Simon Phillips, from the Department of International Studies at Nottingham Trent University in Britain, studied the Boots Co.'s "outstanding" employee policies over the years and the role those policies played in the company's business success. The study highlights how Boots' drive for a happy workforce played a key role in the development of the city of London and its own success.
"The founder of the Boots Pure Drug Co. was Jesse Boot. He recognized that the welfare of employees was linked to the welfare of the customers and ultimately to the health of the community and the nation. The influence came from Jesse's strong involvement in chapel affairs and local [programs] to improve living conditions within his community," notes Phillips.
The first Boots branch opened in 1849, and by 1933, there were 1,000 branches. As early as the late 19th Century, Jesse Boots hired a part-time employee to visit sick employees. In 1911, the first full-time Boots employee assigned to conduct what we now recognize as "human resources" activities, Eleanor Kelly, was appointed. She later became a major figure in the movement to improve working conditions in Britain and internationally.
Through the years, Boots became a leading player in the workers' rights movement. The First World War drew attention to the working conditions of women and young people, and Boots was among first companies in Britain to try and address them.
Jesse Boots, says Phillips, along with subsequent company leaders, believed that to improve the moral and physical condition of the nation, there was a need to improve the working life of employees.
The forward-thinking company, he notes, "set up its own welfare department to coordinate sports, social events, medical provisions and education to encourage workers to socialize with each other and develop good relationships. It continued to break down barriers between the workers and executives by setting up friendly sports events with local companies. The aim was to increase the sense of teamwork as well as loyalty to the company."