Tesco CEO's First Email to Employees

TescoMost of us want less email, but the new CEO of Tesco, a British chain of supermarkets, wants to hear from employees directly. In his first email to the staff of more than 500,000, Lewis acknowledges issues. It's a smart move because the results are poor and obvious. Sales are down 4% through mid-August, and the stock fell 32% in the past year.

Lewis gives his background for credibility and promises to listen to customers and employees. He asks for employees' opinions: "I want to hear your thoughts and ideas. I want to hear what you think we could do differently or better." For "immediacy," he encourages employees to email him personally.

Here's Lewis' message to employees:

Dear colleagues,

Today is my first day at Tesco, and so I wanted to write to you all to tell you a bit about me, and my initial plans as I start work as your new Chief Executive.

The most important thing I want to tell you is that I couldn't be more excited to be joining Tesco. It's an honour and a privilege to be asked to lead such a world-class and important business.

As you may know, I worked for Unilever for 27 years and so I got to know Tesco well from the perspective of being one of its largest suppliers. I've always had an enormous admiration for Tesco, its people and its expertise.

I've met and worked with many Tesco people over the years, and so I know the hard work and dedication which is a hallmark of this business. I'm proud to be leading a team of half a million talented and committed people around the world. In our DNA we have always been the customers' champion, and we will be again.

You will know only too well that it has not been an easy time for our business. The retail market in all the countries where we operate has become extremely tough, and is changing faster than ever. We are losing market share in our largest market and we need to address this with urgency.

The most important thing is that we all focus on being on top of our game. We need to keep it simple and customer focused. I know periods of change can be unsettling, but we have to take our destiny in our own hands and be absolutely focused on delivering the best possible experience for our customers. She or he will reward us if we constantly put them first.

I am looking forward to getting around the business and doing a lot of listening. In my first few days I will be talking to colleagues at Welwyn and Cheshunt directly, and visiting as many of our businesses and stores as possible – listening to our customers and meeting as many of you as I can. I will also be meeting some of our shareholders and investment analysts.

I will be taking some time to get to know the business better, to understand the challenges and opportunities we face. I'll be looking at all parts of the business. Clearly we all want to see an improvement in performance, but I won't take any hasty decisions. The decisions I take will be based on what's best for customers, for shareholders, for colleagues, and hence the whole Tesco business. We have some urgent issues to deal with, but we must address these in a way which is consistent with building a long-term sustainable future.

I will always communicate openly and transparently with you and I'd like to encourage the same from you in return. I want to hear your thoughts and ideas. I want to hear what you think we could do differently or better. Hopefully we will get a chance to do this in person, but for the sake of immediacy please send any comments or ideas to me by email.

I want to pay tribute to Philip [Clarke]. Over a 40-year career in Tesco he has been a key figure in making Tesco the business it is today, and in his time as Chief Executive he has steered the business through the toughest conditions the sector has ever experienced. I would like to also thank him personally for the very professional way he has managed, and continues to manage, the transition.

These are challenging times, but we will emerge stronger. With a relentless focus on our customers and a preparedness to challenge ourselves and take bold decisions we can retain our position as the customers' champion. This is a great business made up of great people, with real expertise and I am confident that together we can succeed.

I know I can count on your support, and I'm looking forward to working with you.


Discussion Starters:

  • This message was posted on Yammer, part of Tesco's intranet that is intended for employees only. What are the ethics of an employee releasing this message?
  • What works well in Lewis' message, and what could be improved? If you were an employee at Tesco, how do you think you would react? What if you were an investor?
  • How should Lewis respond to emails from employees? What if they become unmanageable, for example, 500 each day?