Building an inclusive culture at one of the UK’s leading retailers

Halfords is the UK’s leading retailer of motoring, cycling and leisure products and services.

Through Halfords Autocentres, it is also one of the UK’s leading independent operators in vehicle, servicing, maintenance and repairs.

Gender diversity at Halfords was the starting point to reflect on company culture. The key challenge was the under-representation of women – but this quickly led to a discussion as to how the company could create a more inclusive workplace for all – and how this would positively affect future business performance.

Women are under-represented at Halfords in both the Retail Stores and Autocentres, particularly at managerial level. This has generated a perception that the business is a male-orientated employer. Halfords objectives were therefore to:

  • Increase the proportion of women employed, particularly in management roles, across Retail and Autocentres
  • Offer greater flexibility for parents and carers
  • Shift the perception of Halfords as a male-orientated employer in order to attract women to job roles.

The training sessions supported these aims by:

  • Developing an understanding of the business opportunities that Diversity and Inclusion presents to Halfords and why it is important to leaders, individuals and for the business and its future
  • Increasing the level of understanding about how unconscious bias affects decision-making at work and its impact on team performance
  • Applying this understanding to real-life scenarios at Halfords and discussing how things could be done differently
  • Developing a collective view of what inclusive leadership looks like and an individual commitment to being proactive and making positive changes

EW Group’s response

Starting in January 2019, EW Group ran a series of one-to-ones and focus groups with a sample of Halfords colleagues from both Retail and Autocentres. We used the findings to design a bespoke half-day ‘Building Inclusive Cultures’ session for Area and Regional Managers.

The content and structure of the training was designed to suit the abilities of the learners and ensure their full participation. It also provided lots of opportunities through groups discussions, video content and exercises, to identify how they, as managers, could lead teams and individuals more inclusively and what steps they could take to attract more women to work in the retail stores and autocentres.

There were four face-to-face sessions delivered by EW Consultants, Victoria Dale and Sam Swinstead. These half-day sessions were delivered to Halfords Area and Regional Managers in London, Yorkshire and Birmingham. Both Victoria and Sam co-facilitated a special full-day ‘Train the Trainer’ session for the People Team, who would be responsible for rolling out the training to managers across all stores and autocentres.

“I really enjoyed working with the People Team and Area and Regional Managers across the business to understand how bias can impact on day to day interactions at work and during key decision-making across the employee lifecycle. I found the participants were very keen to learn, open about exploring their own biases and coming up with examples of workplace situations where bias may have crept in – plus practical actions for how they could address it in their day to day role. I also felt very welcomed by the participants. There was a high level of engagement before, during and after the session.”

Victoria Dale, EW Consultant

“It was great to work with senior people in the business who had such a strong and positive commitment to making changes that would benefit the company and the staff.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for finding innovative ways to encourage greater gender diversity, and a real sense of everyone working together to share best practice.  The participants were great to work with; being willing to explore their own understanding and biases so that they could really encourage the same in others.”

Sam Swinstead EW Consultant


The session’s content encouraged lots of rich discussion amongst participants, ‘light bulb’ moments and especially our acted scenario videos, and overall the sessions were very well received.

“It was a real pleasure working with everyone at EW Group. The facilitators, Sam and Victoria were real experts in this field and worked really collaboratively with a very diverse group of Managers. They really bought to light why this topic is so important to Halfords and our future success as a business. The sessions created lots of debate (and appropriate banter), which helped to cement the main takes from the sessions. We are really confident that when the Managers roll this out to their teams, that we will see positive moves to address our Diversity agenda.”

Andy McBride, Group Head of Resourcing and People Shared Services at Halfords

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