Listening to colleagues in the Support Centre

Thursday 15 March saw 17 store colleagues gather in Angel Square’s ‘Innovation Centre’, a nerve centre of ideas and future store concepts from the Leading the Way team.

They were there to take part in March’s Store Manager Listening Session arranged by ourselves in Colleague Insight, a day that’s designed to provide an opportunity to hear from teams around the business, offer feedback on existing or upcoming pieces of work, and give us their thoughts and feelings on how things are for them currently.

An extra bonus of the day was an hour’s chat with our Retail Chief Executive, Jo Whitfield. The chance for an hour’s conversation with the boss is a rare one, and Jo was very willing to hear a “warts and all” view of the challenges our store colleagues are facing at the moment. You can read more about this on the Colleague Insight intranet pages.

Jo Whitfield speaks to store colleagues during our Listening Session


As well as hearing from them, Jo was able to give an update on how things looked from her perspective and gave some pointers about what was to come up for Food in the rest of the year.

She left the group with 3 key messages to take back to their colleagues in store;

  1. Believe in the plan
  2. Put the customer first
  3. Look after our colleagues

As well as Jo, several business areas from around the Support Centre were able to sit and talk through their world with the colleagues present, asking for the current feelings on how things work at the store level.

Among the topics discussed were store KPIs, the communications cascade and the top shelves project, where the comments and experiences of the colleagues were extremely useful in deciding what we do in the future.

They also had the chance to talk to a project manager from the wider Co-op team who discussed the very early stages of a new training project.

The learnings from a day like this feed into our quarterly hackathons, and help us keep the voice of the colleague front and centre in the minds of all in the Retail Support Centre.

By the time you’re reading this we’ll have just finished Quarter 1’s Hackathon, an event where we gather 50+ colleagues in a big room and, as well as hearing about current projects, we get them involved in shaping future projects, working out solutions to the things that they’re facing.

If you’d like to be involved in either type of session in the future (and they’re not all held in Manchester), then email the team at and we’ll be in touch telling you when the next session is.

What happens after ‘submit’?


The first 6 weeks of 2018 have already seen over 160 ideas and suggestions come in from colleagues around the business, but what happens to these ideas once they land with the Colleague Insight team?

Our first step is to add them to our growing database of ideas, where we categorise all incoming submissions by what area of the business they align to and what type of idea they are. The overwhelming majority of submissions we get are about topics that various teams in the RSC are already working on fixing, with projects that are either just getting started or well under way. When we get an idea that relates to this, our first step is to engage with project manager and offer them the feedback; they’re the subject matter expert and they’ll know how best to quantify what’s come in.

Sometimes, we’ll take a little longer in getting some feedback across to the teams here, but that’s because we want to present a full picture of what’s being said. If one colleague has suggested that a plan should be done in a certain way, but then 3 other colleagues suggest it should be done in a different way, we need to report that fairly.

One example we had last year involved two colleagues from different parts of the country who, in the space of a week, suggested completely opposite and opposing solutions to an ISB-related issue. So for us, getting it right can sometimes be tricky.


Alternatively, we often get a lot of feedback all saying the same thing; that happened only recently with the publication of the Q1 Rhythm and Routine book. We got a lot of feedback in a short amount of time from people all saying they missed having the financial information pages, so from Q2, this will return.

A recent innovation from the Colleague Insight team has seen us use hackathons to not only gather suggestions, but work through solutions together. Our first one last November proved successful, so we’ll be hosting our next one in Manchester on March 22nd. If you’d like to get involved, leave a comment and an email address and we’ll get back to you.