With an outstanding staff retention record – only one of the team of 35 has left in the last five years – Mastercare PC ServiceCall, part of the Dixons Group, are obviously doing something right. So what is their winning formula? HR Zone interviewed Neil Manchester, who heads up the IT Solutions Centre at Mastercare.
Part of Dixons Group plc, Mastercare PC ServiceCall based in Nottingham is one of the largest technical support businesses in the UK and the IT department supports 4000 staff. It provides after-sales service and support for PC users and a branch action line helping store staff and engineers to provide advice, support and product evaluation and development for the Group.
Mastercare has recently been named ‘Best Place to work’ for IT Software, hardware and services by Computer Weekly magazine for demonstrating leading-edge thinking to create a positive workplace in IT.
You must be one of the few organisations who isn’t struggling with retention issues. What is your success mainly down to?
We don’t necessarily recruit IT graduates. We look for people who are passionate about IT and willing to self-train, which we then support with internal training. Many of them join networks at home and work and want to keep their skills up to date.
We have a close relationship with our customers and suppliers, which leads to a productive and open environment and a positive and happy atmosphere.
What are your top tips for a productive workplace and motivated staff?
– Actively encourage creativity
– Trust the skills of your team
– Treat each member as an individual
– Have fun!
How do you judge how happy your staff are?
Employee satisfaction surveys and discussion forums encourage open feedback at all levels. Twice yearly employee surveys are good indicators of staff satisfaction. We feed back the results to individuals and, importantly, discuss the results with them afterwards.
How do you encourage creativity?
Mastercare PC ServiceCall is at the forefront of Dixons Group’s use of new technology. The IT department has a dedicated test environment to try new products. One thing we do is give our development teams time to trial new technology and assess its use.
We have a diverse mix within our team, particularly in terms of age and skills so this naturally encourages a variety of ideas.
As mentioned earlier, we employ people who are passionate about IT and naturally want to learn and we try not to put any blocks in their way. When we have one-to-ones we ensure that each member is empowered to achieve their own goals and that individuals understand what they need to achieve. We provide the framework which enables them to succeed with their challenges but we encourage freedom in how they actually go about their work.
How important is training?
We take training very seriously – there is a training mentality to help everyone improve their skills – and we develop individual training plans to make sure our staff have access to the latest technologies and up-to-date skills. This is crucial to people working in the IT industry.
We have a training team of 8 on site and have 6 training rooms that are always fully occupied every day.
We highlight employees’ training needs through appraisals and weekly or fortnightly one-to-ones. Importantly, we use these times to focus on behaviours and competencies rather than simply focusing on technical skills.
How do you create a fun atmosphere?
The place of work itself has a lot to do with it. We refitted our building 18 months ago and pretty much started with a blank canvas. We didn’t have a huge budget but the focus was on ensuring that the place was open plan so that it encouraged communication and it didn’t have that rabbit hutch feel about it.
Technology screens in reception make an immediate impact as you walk through the doors and project us as a forward-thinking IT organisation. We put a lot of thought into facilities such as break areas, even providing games machines to help reduce stress and provide a more vibrant atmosphere. We also have a coffee bar, restaurant and shop on site.
The management team listened regularly to the views of the staff during the design and fit out of the building and this really helped the staff feel part of the end result.