'Finding better ways of doing things' is part of the culture at Simon Jersey, the designer, manufacturer and supplier of uniforms and corporate clothing to business and industry worldwide.

With a string of awards to its name, Simon Jersey has won praise for repositioning uniforms as attractive and business enhancing garments. Customer and employee satisfaction are at the heart of the company's philosophy and two years ago it decided to adopt the Business Excellence Model which the board views as the best way of embedding continuous improvement into the organisation. Technical director Richard Mullen is a strong advocate of Simon Jersey's 'people policy'. This aspect of this multi-faceted company is described here.

Flexible Service
Simon Jersey was founded in Accrington, Lancashire almost 30 years ago by chairman Simon Moyle. In 1971 Simon Jersey employed 3 people and had an annual turnover of £20,000. Today turnover is in excess of £28 million and more than 1.4 million items are sold each year around the world. Operations are conducted from a specially commissioned building which houses a quick response manufacturing facility where some 300 people are employed.

The company offers a flexible service and groups its products into special designs from the corporate/bespoke division and a range of stock garments from the catalogue/ready-to-wear division which targets four markets: business, hospitality, pubs and leisure, and retail.

In charting its success Simon Jersey acknowledges the importance of its employees and has a host of initiatives in place to motivate, develop and inform staff. "We clearly recognise that although we currently have a highly skilled, enthusiastic workforce, we need to develop additional or alternative skills as our markets develop and our business grows", says Richard Mullen.

A strategic plan entitled 'Delivering the best - achieving superior business performance' documents the company's four-part mission statement relating to customers, employees, processes and business performance. Critical success factors are identified in each area, together with a scorecard of 16 key performance indicators and the measurement tools used to review them. This approach follows the Business Excellence Model which offers a set of criteria geared to help companies focus on business results.

The Investors in People standard is the measurement tool that Simon Jersey is using to review its key objective towards the workforce. The critical success factor is expressed as 'an enthusiast, inspired, trained, involved and stable workforce'. The key performance indicator is employee satisfaction. This is how the Business Excellence Model builds.

"Investors in People is viewed as a means of improving our existing procedures into a more structured framework, so that we can ensure we get the most out of our people", says Richard.

Learning Centre
As part of its drive to support staff development the company has opened its own Learning Centre with a two-fold use. Departments receive training in product awareness, computer skills - there are ten workstations - telephone training, project management and time management. It is planned to encourage all employees to use the centre at lunchtimes and out of working hours to pursue their interests in either business related or general interest topics. Videos, books, CD-Roms, newspapers and Internet access will be provided.

In addition to a substantial number of other 'people friendly' measures, a reward and recognition plan includes a Bright Sparks scheme to reward the best improvement ideas, and a department of the year award whereby colleagues nominate the best internal service, proudly scooped on two consecutive occasions by the warehouse.

"Managers are encouraged to look at what their teams contribute to the indicators and what they have to do to reach them. Training is totally integrated into this process", says Richard. "Each department looks at the service levels it must achieve. Every manager prepares a list of targets to support the key performance indicators which support the mission statement of the business. Such a focus on business objectives immediately leads to better time management".

The approach to employee satisfaction seems to be working since 58 per cent of staff have worked at the company for more than five years. As for customer satisfaction, Simon Jersey has won the Daily Telegraph/Energis Customer Service Awards for 1999.

The Investors in People standard is covered in some detail in a CAPITB Trust leaflet written specifically for the industry. CAPITB Trust, the apparel industry's National Training Organisation, can also provide the Build a Better Business Pack which is a self-contained programme to support companies going forward with Investors in People. For copies please ring Paul Richardson: +44 (0)113 227 3345.