One in six British women and the odd man have spent time knocking on doors as an “Avon lady”, according to the firm that varnishes the most nails in the world. The current 160,000 representatives are self-employed, but the firm has more than 1,700 staff in Britain, manufacturing and distributing beauty products, perfumes and gifts for nearly 8m customers.
Its two large plants, at Northampton and in nearby Corby, are abundant in women, bright lipstick and fragrance. The firm styles itself as “the company for women”, but it has a broader family feel and desire to nurture everybody’s potential. “This sort of culture enables people to get their true potential out,” says Dan Ryalls, head of decisions support. “It allows people freedom to develop their own processes and get more out of a career.”
The daughter of the American multinational, Avon moved to Britain 44 years ago and is widely considered a homegrown institution. Established in 1886 as the California Perfume Company, the company now has operations in 143 countries and has 3.5m representatives worldwide.
Avon aims to be “the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfilment needs of women globally”, and 81% of employees say it has strong principles for treating customers well.
As far as benefits are concerned, 79% of staff believe they are fair compared with those of rival firms. A final-salary pension scheme is still offered and all workers are eligible for performance-related bonuses. There is life insurance for all, but private healthcare is available to only 60% of workers. Holiday entitlement ranges from 25 days to 28. Childcare vouchers are available for those with two years’ service; maternity pay is 90% of salary for six weeks, five at half pay and seven at the statutory rate. On-site dry cleaning, massage, chiropody, aromatherapy and yoga are offered.
The company aims to develop staff. Anne Gill, vice-president in charge of human resources, says: “If you’re keen to broaden your skills and gain new experiences, then there aren’t any barriers. You can cross functions.” Career breaks and grants for non-work-related courses are possible. Of the members of staff surveyed, 77% are proud to work for Avon and 79% feel they contribute to its success.
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