Profile: Sir Charlie Mayfield

John Lewis Partnership Chairman

Royal Mail must build an army of brand ambassadors

This morning as I took my usual cycle route to work I shared the road with a TNT Post man that but for a modern bike that put mine to shame could have been dropped directly from the 1950s. Snazzy uniform aside, his smiley demeanour and chipper whistling was a throwback to an age of village posties going about their task with vigour.

Russell Parsons

Now, of course I have no idea if the employee in question enjoyed his job or felt a particular affinity with the company paying his wages but no matter, he was for the moment I saw him at least the perfect brand ambassador.

It is fair to say that his counterparts at Royal Mail have not always been the greatest cheerleaders for the brand. Industrial disputes borne from wave after wave of working practise modernisation created an almost perpetual stand-off between employee and employer that seemed to offer most of the postal workers that crossed my path – I speak with some authority as the son of a father that spent 30 years employed by Royal Mail – with little reason other than to scowl.

Royal Mail has recognised this, introducing several initiatives to acknowledge the contribution its staff make in the hope of developing an army of willing brand ambassadors. It introduced a “delivered by” mark last year ostensibly to recognise the work of its employees as well as re-establishing the brand behind the service.

And now, if weekend reports are to be believed, Royal Mail staff are set for a bumper pay day. Unconfirmed reports have it staff will be offered up to a tenth of shares when Royal Mail is privatised. Shares will be offered for free, it is said, in a bid to spread employee ownership and placate any disquiet over what a post-privatised company would look like.

This is potentially a smart move by Royal Mail. If the company is to perform when fully exposed to the vagaries as well as the opportunities the free market brings then it needs a workforce of ambassadors as well as the suite of direct marketing services it is currently offering under the Market Reach brand.

Questions have hung over Royal Mail for years. The question of the nature of privatisation has remained unanswered for too long and the fractious relationship between staff and employer has held back progress.

Privatisation will not be a cure all but it offers the organisation a chance to renew, not only business practices but its relationship with its biggest asset – staff. And maybe then it will bike-riding Royal Mail staff that will be noteworthy.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Agreed! The posties are indeed the brand ambassadors for Royal Mail.
    And privatisation (handled sensibly) should bring significant benefits to the whole UK postal sector. And let's hope that it doesn't spark another bout of Industrial Action, which nobody wants right now.

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  • What a narrow minded view. I'm a postman of 12 years now, and I can say for certain that most of us are very proud of what we do and the company we work for. We are also very aware of the ambassadorial role we play. The problem is, is that Royal Mail wants to rid itself of these kinds of postmen and women. It wants a part time, temporary contracted (disposable) workforce, with no training given, no real commitment to quality of service, and certainly no role to play in being part of a community. Privatisation will, in time, bring a much more expensive servcie, a de-motivated part time workforce, and if you live in a rural or semi rural location, a very limited service of perhaps 4 or 3 days per week. You only have to look at the rest of the privatised postal services to see evidence of this. Major shareholders will be the only winners in the privatisation move. It certainly won't be the workforce, or the public.

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