• Workforce planning
Acquisition: where one business
takes over another e.g. by
purchasing a majority of shares.
Consumers: the user of a
product, who may or may not be
the buyer of it.
activities in different and unrelated
markets and products from those
activities undertaken in the past.
Workforce: the group of people
who work in a company, industry,
Brown goods: electrical goods
such as TVs, DVD players etc.
Skills: specific abilities, attributes
Job satisfaction: the degree of
contentment and pleasure that an
individual gains from their work.
Training: activities designed to
improve the competence and ability
of individuals in order to better
enable an organisation to meet its
Development: activities designed
to further the personal needs of
Workforce planning: involves
estimating future human resource
requirements and ensuring the firm
has the right number of people, in
the right place, with the right skills
at the right time.
Competencies: areas of activity
in which a firm is particularly
strong, e.g. research and
development, product innovation.
Tesco employs people from a wide range of backgrounds and all employees have the
opportunity to grow and develop. Tesco regularly evaluates the performance of its employees
in order to anticipate any possible skills shortages. This helps managers and employees
decide whether they have the correct knowledge, skills, understanding and resources to carry
out their job effectively. Through annual reviews and career discussions, employees are able
to apply for training suited to their needs. For example, managers in stores, Distribution
Centres and Head Office can spend a week in a store together, learning about each other’s
work. This makes each part of the Tesco operation more robust.
The Tesco Leadership Framework focuses on three key themes to guide appropriate behaviour
in employees. These link to nine critical success factors, which break down further into
various levels of assessment. This framework helps to identify those employees with the
potential to be the ‘best leaders of the future’.
Tesco sees it as a priority to develop leadership at every level in every part of the business. In
the last year over 2,900 managers, of which 85% were internal promotions, were appointed
in the UK and thousands more employees promoted. One in every 10 Tesco employees takes
part in development activities and as many as one in 30 are on its Options programme.
Before undertaking training and development, employees identify gaps in their knowledge and
skills. The gaps identified are logged in a Personal Development Plan. Employees and line
managers decide how they will fill these gaps by training or development activities. Tesco’s
training and development programmes enable all employees to develop the skills they need to
get on in their careers.
Training is the acquisition of knowledge and skills
in order for a person to carry out a specific task or
job. Training benefits employees in several ways:
• It increases their sense of ownership in the
• They become more organised, productive and
flexible and are better able to meet the needs
of internal and external customers.
• New skills and abilities in areas such as
decision-making can empower staff, which
makes them more effective.
Tesco’s business image also benefits as customers
are more confident in the competence and
knowledge of staff. This in turn helps Tesco grow.
Tesco has a flexible and structured approach to training and development, which adapts to
individual employee needs. This allows people identified as having the potential and desire to do
a bigger or different role to take part in training to develop their skills and leadership capability.
Tesco offers employees both on-the-job training and off-the-job training. On-the-job
training methods at Tesco include:
• shadowing – a person already in the job shows the employee how to do it
• coaching – a manager or designated colleague will help trainees work through problems
and inspire them to find solutions
• mentoring – a more experienced member of staff acts as an adviser
• job rotation or secondment – the trainee has the opportunity of covering their target
role, taking full responsibility on a temporary or limited basis.
Critical success factors: specific
aims such as reaching target sales
and consumers to make the product
On the job training: training
undertaken whilst in the course of
doing the job.
Off the job training: training
undertaken away from the workplace,
e.g. block release at college.
Shadowing: involves the
employee working alongside a
colleague or manager, watching
them to learn what to do.
Coaching: providing feedback
and support for staff to help them
improve their performance in their
role. The coach is often a line
manager but the skills can also be
found among colleagues.
Mentoring: providing guidance
and training for a new recruit.
Often the mentor is a colleague,
a fellow employee.
Job rotation: where employees
have the opportunity to move into
different departments for a short
time and acquire new skills in each.
This broadens their skills across
different business activities.
Secondment: employee goes to
another workplace for a temporary
A-level Options for
A-level entrants, a
fast track 12 month
A-level and Graduate focus
on store, office, distribution
working with others
Further levels of
5 factors shared by all
4 factors role-related
and set according to
For the employee, on-the-job training is directly relevant to their work, they get to know the
people in their area and feel part of the team faster. On-the-job training also has several
advantages for the company:
• It is cheaper than off-the-job training.
• Managers see progress and can help when problems arise to resolve them quickly.
• The employee is still working during training so is more productive.
• The employee puts learning into practice.
Off-the-job training is often more appropriate for training in specific new skills or for
developing the individual, in areas such as team-building, communications (for example,
making presentations), or organisation and planning. It usually involves attending external
courses run by professional training organisations or qualified Tesco training staff. The A-level
Options programme for developing new recruits into managers provides detailed induction
training from day one. This enables new employees to meet other trainees and learn about
the company and the business objectives rapidly. With a rapid training schedule, they are able
to develop to their first level management position whilst working as a Team Leader in a store
within six months.
Month 1 – visit and work in all parts of a store to familiarise themselves. The new manager is
allocated a ‘buddy’ – an experienced member of staff who they can go to with problems.
Months 2-4, – practise their knowledge and skills in real situations and identify any skills gaps
Months 5-6 – undertake a placement as a Department Manager
Months 6-12 – take on their first manager role
Month 12 – review progress with their manager and discuss future development.
Development is about helping the person grow and extend their abilities. Tesco takes a
shared responsibility approach to training and development. The trainee is primarily
responsible for his or her development. Both the trainee and the line manager contribute to
the programme by:
Tesco employees are encouraged to ask themselves strategic questions in order to assess their
skills and ability to progress:
1. Do I know how?
2. Can I do it now?
3. What are my current skills?
4. What do I need to achieve a higher position?
Tesco’s Options programme provides a long-term strategy for development. It offers, for example,
workshops focusing on both leadership behaviours and operating skills. The employee’s Personal
Development Plan includes Activity Plans, a Learning Log (to record what the key learning points of
the training were and how they are going to be used) and a ‘Plan, Do, Review’ checklist to monitor
when plans are completed. This allows trainees to carry out their own analysis of progress.
Personal development helps to produce long lasting competencies. This means employees
become more positive, productive and valuable to the organisation in the long term.
Recruiting new staff is more expensive than retaining existing staff, so for Tesco, retaining staff
is extremely important. Development also helps increase the level of employee motivation.
Motivation theorists suggest that if people are given the skills to do their jobs well, the support
to grow their abilities and greater responsibility, this makes them more effective in their roles.
Tesco requires staff who can be flexible and who can adapt to change. It also needs to
ensure it has the right calibre of staff to build its management team of the future.
Induction: the initial process of
learning to fit into an organisation.
Motivation: attracting a person
to do something because he or
she wants to do it.
• identifying and agreeing development
• attending workshop and development
• collecting evidence of achievements
• using the feedback they receive to
improve performance and review their
• helping to put together the Personal
• coaching and guiding the trainee as
• review performance regularly to ensure
the trainee gets the best from the
• providing feedback
The benefits of training and development
A business needs to monitor and evaluate the costs and benefits of its training and
development activities for financial and non-financial reasons. The business needs to know if
the investment in time and money is producing improvements. Employees need positive,
structured feedback on their progress in order to find direction and gain confidence. This will
reflect in their behaviour with customers and inspire higher customer confidence in Tesco –
one of Tesco’s main aims.
Tesco provides tools for highly structured monitoring and evaluation of training and
development. This includes scheduled tasks, timetables, measures and checklists. Employees
assess themselves by setting objectives in Activity Plans, Personal Development Plans and
recording outcomes in Learning Logs. These continue to measure their improvement in
performance after training. Activity Plans need to have SMART objectives:
• Specific – describes exactly what needs doing
• Measurable – has a target that can be measured against
• Achievable – is possible within the trainee’s current role, skills and experience
• Realistic – is achievable within the time and resources available
• Time-framed – has a clear deadline.
Tesco also uses a method known as 360-degree appraisal. This means all stakeholders
who have contact with the employee assess the person’s performance and give feedback. For
example, a store department manager may get feedback from their manager, their ‘buddy’,
other department managers, the HR department and their team. This helps to identify areas
that may require further development.
Tesco also uses a more informal approach to development by asking employees to write
down three things they believe they are good at and three things they believe they could do
better. The employee identifies actions to continue to do more of the good things and
improve areas they could do better.
Managers and trainees hold a weekly informal review session as well as more formal fourweekly sessions to track progress against their personal development plans. The feedback is
recorded and is carefully scored. Trainees are given a colour coded development rating:
• Red – where progress is not on schedule
• Amber – where some elements need more work
• Green – where all activities are on target
• Blue – where the trainee is ahead of the programme and using skills to add value.
Efficient and effective training and development of employees is an essential element for
Tesco’s continuing growth in an increasingly commercial world. Tesco requires employees
who are committed and flexible in order to aid its expansion of the business.
The expansion of Tesco relies on retaining existing customers and acquiring new ones. All
customers need to be confident and happy in Tesco. This relies on committed and flexible
employees delivering the highest standards of service to meet Tesco’s objectives.
Tesco’s structured approach to training and developing its existing and new employees
provides a strong foundation for its continuing growth.
1. Explain the difference between training and development. How have changes in customer
expectations affected Tesco and its need to train staff?
2. List the methods of training carried out by Tesco. Describe how training needs are
3. Analyse Tesco’s method of developing its employees. Consider the strengths and
weaknesses of such a programme.
4. Evaluate the benefits for Tesco in providing a structured training programme. To what
extent do you think the training has achieved a Return on Investment?
Evaluate: weigh up. Assess the
SMART objectives: framework
for constructing objectives in a way
that meets a business aim.
360 degree feedback:
feedback comes from
subordinates, peers, and managers
in the organisational hierarchy, as
well as self-assessment, and in
some cases external sources such
as customers and suppliers or
other interested stakeholders rather
than just from managers.
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