In 2013 we launched '3-Gears', a qualification programme that trains and rewards colleagues for gaining expertise.

The programme is now well embedded and is absolutely core to our customer-centric, service-led proposition. 80% of our customers want some form of assistance with their purchases and so it is imperative that we have a team of engaged, friendly experts.

The three Gears represent the different stages of qualification:

  • GEAR 1 – Gear 1 applies to all colleagues and is completed over their first three-month period with Halfords. We use structured e-learning modules that cover health & safety, processes & policies, retail skills and customer service. The outcome is that all store colleagues will be qualified to serve customers confidently and receive a pay award.
  • GEAR 2 – Gear 2 involves a nine-month training programme which leads to an expert level of product knowledge, with a specialism in either motoring or cycling. Learning is through e-learning, in-store practical and face-to-face training programmes. There are regular refresher courses for Gear 2 colleagues and a pay award for those who attain this level.
  • GEAR 3 – Gear 3 colleagues are our Technicians. They are product experts who are qualified to perform more advanced services. They keep their skills and knowledge current and market leading - through workshops, attending product and trade shows and by linking with and visiting suppliers. Our Technicians also receive industry recognised qualifications, continuous professional development and a pay award.

At the end of FY17 around 70% of our colleagues had qualified for Gear 2 and we had over 500 Gear 3 level colleagues.

There are many benefits of this investment in training. We have more multi-skilled colleagues, which means that rather than having one fitter per store, we have many colleagues capable of replacing bulbs, wiper blades or batteries, or child car seats, enabling us to meet demand. Customer satisfaction measures have also improved significantly, reflecting the focus on providing great service as well as enhanced technical and product knowledge. Colleague engagement has increased, evidenced by Halfords' listing in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies To Work For (13th place in 2017) and record low Retail colleague turnover of 33% at the end of FY17. Finally, we are also seeing the benefits in financial outputs. Service-related sales have grown strongly and in FY17 we undertook nearly 5 million in-store services, which equates to over 10,000 per store. We fitted five times as many dash cams in FY17 as we did the year before and we also achieved a sales growth in child car seats that was double the market growth rate.

We have made great progress in our ability to match sales to customers during the year and also in understanding their behaviours better.
Going forward, this will support us to raise awareness of our services, in-turn becoming more relevant to our customers and driving incremental sales.