Steve with the ER services team

I’m privileged in this job to meet fantastic colleagues from all over the business. Last week I visited the South West to chat to three very different teams all with one thing in common – they make life easier for our colleagues and members.

I learnt a lot from them.

Lesson one: we’re helping managers to better support our colleagues but we need to do more

My first stop was Avonmouth Distribution Centre in Bristol where I met with Joanna and Liz, HR Employee Relations Leads who are part of a team supporting managers across our Co-op, dealing with issues like absence, conduct, bullying and harassment.

They told me that they’re doing a lot to help managers deal with these issues more effectively. I know that every business struggles with these things but I want us to get better at identifying the root causes and supporting managers to have honest conversations with their colleagues.

Joanna, Liz, Steve and some of the Employee Relations team

I chatted to a couple of members of the team who man the phones advising, coaching and listening. They used to be store managers so have a real insight into the difficulties faced in such a demanding job.

We talked about the issue of bullying and harassment, a worrying theme that came out in the Talkback results. It’s an issue I feel strongly about, and this team, along with many others in the Co-op, are doing all they can to stamp out this kind of behaviour, and support those affected by it.

Lesson two: we’re making great strides in providing a joined up Funeralcare Legal Services experience for clients

A 15-minute drive and I was soon chatting to colleagues from our Legal Services business.

They’re working hard to create a better, more joined up experience for members and clients when using those key life planning products and services we offer, like making a will, organising a funeral, or dealing with a loved one’s estate when they pass away.

Hearing Anezka, a Probate Consultant, talking passionately about how closely she works with Funeralcare, how her and the team spend much more time than our competitors talking to families in their homes, and how the clients she helps really trust our brand, makes me feel proud of our Co-op difference, and the difference we’re making.

Steve and Matt Howells chatting to Probate Consultant Anezka

Lesson three: we’re ahead of the game with our remote monitoring system for stores

There are very few moments I walk into somewhere and go, ‘wow – this is bloody exciting’. But that’s how I felt when I met a new team in our Co-op – the Technical Services Bureau based in Gloucester.

Their office is like a miniature version of NASA’s control room. They monitor every aspect of our stores from chillers to alarms 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using the latest, cutting-edge technology. If anything goes wrong, they’re on the case making sure an engineer is on site as quickly as possible, giving precious time back to our store colleagues to focus on serving customers and members.

Technical Services Bureau

They’re using a monitoring system that’s a quantum leap from anything used by other retailers. Connected to 832 stores right now, the guys are aiming to cover all of our stores by the end of the year.

Seeing how this will change the way we run our Food business, improving the working lives of our colleagues, cutting down calls to our National Operations Centre, and saving the business thousands, is a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment. I’m sold.