John Lewis Partnership

How To Be Happier - Creating Purpose For 78,000 Partners

The challenge

John Lewis Partnership does not have employees. It has Partners. Engaging with these Partners has been a central part of JLP’s vision for 125 years. Faced with a changing retail landscape exacerbated by Covid, JLP needed to refresh that vision and update its mission statement, its Purpose.

This was something we could only do by galvanising 78,000 Partners. Why? We were trying to set a new agenda for the organisation and decided to do it with every one of the partners – to maximise input, ideas and engagement and minimise the risk of it ‘not being made here’. Together, we would co-create a refreshed Purpose that would enshrine and define what JLP stood for.

At the heart of John Lewis Partnership is just that: Partnership. Each Partner co-owns the business, and therefore has a stake in its future. Partners range from managers and executives to delivery drivers, warehouse workers and shop floor staff. The challenge was therefore reaching this diverse employee base, many of whom work offline without everyday access to the web.

What we did:
- Purpose and creative deliverables development and production
- Project lead
- Co-creation facilitation
- Process design and management
- Insight and strategy
- Creative concept
- Design system
- Internal comms

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Our approach

To do that, we pioneered co-creation at scale: ensuring we had both breadth and depth of insight, as well as a dedicated team of decision makers – a Purpose Working Group consisting of 16 Partners from across JLP, who absorbed input from 12,000 Partners, 3,000 customers and 50 suppliers. Using a combination of stakeholder groups, technical innovation and events, we created a purposeful wave that reached even the most far-flung corners of the Partnership.


We engaged diverse perspectives and engaged at scale. We defined Happiness and empowered leaders. We met Partners where they worked to keep the conversation going. To guide our strategy and ensure there was input from all areas of JLP, we set up a Purpose Working Group that included Partnership Councillors and Partners from across different areas of JLP. We went on a journey of business-wide engagement through discussions and events. To set out what Happiness meant for our Partners, we co-created a statement and three pillars - we collectively developed a set of ‘Happier Hows’.

Did it work?
In a word, yes. Overall, 78,000 Partners were engaged. 61% of them completed the Partnership’s first Happiness Survey, and over 11,500 Partners engaged with us when we were re-shaping our Purpose. And best of all, the new Purpose was enshrined in the Constitution by the Council, who voted 52 for, with only 3 against.

But what changed?
The project changed the way the business behaves. Awards are now given to those who best embody the Purpose and board members are asked to consider how any decision advances our Purpose before any decision is made.

We kept the conversation going

The impact was immediate so to maintain momentum we recruited a network of communication activators. They inspired fellow Partners and regularly posted updates on a Google Chat channel to motivate and inspire their peers.

We empowered leaders. We invited all 1,300 leaders across the business to an event that would help them pick up the baton and bring the Purpose to life in their teams, embedding it in their business units. Each attendee received a ‘Finding Happier’ workbook containing exercises that could be run virtually, in a five-minute briefing or as an information station in a break room.


78,000 Partners were engaged.

The new Purpose was enshrined in the Constitution by the Council.

Over 2,000 Managers, Leaders and Comms Activators trained.

61 percent of Partners eligible completed the Partnership’s first Happiness Survey.