Stockmann’s new strategy focuses on the customer experience. It was passed down first to line managers and then to every member of personnel thanks to workshops developed with Muutostaito.
In July, crisis-stricken Stockmann had some surprisingly good news: the traditional department store operator announced greatly improved earnings, beating market expectations. The customer-oriented strategy launched in 2019 and the customer pledge – “A feeling that lasts” – were working. However, the change has not occurred by itself.
“The company culture needs to support the desired strategy. That is why we took time to think about how to strengthen a culture of customer orientation throughout the Stockmann division and get everyone involved,” says Riikka Mattila, Chief People & Culture Officer at Stockmann.
Stockmann wanted to engage a partner in its reinforcement process with a strong track record of participatory, employee-centric methods. Mattila was already familiar with Muutostaito from earlier in her career. Stockmann’s core group worked with Muutostaito to develop a model for coaching line managers to lead workshops for every member of personnel. To do this, the line managers would first attend workshops themselves.
The core group and reference group evaluated the suitability of the methods. The model was piloted and then improved. In autumn 2020 and spring 2021, over 100 line managers took part in the workshops, followed by Stockmann’s entire staff of almost 1,700 employees in three countries.
“We have trained and supported the line managers throughout this journey. We provide the tool (the facilitation box) that gets line managers and employees talking. People like this because the tool gives everyone a voice,” says Sami Saren, CEO of Muutostaito.
As part of the process, everyone involved makes a promise about how they will promote customer orientation in their work. The workshops involved learning about key customer segments, describing their personalities, and discussing what inspires them.
“Every work community has thought about this. The process is reflected in everyday discussions and stories of what people have done to help customers. ‘A feeling that lasts’ has provided a common theme for the discussions,” Mattila says.
In addition to the tools, Muutostaito moulded the entire eight-month journey from kick-off to the line managers’ workshops and interim games, which were a chance for the line managers working as facilitators to meet each other.
“At the interim games, they talked about the successes they had had in their teams, the feedback they had received, the challenges and successes they had experienced, and where they needed more help and support. At the same time, we also set our sights on the future,” says Sabina Ågren-Hellman, Senior Consultant at Muutostaito.
The coronavirus pandemic put up some new hurdles on the journey of change, but these were overcome thanks to schedule changes and online workshops.
The three Sales Managers at Stockmann Jumbo decided to lead the workshops in pairs and split the department store’s employees from different departments into mixed groups. The aim was for them to develop a deeper understanding of each other’s work and mindsets.
Meri Niemelä, Sales Manager in the cosmetics department at Jumbo, and Vilma Niskanen, who is responsible for fashion, are both long-term Stockmann employees. Niskanen says that new strategies have come and gone over the years.
“Now, for the first time, we are actually analysing the strategy so that we understand what it means and how we can put it into practice. This is the first time we have gone into such specifics,” says Niemelä.
Previously, the line manager’s workshop had taught Niskanen how rewarding it is to get involved. This led to the realisation that when she led workshops, she would try to talk less and give more space to the team members.
“And didn’t they have plenty to say! At the end, when we gave feedback to our colleagues, the atmosphere felt so safe that even the quietest people made their voices heard and shared their views,” Niskanen says.
According to Niemelä and Niskanen, the workshops resulted in better cooperation between departments.
“The change has given people the courage to cross departmental boundaries and help out their friends. Customers’ average purchases have been on the rise all year. Perhaps we have succeeded in pointing customers onwards to other departments to make supplementary purchases,” says Niemelä.
The line managers are still aware of some big differences in terms of keeping personal promises.
“There are some fantastic people who do what they promise and follow up on their promises independently. Others might not even remember what they have promised. We need more time to talk to those people whose promises have not been put into action and remind them of what they said,” says Niskanen.
Stockmann’s development process is tracked by several indicators related to customer satisfaction, employees, and financial indicators.
“Customer feedback has been improving, and positive development has also occurred in the results of the personnel survey. The strategy sets numerical targets for the business, and we are heading in the right direction, but we are not there yet,” Mattila says.
She emphasises that success does not come done to a single workshop. Instead, it is about how the line managers keep the matter on the agenda and carry on the discussions. The to-do list also includes developing competencies – especially the predetermined key competencies.
“This is an ongoing process of everyday management and monitoring.”
The process involved developing a new product concept: the Facilitation Box. The Facilitation Box contains tools, as well as instructions on how to use the tools. It includes a facilitator’s handbook, branded speech bubbles, pledge posters, and guidelines. Facilitation is becoming an increasingly popular method, and the box is a new way of empowering line managers to facilitate. The box can always be branded to suit the user organisation.
“Line managers do not need to think about everything themselves. The process is described in depth – it is tailored and precise.”