We believe that a great place to work is a great place to shop. We can only deliver brilliant products, services and customer experiences through the hard work and commitment of engaged colleagues. Our people strategy is centred around our new purpose and shared values as illustrated in the graphic opposite. We cover our progress and plans below.

Home of talent

Our colleagues tell us that they are happier and more engaged when they feel personally connected to and supported by the Dunelm business and have access to learning and development opportunities.

Succession planning

We continue to grow and retain talented colleagues in the business, filling management roles internally where possible and investing in colleague training and development: over 85% of store leadership roles were filled internally during the year. We maintained a ratio of around 40:60 internal and external appointments in support roles, which reflects the labour market and our need to look outside our business to build expertise in specialised areas, such as technology, data and sustainability. At the Dunelm Leadership Team (DLT) level, through our increased focus on talent and succession, we strengthened our talent pipeline.

Retaining our colleagues

Despite the stop-start nature of our store working environments during the year, overall our unplanned labour turnover remained relatively stable: at store level turnover reduced for the third year in a row and at our support centres it increased marginally. As the labour market tightens in the coming year, we aim to give colleagues stability through purpose and permanency and evaluate how we can best help younger people (hit hard by the closing of the hospitality industry) to emerge from the prospects of longer-term unemployment.

Learning and development

We undertake a mixture of colleague training: compliance training to ensure that colleagues know their responsibilities and expected behaviours, and skills training for personal development that meets the long-term needs of the business.

Investing in our colleagues

Our training and development programmes take on board the Group’s focus areas presented to the business each year. As many of our programmes revolve around behavioural and leadership training it is difficult to measure specific return on training investment. However, overall, we monitor three key indicators: colleague retention, colleague engagement (colleagues are more likely to feel settled and committed if they feel ‘invested in’) and home-grown talent (the % of colleagues who have been promoted in the business). We are also updating our online learning systems. This is a considerable investment to help build colleague skills more intuitively through a ‘user experience platform’. We learned during the pandemic the value of introducing more interactive, bite-sized learning modules and the power of video, and these will also shape future initiatives.

Graduate and apprenticeship programmes

Our graduate programme has been running since 2016. Over 50 graduates have enrolled since its inception, including ten new hires who started in September 2021. Reflecting where we need to bolster our skills for future growth, we have developed five two-year programmes (in Technical, Data and Insight, Commercial, People and Operations, and Design) and a three-year programme in Finance. In summer 2021 we welcomed eight people on to our new internship programme – a structured, paid three-month experience offered in five different business areas. Additionally, we launched an internal retail management programme, which started in September 2020, to ‘fast track’ skills and career development. We recruited ten graduate colleagues on to our two-year course to develop future store managers and nine ‘early career’ colleagues on to a 12-month trainee programme to develop skills to equip them for leadership and trade roles.

Through the UK Government’s Kickstart funding scheme, launched in mid 2020, we have provided around 100 16- to 24-year-olds with a paid six-month job placement and aim to increase this to around 200 people as this programme gains momentum. After a three-month period, we give attendees the opportunity to apply for level 2 retail apprenticeships which aim to offer additional maths and English skills. Our apprenticeships improve social mobility, plug skills gaps in areas where it is hard to recruit people and allow us to target high-potential groups of colleagues.

Friendly and helpful

Across our store estate, we have been moving from a task-focused to a service-orientated way of working for several years – broadening our colleagues’ knowledge of what it takes to be part of a successful store – from delivery, through to tills and front-of-store hosting. By mixing and matching roles and skills, we can give more meaningful work to our colleagues and at the same time improve our customers’ in-store experience and satisfaction.

Early in 2021, following cross-team brainstorming, we invested in training over 7,500 store colleagues in a new ‘friendly and helpful’ programme – amounting to 25 hours of training per colleague – keeping them engaged and motivated during the third lockdown.
By focusing on three key areas: product knowledge, serving customers and understanding all aspects of our website, we aimed to improve our store colleagues’ confidence in recommending specific products, interpreting customer cues, and dealing with complex web-assisted queries. This training module is now a mandatory part of our induction process for all new store colleagues. To keep it up to date, our design team introduce new and seasonal ranges via online sessions which are housed on our new learning and development hub.

Mental wellbeing training and support

We have a group of around 40 ‘Wellbeing Buddies’ – mental health first aiders, who represent different parts of the business. They are trained to listen to colleagues and make recommendations for further external support. Line managers have completed their first mental health awareness training sessions and are starting their second. Training is complemented by increased communication and topics on our ‘Home Comforts’ intranet – including personal care plans and practical guides on how to talk to direct reports about health and financial wellbeing. Line managers are encouraged to start their regular one-on-one updates with the first question being ‘How are things?’ and store colleagues have participated in an online mental health training module. Eligible colleagues can access mental health support as part of their private healthcare benefit and through the Retail Trust all colleagues can access free mental wellbeing phone counselling 24/7 and up to six face-to-face sessions.

Inclusive and diverse

Our aspiration is to achieve a colleague base reflective of society at all levels, providing opportunity for all, regardless of background, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Our Equality and Diversity Policy can be found here.

Getting to know our colleagues: ethnicity, age and gender

Since November 2019 we have been collecting ethnicity data for new joiners. Of these, 77% of colleagues are white British and, overall, this is in line with the ethnicity split across the United Kingdom as collected in the last national census (Source: Office for National Statistics census data). Additionally, to support our ‘This is Me’ inclusion and diversity campaign we trialled our first colleague census across the whole business. The results indicate that our colleague diversity also broadly mirrors regional ethnicity profiles.

However, we are mindful that we need to do more at our Dunelm Leadership Team, Executive Board, and Board levels whose composition does not reflect the ethnic profile of our new recruits nor the population at large. Board member ethnicity is noted this year on the Board biographies.

We launched our first inclusion and diversity networks: Gender, LGBT+, Disability and Ethnicity. Each is sponsored by an Executive Board member and chaired by a Dunelm Leadership Team member.

Around one third of colleagues are aged between 21 and 30, representing the largest proportion of all colleagues and, across the Group, 68% (FY20: 68%) of colleagues are female. A more detailed gender breakdown is provided in the table below. As we get to know our colleagues better, we will use our data to tailor further our training and inclusion and diversity programmes.


Gender breakdown as at 26 June 2021

. Male Female Male, % Female, %
Group Board 6 3 67% 33%
Executive Board 4 5 45% 55%
Dunelm Leadership Team (including Executive Board members) 15 9 62% 38%
Store colleagues 2,301 6,673 26% 74%
All colleagues 3,520 7,564 32% 68%


Training and raising awareness

Examples of training programmes undertaken by the Board and senior management in FY21 included:

  • Leading in an inclusive world: Over 300 Dunelm business leaders took part in this training, which focused on understanding people’s perspectives and our colleagues’ own stories.
  • Awareness workshops: Our Board Directors attended awareness workshops, with expert guest speakers leading discussions on: Black Lives Matter, LGBT+ and social mobility.

In FY22, we will roll out conscious inclusion training to all line managers (over 800 colleagues) and set personal inclusion and diversity objectives.

Colleagues are able to view educational posts and videos linked to a calendar of diversity, inclusion, and wellbeing events on our ‘Home Comforts’ intranet. These include important religious dates, and international festivals such as Pride month. 

We are also working to adopt additional inclusive recruitment techniques that remove bias and expand personality tests, so we do not miss out on diversity of thought.

Pride month

In June 2021 we supported the work of three charities: Mind Out, Switchboard and Stonewall on and raised awareness by labelling Pausa cafe products.

Listen and learn

We will continue to develop effective two-way communication channels that are engaging and involving.

National Colleague Voice (NCV) 

Our colleagues are formally represented across our business through our colleague voice forum, which ensures that our colleagues ‘have a voice’ and can engage regularly with members of our Board and senior management team. One local representative from each store and site, and around eight to ten representatives from our support centres are elected for a period of two years via our ‘Home Comforts’ intranet. From this group, 14 colleagues are elected to represent colleagues at our National Colleague Voice (NCV) meetings:


Business areas/team No. of NCV representatives
Stores 5
Customer centre 1
Manufacturing centre 1
Home Delivery Network 1
Stoke distribution centres 1
Support centres 5
Total 14


Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, NCV meetings were usually held twice a year in person in relatively formal settings. Retrospectively we now realise this was not the most conducive way to ensure our colleague voices were heard. The Covid-19 pandemic forced us to change our format – for the better. By moving it online we could increase the number of meetings and invite more attendees to better represent our business; it also made our colleagues feel less intimidated about speaking up and we built on this by training representatives to better understand the NCV role and consultation process.

We introduced online interactive tools such as ‘live polling’ to help shape our conversations and changed the structure of the meeting – starting with a ‘What’s on your mind?’ session, followed by in-depth discussions on particular topics. Prior to each meeting, colleagues are sent comprehensive and often confidential pre-reads to encourage active participation and meetings typically include break-out groups. A list of topics covered, Board attendance and outcomes is shared after each meeting. An overview of topics covered and an insight into the NCV from a store colleague perspective can be found in our corporate governance report in our Annual Report 2021. Attendance is recorded at each meeting and includes diversity metrics – typically around a 50-50% gender split, with 20% non-white.

Based on feedback and last year’s experience, we aim to increase the meeting length to improve in-depth debate further and to give more space between meetings for information to be communicated from national to local colleague voice representatives and vice versa. We made a step-change this year; our colleague representatives are more confident and engaged and they challenge and contribute more readily. We are committed to evolving further how we listen to our colleague voices and act upon what we hear.

Colleague engagement survey

We ran our twice-yearly colleague surveys in November 2020 and May 2021. In the May survey, our participation rate was very high at 79% with record rates in our Customer Care Centre and Stoke distribution centre, and improved participation in our home delivery network team. Our overall colleague engagement (eNPS) score improved by 1.0%pts and over 70% of store colleagues are ‘promoters’ (meaning that they would recommend working at Dunelm to a friend). We were pleased to have improved our eNPS score during a challenging year of disruption and furlough and that a recently added question indicated that around 90% of colleagues expected to remain with Dunelm in FY22. eNPS is a Group KPI and executive bonus measure.

We have analysed data from our last few engagement surveys to understand what really resonates with our colleagues (purpose, shared values and confidence in our leadership) versus what may disengage them (perceived unfairness, feeling unsafe or ill-equipped to contribute to overall success) and to create tangible action plans. Glassdoor is another channel that we use to understand how Dunelm colleagues feel about working for us, and we are one of the highest-scoring retailers on this platform.

Smarter operations

Investing in smarter operations so our colleagues can do their jobs better.

We continue to improve our systems and processes to remove repetitive and unrewarding work and provide more compliant and leaner operations.

Our FY22 investment programme, for example, aims to improve our commercial processes and systems and we are using tablets more frequently to record audit information rather than time-consuming forms.

Fair reward

Our colleagues expect us to pay and incentivise them fairly and this was a topic of debate at our National Colleague Voice (NCV) meeting in April 2021 (see our corporate governance report in our Annual Report 2021).

Base pay and benefits

We apply the same pay principles throughout the organisation (see the Remuneration Report in our Annual Report 2021). Our aim is that base pay should be competitive and set at median. All colleagues are paid at least the National Living Wage or the Minimum Wage, as set by UK Government. In addition, colleagues receive a range of benefits including pension, colleague discount, a paid ‘birthday day off’, and access to a range of discounts with third parties. All colleagues with minimum service (usually one month) are eligible to contribute to a sharesave scheme, allowing shares to be bought after three years at a 20% discount to the share price at the start of the scheme, (see the Remuneration Report in our Annual Report 2021). Currently, around 22% of eligible colleagues have joined, and, typically, this scheme has low drop-out rates.

In FY20, and again in FY21, the Board agreed to make a special ‘thank you’ payment for commitment shown during the pandemic, meaning that over 97% of colleagues received a bonus each year. In 2020, we paid a flat rate of £250 to all colleagues, and in 2021 we paid between £250 and £350 per colleague based on average hours worked (after feedback from colleagues about the fairness of giving a flat amount to all) to all colleagues who were not eligible to share in the strong performance of the business in the year through their membership of another bonus scheme.

Gender pay gap report in October 2021 as per revised timelines set by UK Government, owing to Covid-19. Our published median gender pay gap is -6.4% (April 2019: 7.6%) and our mean gender pay gap is 4.9% (April 2019: 18.0%). These figures account for less than 20% of our workforce as colleagues on furlough or reduced pay were excluded as per legislation.

Over the same period we tracked our own internal comparative median and mean gap metrics for all colleagues. These were presented to the Board and feedback from our gender pay analysis helped inform decisions during pay reviews. In common with many other retailers, around 80% of our colleagues are employed in our retail operations and, of these, over 70% of roles are filled by female colleagues. While we were pleased to see that both our internal mean and median gender pay gap measures improved, we recognise that we must continue to work towards reducing our gender pay gap further.

Based on the analysis of our ethnicity data collected to date, we see no evidence of any significant ethnicity pay gap. However, we will keep this under review as we build up a more accurate profile of our colleague diversity.

Financial support

To support our most vulnerable colleagues and promote colleague wellbeing during the pandemic, we helped colleagues to manage their finances and draw on other support programmes, such as the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) run by the Retail Trust, and the Salary Advance scheme which allows colleagues to obtain an advance on their monthly pay. We also supported 242 colleagues through our Colleague Support Fund (a self-funded hardship grant) which supplements third-party assistance. Information was made available on our ‘Home Comforts’ intranet which was used as a key resource tool for colleagues and the business during uncertain times.

Future of work

Considering the impact of our internal strategy and external trends on our colleague experience.

The impact of Covid-19 has made us evaluate the leadership skills we need to develop in the business for the changing nature of work. We want our colleagues to ‘feel at home wherever they work’ – in our support centres, for example, this involves introducing a hybrid work from home/office policy based on a combination of business need and personal preference, thereby embracing greater autonomy and personal freedom. Our leadership team aims to reinforce the importance of our new purpose, culture, shared values, cross-functional learning and colleague support during this transition.