Andrew Clark, head of reward at the John Lewis Partnership, is dedicated to maintaining the organisation’s high standards in benefits and reward for all of its employees
As a self-confessed John Lewis lifer, Andrew Clark, head of reward at the John Lewis Partnership, has experienced his share of roles and locations with the retailer. After joining its graduate training programme from Manchester University in 1990, he performed a variety of commercial and merchandising roles, which served as early training for his later transition into HR.
Clark says: “The responsibility managers are given to lead and develop teams was the early stages of me getting interested in personnel more generally.” These roles transitioned into training and personnel manager positions, providing an introduction to HR functions such as pay, recruitment, productivity, cost control and succession planning.
In his current post, Clark is responsible for all staff at John Lewis, Waitrose and the other partnership services.
“The key thing is setting the pay and benefits policy and strategy, and working with the personnel director in establishing what we want to do around all aspects of reward,” he says. “As well as being a great challenge, it is a great responsibility, because pay, reward and benefits are hugely important to [staff] across the entire business.”
Clark’s focus is on maintaining the high standards of the firm’s benefits and reward package. Through an employee survey, John Lewis found it was in the upper quartile in its sector in terms of pay and the upper decile in terms of benefits. “We cannot be complacent around that,” says Clark.
Still relevant and appropriate
“We need to strive to ensure that what we have built up over a period of time is still relevant and appropriate for employees today. The partnership was set up at the beginning of the last century and our benefits have developed since then. It is about ensuring we still have benefits that are attractive to a whole range of [staff].”
John Lewis Partnership has a wide-ranging employee base. Another challenge is ensuring staff have a full understanding of the total value of their benefits package, and it does this with total reward statements.
Across the group, £1.43 billion a year is spent on pay and reward, which is 17% of its entire revenue. “A challenge is to make sure we are leveraging the best value for the [employees] and the business out of that huge spend,” says Clark. “With a high degree of responsibility for how that money is spent, we need to be clear we are getting very good value. Are the benefits up to date, are they relevant, is there sufficient choice and are we targeting all our [staff]? We have a very broad church of staff that we must ensure the reward package is relevant to.”
The organisation is currently expanding its reward specialist team, looking at its performance management approach, and reviewing its pay policy, and Clark will be there every step of the way. He says: “The great thing about John Lewis is the opportunity to move into different roles.”
What are your positive attributes? Hopefully, I have a way of demystifying reward because I think it can be seen as quite a specialist dark art. I think showing passion and enthusiasm builds a bit of confidence. I hope people think I can motivate and build great teams.
Who inspires you? I am a governor of a college in east London, and I am on the student consultative committee as well. I look at the passion and drive of those students and think we could all learn something from just bottling a bit of that.
What is your favourite benefit? The partnership bonus [18% last year] is fantastic but technically not a benefit. It is a dividend of being a co-owner. The great thing about our bonuses is that everyone gets the same percentage of salary.
What are your hobbies? I love spending time up in Edinburgh where I have a lot of friends and family. I have, rather rashly, enrolled in the Edinburgh 10K this coming October and I am currently training for that. I am interested in current affairs and politics. Radio 4 is fantastic, but anything from the Today programme through to I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue.
Curriculum vitae: Andrew Clark
2008-present head of reward, John Lewis Partnership
2003-2008 head of personnel operations
2001-2003 personnel and training manager
1999-2001 merchandise manager, Newcastle
1997-1999 personnel manager, Edinburgh
1996-1997 training manager, Peterborough
1994-1996 china, silverware, glass, clocks and watches department manager, Newcastle
1992-1994 sports department manager, Newcastle
1991-1992 selling assistant, Sheffield
1990-1991 graduate training programme in a generalist
commercial training role
Read more about careers