Steve with Aspire and Respect colleagues

When I asked a group of colleagues from our Respect and Aspire groups ‘what would you do if you were CEO?’ I was bowled over by how passionately they spoke about improving how diverse and inclusive we are.

Their challenges got me thinking about how we come across to people with disabilities. Do we think about what it’s like for a disabled person when they come into store (eg, how our aisles are wide enough to meet legal requirements but then we put off-shelf displays in the way)?

Do we provide the practical things to help colleagues with mental illness (eg, is there a quiet space where someone having an anxiety attack could go and sit)?

Think for a moment about your area – is it a good space for people who have physical disabilities or a mental illness?

Are we flexible enough?

I’m going to chat with Helen Webb, our Chief HR Officer, about whether we’re doing enough around flexible working – and if the reality matches what we set out to do. There are great positive stories like the store manager who wanted to leave because of his family commitments, but now works as a job share manager.

But there are those stories where flexibility is seen as a weakness. I say it isn’t a weakness. Yes, we have particular challenges in a convenience store where you might have only 10 people working, but if we just talk with each other, we should be able to match up what the business needs with what our colleagues need too.

It’s all about colleagues

We’re a people business. If we look after our colleagues, they’ll be supporters of our brand. Our leaders and managers have a massive role to play in making this happen. When we get it right we’re better – our customers can feel it and see it, which means they’re likely to spend more with us. And the more they spend, the more good we can do both in the community and through our campaigning.

Our colleagues feel prouder too about working for a business that can make good things happen. Then the circle continues.

LGBT rights

We also talked about supporting LGBT rights in Northern Ireland, overcoming homophobia in traditionally male environments and how we could do more to support different causes.

Diversity and inclusion are massively important to me. And I want every leader and manager to support the fantastic work these groups are doing. We’re making progress with gender diversity – 60% of our Exec and 25% of Enterprise Leaders are female – but we should do more. And I’m determined that we also need to do more on ethnic diversity to truly represent the communities we serve.

I hope we have a culture where if anything isn’t right, people can talk openly with their manager about it to try and work things out. And if that’s not happening, I want to know about it.

This session meant a lot to me and I want to thank everyone who came and talked so openly – sometimes sharing very personal stories. It’s something I’m going to be doing with different teams and groups so I get to know what’s really on your minds. That way we can make sure we’re doing the right things to support our colleagues.

Thank you,

Steve Murrells

CEO, Co-op Group

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Spreading the co-op colleague message and benefits beyond Angel 1 is very important. Every co-op workplace (and there are several thousands of them) are really a matter of what Store Managers are willing to be bothered about, and in a business where only the Head Office staff really get any tailoring in what and how they are treated, leadership from the top really does have to start to be more than words…. Having spoken to a colleagues in a variety of businesses within the co-op family expectations, observations and experiences vary. Manager Illness, turnover or absence is also a key factor, as is Training blind spots, e.g Managers who are unaware we have a Electricals Division, or that a button for forgotten membership cards on our EPOS really do annoy me.. But yes every shift, every store and every area is different and very much a game of chance….

    • Yes, cascading messages and having an impact for all colleagues is totally important – and very difficult. But, great strides were made last year by involving over 5,600 managers from across our Co-op to their ‘Being a Co-op leader’ sessions – not just involving them on the changes we’re going through, but also giving skills to help them go on, spread the messages and engage their teams into what matters. As you observe, experiences vary. And Steve’s comment about him wanting to know if the culture we expect isn’t happening just shows how that leading from the top is so much a part of our culture. ^Kevin

  2. In my personal experience we are still very lacking in the support for mental illnesses and any support provided is just lip service. I think a lot of work needs to be done in this area to get anywhere near the support for LGBT which seems to be much better supported.

    • @Anon. I think that’s what Steve took from the session and why he held it – to understand better the issues faced. Be great if you had some good ideas on what could be done. Plus, never forget that there is help and advice available via our confidential support line if there’s ever anything you need to talk through. Contact Validium on 0800 970 1030 (or 0330 332 9996 form a mobile). There is always support available. ^Kevin

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