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Selfridges case study

Emerging talent programme

The challenge

For over a century, Selfridges have cultivated their brand as one of the most high-end department stores in the world. A family-owned business with a global staff base of over 3,200, they have always been passionate about exceptional development, and have an established set of programmes to support talent across the organisation. However, with an increasing war for talent, they felt their emerging talent programme was in need of a refresh.

They wanted something ‘best in class’ and ‘different’. Something that would draw the best talent to their organisation and demonstrate their willingness to invest in talent in a radical way. Something that would be truly transformational for this population. That would fast-track their leadership capabilities and develop a tribe of committed, future leaders who were passionate about driving Selfridges forwards. That’s where we came in.

The brief

Exclusive, aspirational, challenging and rewarding. That was the brief. As a premium brand who are market leaders, this was about creating an exclusive programme that offered their best people the best development in the world. A programme their talent wanted to be part of, where places were highly competitive and that required them to go through a rigorous application process to win a place, recognising them as high-potential future leaders within the business.

They were looking to partner with market-leading experts; who were highly credible and aspirational; who knew how to meet the specific demands of this audience and were specialists in behavioural change. They were keen to find a solution that would enable their brightest people to learn alongside leading talent from other organisations, sectors and backgrounds. Finally, they were passionate about working with a partner who reflected their values, and could develop their talent in alignment with the values and qualities that most mattered to Selfridges. In this case they were: 1. Embrace self, embracing diversity and difference; 2. Create the extraordinary; 3. Lead with purpose. For anyone who’s read anything about Ivy House before, it’s fair to say we were a perfect fit, or in their words, ‘a real meeting of brands’.

The solution

Given their requirements, from the outset we knew our open Master Programme was going to be a perfect solution. This meant their emerging talent had a unique opportunity to learn alongside some of the brightest talent from across the world; trailblazers with big dreams and ambitions, who had been identified as the most promising future leaders within their organisation, and had to go through a competitive application process to win a place.

The 1:1 coaching thread throughout the programme was a brilliant opportunity to really challenge and stretch their talent on an individual basis – this wasn’t about theory, this was about creating real, sustainable change, and the 1:1 coaching was critical to this. This was an investment in every individual to ensure they were developed professionally and personally, so they could show up as their best selves and were equipped with the skills to drive the business forwards.

Selfridges invested in a sophisticated profiling tool and coaching for their participants before they even joined the programme, we then included various schemes to ensure the programme and learning was truly embedded within the organisation. This included a virtual launch event delivered by Ivy House and Selfridges’ CEO, welcoming and congratulating the delegates, highlighting what an accolade it is to be selected and stressing just how seriously the organisation takes nurturing their brightest talent.

At Ivy House we love a challenge. When Selfridges decided to place their delegates on the open programme it was delivered as a 100% face-to- face programme, but then Covid hit. With the retail sector being amongst the most impacted, all stores were closed and almost all staff were furloughed, including many of those selected for the programme. For Selfridges, there was a huge strategic focus on fast-tracking their digital capability, and there could have been real justification to pull funding and not proceed with their talent development plans during the pandemic… but they didn’t. They decided their talent were more important than ever and continued with the investment in them, and we switched to a fully-virtual delivery of the programme, enabling us to continue to support and develop their people during a hugely challenging time, and safely.

The impact

The results from the first cohort were exceptional, with a 30% promotion rate within 6 months and an NPS of +92. They have now selected a second cohort for 2022 and Ivy House continues to be a key part of their talent development strategy. We’re now looking at further embedding solutions including keynotes, ‘up close and personal’ sessions with our founder and previous alumni, and the potential to bring together other retail alumni face to face to continue the learning and shared experience. Ultimately, Selfridges is focused on building a network of Ivy House alumni across the business, creating a tribe of like-minded, exceptional people who continue to grow and develop, long after the programme finishes.

“We have partnered with Ivy House for a couple of years now and they continue to deliver an exceptional service. The team are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and the feedback from our participants has been glowing, with colleagues raving about the connections they’ve been able to make with people from other companies, how the programme has helped them to learn more about themselves on a deeper level and identify the path to maximise their personal growth.

A number of our colleagues who have been on previous cohorts have gone on to bigger roles and the feedback from their managers was that they were able to see such a marked improvement in their leadership qualities. We look forward to continuing to partner with Ivy House in the future to develop our early talent.”

Vanessa Broe, Group Senior People Manager, Selfridges





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