The move follows a successful year-long trial of the programme run with 23 UK suppliers and 800 of their employees

The move follows a successful year-long trial of the programme run with 23 UK suppliers and 800 of their employees

John Lewis & Partners is rolling out a new progressive supplier engagement programme to all of its 120 UK manufacturing suppliers in a move that replaces traditional ethical audits and aims to create more rewarding jobs for the people who make John Lewis own-brand products.

Announced today (3 August), the Better Jobs Programme is free to suppliers and has been developed in conjunction with a number of suppliers, as well as an advisory group consisting of representatives from The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Institute of Employment Studies, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The programme consists of two parts, a Framework which helps suppliers think about the ways they support, engage and reward their employees, and an employee survey.  

The Framework has seven themes: voicing opinion, progression, reward, security, job design, respect, and health and wellbeing. The anonymous employee survey consists of questions from an annual survey which the Partnership asks its own Partners (employees), as well as some from the CIPD 'World of Work' survey, and covers all seven Better Jobs framework themes.

Following the survey, an action plan is then created with support from relevant John Lewis experts, and managers are given access to a custom-built portal with resources to aid them in delivering their plan.

"The Better Jobs Programme was set up following discussions with suppliers about how the Partnership could support them with the challenges they face such as recruiting skilled people, future-proofing their industry and being more innovative," explains Nadia Youds, social impact manager for John Lewis.

"We wanted to support them to go beyond just meeting the law through 'tick box' audits, which suppliers said they found restrictive, and to deepen our relationship with our suppliers and share some of our resources with them. So, we created the Better Jobs Programme which assesses continuous improvements that have a positive impact on their employees' experience of being at work."

The suppliers invited to take part have long standing relationships with the retailer, and have already undergone forensic style audits to confirm that they comply with laws on employment and human rights, and health and safety. 

John Lewis will also begin to trial the programme with 15 suppliers in China this year, using a mobile app to communicate directly with suppliers' employees. 

The retailer has today published a report on the findings of the first year of the programme run with 23 UK suppliers and 800 of its employees. The key findings from the first year are: over 70% of employees felt they could voice their opinion; the majority feel their employer supports their wellbeing, almost 90% said they have influence over how they do their work, and over 80% of suppliers have development plans in place for their employees but this needs to be offered to a more broad and diverse range of employees.

Last week, John Lewis & Partners said it is working to become digital-first as it looks to continue simplifying how the business works, with plans to add extra services outside of retail and consider acquisitions to grow the company.

Earlier in July, the group announced plans to permanently close eight John Lewis stores, placing around 1,300 Partners into consultation. The news means the total store portfolio will now include 42 shops. Reports also surfaced of plans to close one of the Partnership's London offices in Victoria, home to 450 staff before lockdown.