This case study shows how an international retailer used a benchmark programme to improve internal communications, planning and people performance.


The company manufactures and markets a wide range of world class beauty products for skincare, make-up and designed fragrances. Their head office supports over 600 national sales personnel who sell in a highly competitive retail market. The UK Managing Director announced intentions “to make a dramatic difference in the marketplace. Our people will receive the best support and training in order to sharpen our professionalism.” Key to this strategy was a commitment to benchmark themselves against an international standard of best practice.


Their consumer and retail partners expectations of quality service and products were increasing year by year. This demanded continuous innovation and relationship management in order to surpass perceived client needs. Strategic plans, policies, systems and processes therefore required a review which involved all staff levels so that subsequent changes would be understood and enthusiastically implemented company-wide.
They therefore commissioned an externally certified management consultant, Clive Bonny, to perform a diagnostics survey, facilitate their production of an action plan to manage change, and guide them through the application of benchmarking the internal communication planning and development processes against relevant external standards.


The initial survey included a questionnaire to all employees as well as group meetings and one to one interviews with a representative cross-section of staff and managers. The results were publicised openly to all personnel, by the management team covering issues in business planning, communications training, performance measurement and management effectiveness. This led to the formation of a cross-functional focus group representing people at all levels to generate ideas and actions to address the issues. This group were given authority to canvas other employees and to recommend improvements to the senior managers. They formed special interest syndicates, meeting on a regular basis to improve processes such as induction, appraisal, communications channels and the evaluation of training. The role of the external consultant was to critique their findings, ensure synergy between the various projects, and advise on best practice.


The company now publicly recognises the many successes achieved by employees input into business process improvements. The following is an extract of their published annual report.

“Since starting the external benchmarking we have implemented many formal and informal practices to enable us to communicate more effectively with each other and to ensure that all our employees are being developed so that they have skills to meet the requirements of the business.”

Outlined below is a summary of the key initiatives that have been undertaken and their impact on the business.
_Aims & Objectives Booklet_
This document and its predecessors are designed to provide a shared understanding of what we want to achieve.
_Consultant Area Meeting_
These are meetings to ensure that Consultants have a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to maximise the retail opportunities in every door.
_Feedback Sessions_
Feedback sessions have provided additional avenues for communication from staff at all levels and locations.
_Training Strategy & Plans_
Ensures that there is a clear link between the company training plan and business plan and that training resources are effectively managed.
_Appraisal & 6 Month Review_
Provide frequent reviews of individual development needs.
_Training Evaluation Forms_
Allows an analysis of the benefits of the training course and review of how the learning is being applied to the job.
_Focus Groups_
The contribution of the focus group members has resulted in organisational change and has provided new ideas for individual and organisational development.
_Coaching Skills Training_
This intensive programme has provided Area Managers with the skills to provide on the job training to help improve their performance.
_League Tables_
The circulation of this information provides the opportunity to assess the impact of training and coaching on performance.
Clive Bonny says “I am particularly impressed with the way they have taken an international standard as a minimum benchmark and moved further ahead in their objectives. Whilst the benchmark process has continued to evolve they have introduced many innovative processes which continue to exceed their initial standards.”
The HR manager is reviewing the “values” of the organisation to promote even more cross-functional synergy, and is continuing to introduce best practice by widening their supply chain of quality suppliers.