• Laura Rushton

Quiet Kindness: Philanthropy & People Power at John Lewis | Prof. Ron Beadle

People Power speaker Professor Ron Beadle explains more about his session at People Power 2020.





We are delighted to be joining this year’s north east People Power online Conference on September 18th.


The conference will bring together leading experts from top companies, consultancies and researchers on topics including employee engagement, recruitment / retention, productivity, health & wellbeing, ICT skills, conflict resolution, HR management, communication, change management, emotional intelligence, agile working and effective leadership.


The presenters at the conference understand that improving the involvement of employees is key to enhancing engagement and performance. The conference will enable participants to learn from a wide variety of cases about how to improve people management in practice. Delegates can attend the conference from their home, office or whilst on the move using any mobile device.


24 Sessions will include participant interaction and engagement, live Q & A and polling and a virtual exhibition as well as opportunities for networking, group conversations and 1-2-1 meetings. Delegates can select from 24 sessions or attend the whole of the conference but whatever their choice they will subsequently have access to recordings of the full conference. The delegate pack will include training handouts, resources and the latest book from the conference keynote speaker Nigel Risner “Zookeeper Rules for the Office”.


​Our own session, “Quite Kindness: Philanthropy and People Power at John Lewis” will introduce delegates to how John Lewis involves its employee/partners in decision making about corporate philanthropy and how this is critical to employees’ identification with and loyalty to the business.


We will show how John Lewis’ ensures that its partners can propose ideas for causes to support at every outlet, how decisions are then taken by partners and how they are facilitated in leading support, This can involve fund-raising, volunteering and resourcing community based and charitable organizations.


We will discuss particular examples of the support John Lewis provides for its local communities and the evidence we gathered of how important this is to partners’ identification with and commitment to the organization. We will also look at the support John Lewis provides for employees to volunteer for six months at a charitable organization with full pay.


The session will also consider a question that animated our discussions with staff – whether John Lewis should publicize its extensive philanthropic work?

Many staff believed that the founder’s century old injunction to ‘carry out random acts of kindness quietly’ was core to the company’s identity. If they used their philanthropy as part of their marketing this would undermine a key feature of the business’s uniqueness. Other staff argued that customers should know more about their philanthropic work and that other less ethical businesses were all too willing to use their philanthropy strategically, so why shouldn’t John Lewis.


Finally, there were staff who believed that customers did know about their philanthropic work and were loyal to the company because of this. These debates were highly animated and occurred in each one of the eight focus groups conducted with partners across all levels of the organization. Whilst views differed, the passion of the debates demonstrated the importance of philanthropic work to employee’s understanding of what makes John Lewis different from other retailers.


In our interactive session we will engage with delegates about their organization’s philanthropic work and whether it works to cement loyalty towards and passion for their organizations


The research that this session has been based upon was published last year in the “Journal of Business Ethics”, one of the FTs world top 50 business journals.

Northumbria University staff will be available on the day to discuss the range of support available to organisations. Chat with them at their virtual exhibition stand to find out more about how they can support you.


We are delighted that the North East Chamber of Commerce is supporting the conference and hope to see you there. More details are at: https://www.peoplepowerevents.co.uk/agenda

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