Earlier this week I met a group of young colleagues from across the Co-op, to find out what it’s like for them working here. The 15 colleagues were all under 26, from areas like marketing, HR, Digital, Food, Funeralcare and Logistics.
Apart from making me very aware of my age, this open and ambitious group gave me some great insights into what we need to do to keep them here. It’s really important we crack this if we want to keep their energy and new ideas, as businesses these days have a small window to make an impact on young colleagues. Far from seeking a job for life, they’ll give us a few years, and in that time they need to feel engaged, rewarded and see clear paths for progression.
Here’s what they told me:
- We need to invest in them with training, both formal and informal. Things like secondments, mentoring and skill sharing were mentioned
- A few of them had really benefited from apprenticeships and grad schemes, so would like to see more of these available
- We talked about how managers needed to spot ‘honest talent’ and people who are Being Co-op, so that progression wasn’t just for those who shouted the loudest, as this doesn’t create a diverse or happy team
- We need to connect young colleagues across the group, especially helping colleagues outside the support centre connect with colleagues across the Co-op
- We could do more to engage young people with the Co-op, both as a business and as an employer – like going into schools and universities and talking about what we do
- They want their views to be heard but not just as a ‘young person’ tick box exercise
- They’d like it to be easier to give feedback and ideas to senior leaders (we fixed this one already, as you’ll see below).
My advice to them was to take responsibility for making their own careers interesting and rewarding, to network and look for other opportunities before they get fed up with their roles. If they do this, then it’s up to managers to spot them and make the most of their talent – and if their managers don’t, other managers will. These days career paths are less linear and the people who do well often sidestep on their way up – changing areas and departments and learning new skills along the way.
I told them that the best managers are often ‘general managers’ – not just someone who can manage a marketing team or call centre, or a Food team – but someone who has the experience and skills to be sent in to manage any area.
The feedback they gave me was really valuable, so I asked the group if they could make our meeting a regular thing, to keep talking and making sure we’re doing the right things to engage young people – as colleagues and as members. We’re going to meet every six weeks, and next time Helen Webb our Chief HR Officer will join us, so she can hear their insights too.