From counter-workouts to pension ladders – how one John Lewis Store is getting staff fit for work and fit for the future. Healthy eating, budgeting, pensions and re-energising workouts don’t immediately spring to mind when you think about retail training. But for one group of John Lewis employees in Newcastle this is exactly what they were treated to when Sophie Milliken, Learning and Development Coach, invited lifelong learning charity, the Campaign for Learning, to run an interactive ‘Live Long and Prosper’ workshop. The Campaign, experts in workplace learning, are running these events as part of a project which aims to help organisations develop a workforce that is mentally, physically and financially ready to take on the challenges of working in and retiring from the retail sector. Sophie believes the Campaign’s ‘Live Long and Prosper’ project ties in perfectly with John Lewis’s lifelong learning ethos. Sophie first came across the Campaign for Learning when the store hosted a planning seminar for Learning at Work Day, one of the charity’s national awareness campaigns. “Our store, and the group as a whole, have a strong commitment to lifelong learning,” explains Sophie. “When I heard about the project work we saw the benefits to the business and the employees straight away. We are now looking to develop our partnership with the Campaign to cascade the messages and knowledge learnt to even more staff.” The Live Long and Prosper workshop, lead by the Campaign for Learning for John Lewis, Newcastle was aimed at developing employees’ financial skills - by looking into budgeting, saving and planning for the future - as well as encouraging physical, mental and financial wellbeing. Sessions incorporate counter work-outs for a daily fitness boost, tips on diet and nutrition, taking a look at post-working life, living on a state pension, more general retirement planning and signposts to further information. Rachel Johnstone, who manages the Live Long and Prosper project, says. “We try and encourage organisations and individuals to take a holistic approach to workplace development and retirement planning. The interactive sessions help participants develop their mental ability, financial knowledge and physical fitness to make both home and working lives easier, more enjoyable and less stressful. This can only benefit the organisation as well. John Lewis has recognised the importance of integrating retirement planning into staff development and we hope other stores and organisations follow.” The sessions enjoyed by John Lewis, Newcastle covered the key elements of the Live Long and Prosper programme of activities. The “Easy Money” session looked at ways of saving money now with a view to investingfor the future. The “Counter Workouts” offered quick and simple exercises that can be done at work to relieve strain and strengthen muscles, while the “Five-a-Day” session helped employees see the benefits of ensuring their intake of fruit and vegetables is sufficient and varied and why this is important for energy levels and general health to benefit both home and working life. The session on boosting the immune system gave practical advice to staff on how they can avoid sickness that could keep them off work. Finally the “Pension Ladder” activity gave individuals relevant and up-to-date information on how to start and maintain their pension planning and where to find the right advice. Rachel believes the ‘Live Long and Prosper’ project provides business as well as individual benefits. “The project takes workplace learning a step further by considering t employees’ learning needs for retirement - as well as work - and the positive impact this can have on workplace performance. We know from our own and others’ research that financial worries and the stress caused by inadequate planning for the future can have a direct influence on people’s abilities to work effectively now. Financial planning can help improve financial literacy and general numeracy skills as well as helping to address financial problems to make employees more focused and productive. Physical exercise and healthy eating can help to give employees more energy at work and reduce sickness-related absenteeism. The Campaign hopes that through the ‘Live Long and Prosper’ project and our free workshops, managers will be able to develop these keys skills in their own employees themselves to create a skilled, highly motivated, energised and contented workforce.” Sophie agrees that the Live Long and Prosper project can greatly benefit John Lewis as a whole organisation, as well as helping individual staff members. “The sessions will help refresh numeracy skills, and offer health and fitness advice that is easy to introduce into the busy working and home lives of our staff. At John Lewis, employees benefit from a company pension scheme but it is important to be reminded of preparing both physically and financially for the future.” Individual employees attending the session also praised the workshops and the messages behind the project. Positive feedback received from John Lewis staff members included, “the sessions made me think about financial adjustments that I need to make”, and “made me think about improving diet and looking at supplements.” It was not just a nice couple of hours away from the shop floor either as participants felt they learnt skills that would help both at home and at work. “I learnt about the immune system and how to build it up” was one response. Relating to pension planning, one individual said they would “review current position and decide how much more I need to contribute.” Another employee said they would “start adding some supplements into my diet” while another, who found the whole day beneficial added that they would “look at some of the things I can change starting from today.” Sophie is planning to get even more staff members involved as she develops the partnership with the Campaign for Learning. She explains, “John Lewis already helps employees plan for retirement but with the activities we explored as part of the Campaign’s first session we can offer them even more” Rachel mirrored the hopes of Sophie and John Lewis, concluding, “By cascading the sessions throughout the teams that operate within the store, this will really help to develop a ‘Live Long and Prosper’ ethos . We will be producing a toolkit of all sessions for the project and we hope our ideas can be then used again and again for generations of employees.” Over the next few months of the project, due to end next June, the Campaign for Learning will be producing more resources to help retail organisations like John Lewis, Newcastle, develop employees for a happy, healthy and prosperous future. Other John Lewis stores and departments wishing to follow in Sophie’s successes can visit www.retail.learningatworkday.com for more information or contact one of the Live Long and Prosper team on 01823 660 040.
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