Shifts: The story so far


Shifts is our brand new mobile website made especially for Co-op Food colleagues, to enable you to view schedules on mobile devices, as well as on the normal in-store rota.

Back in early 2017 we got together with our colleagues in Digital to think of ways to help colleagues working in-store. By the end of the summer we’d whittled down many ideas to 3 potential new products and services:

  1. Shifts (formerly My Schedule)
  2. Task Manager
  3. How do I?

Then, we got to work with colleagues from across the business, including those in-store, to see what we could achieve.

I want to talk to you about Shifts. On Monday 23 April we’ll open the website for all Co-op Food colleagues to use if you would like to, after just over a year of working to make this product the best it can be.

The road to launching Shifts


It’s been a long yet fast-paced road of working on Shifts, always with colleague-users in mind. It’s our colleague-users, those in-store who’ll be using this product from Monday, who have been helping shape Shifts with their feedback and insight from the shop floor.

Once we’ve launched Shifts to the Co-op Food colleague community, we’ll be looking at updates and new features to launch this Summer. We’ll keep you updated on our progress on this blog and on the Co-op Colleagues Facebook Page.

Watch our live Show and Tell

Together with my colleague Paul we hosted a Show & Tell last night on YouTube for colleagues interested in how we developed Shifts, with the opportunity to ask questions in live chat. You can watch a recording of the show and tell on Co-op YouTube.

What colleagues had to say about Shifts

I have to thank the hundreds of colleagues from stores across the country who worked with us on trialing Shifts in both the Alpha (first stage testing) and Beta (second stage testing). Without you, the product wouldn’t be what it is. Here’s what colleagues had to say about Shifts:

Thanks again to everyone involved in creating Shifts. Access Shifts from 23 April at

Chris Ward

Product Manager

How sketching sessions can help us make our stores more efficient

We’ve been collecting ideas for digital products and services with people that know most about problems in stores – our colleagues. 

Recently, our area and regional managers got together for their annual conference. During the afternoon we held breakout sessions where the Leading the Way team showed some of the digital products we’ve been working on. And we also ran a ‘sketching session’.

Sketching is a technique Leading the Way has been using to help us pool ideas from subject matter experts. We’ve been doing this both before and during the time we’ve been building products and services. We want to hear from the people who know the most about our problem space – after all, they are the people who experience it every day so their input is really important.  

Then we build on these ideas. Here’s an early sketch of MySchedule, something we’re now working on. It’s amazing to think that just a few months ago, this idea was locked away in someone’s head!

Image shows doodles from a sketching session.

And here’s the real thing:

Image shows MySchedule where teams can find out about their schedule.

How sketching sessions work

We read the group a series of questions and asked them to sketch their response to the questions. So, for example, one of the questions was: ‘How can we make communications simpler in stores?’ Here’s an example sketch that answers that question.

Image of a doodle from a sketching session. doodle shows a megaphone with 'clear, concise message' written above it.
You don’t have to be able to draw to take part. A good sketch can be a scribble, some words, a diagram or absolutely anything that can convey an idea to us.

Anyway, we ran 4 sessions with around 60 people in each, so we got absolutely loads of feedback in sketch format.

photograph of people taking part in a sketching session.

So many ideas! How we filtered

We collected all 500 sketches, took them back to our team and this week we’ve been sorting them and grouping them into themes. We’ve used a ‘filter’ (basically a series of check boxes) to keep us focussed when we sort. You can read more about our filter in our post about our discovery into our food stores.

Pulling out common themes

We’re already seeing lots of common themes in the sketches. For example, lots of people think we need simpler communications ie, just one single way of finding out important information when you’re at work or elsewhere. The sketches also told us that many of you feel swamped with messages and tasks being delivered in numerous ways – see the sketch below.

photograph of doodle from sketching session showing a laptop with the message 'you have 600 emails' on it depicting being overwhelmed by messages.

We also see that you think our stores need some sort of ‘toolkit’ that will make it easier to complete tasks and help colleagues to do all the things they need to do within the time available.

photograph of a doodle from a sketching session that show a 'co-op swiss army knife' depicted like a toolbox to help get all tasks done.

We’re working on some stuff already

We’re really pleased to see that some of the work we are already doing matches up with the ideas people had during the sketching sessions. And even better, we think that some of these sketches may take our new products even further. We’ll take the ideas that fit best and build them into our roadmap.

Here are some that map to our How Do I product.

photograph of sketches that link to our How do I product

What we’ll do next

We’re still working through the sketches, collating the themes and seeing how they can influence what we do next.

Thanks so much to everyone that got involved on the day. It was great to have your support. We’ll blog again soon to share our progress.

Kim Morley
Delivery manager, Co-op Digital

Operations Store Support – championing the voice of stores

To most store colleagues, the Operational Store Support (OSS) desk needs little introduction, but how much do you really know about the team that offers this daily lifeline and vital go-between for the stores and the Support Centre?

Who we are?

Headed up by Interim OSS Manager, Geri Barrington, the department totals 27 advisors, led by a team of 5 – John Copeland, Matt Baker, Phill Searing, Sharon Brown and Ian Charters.


Between us, not only are store queries answered, but the quality of the answers is managed, and then trends of the calls are plotted – helping us reduce the number of repeat issues and frustrations for stores.

The team is always busy. With around 3,600 calls per week – answered in an industry standard average time of just 30 seconds – our desks on the 4th floor of 1AS are a constant hive of activity. When you then add roughly 700 emails a week, you’ll appreciate it can be pretty non-stop.

What we do, and what we’ve achieved this year

The mission of the team is a simple one; here to be the stores’ listening post, providing exceptional operational support to teams throughout the business. We know that time matters in our stores and that eliminating issues is key to providing a great service to customers and members, as well as supporting a great place to work for our colleagues.

In support of this, we’ve landed 3 key initiatives this year:

1. A customer satisfaction capability to allow colleagues to report on the service they receive
2. An automated e-mail to stores when issues are resolved
3. And the big one – moving 33% of calls from a 48 hour SLA to a 24 hour one, meaning we are resolving these quicker than ever before.

OSS Blog Squircle

Reduction in call volume is now at 18% year on year thanks to the better use of analytics and the support of other teams in the Centre. We’re also using tactical messaging to help stores’ awareness that we know of widespread issues when they call through.

What we’re doing next

We’re starting to explore greater use of technology to enable you to log calls without calling, giving you the tools to fix things yourself in a ‘self-help’ culture, using voice analytics to make it easier for you to interact with us, and other opportunities for the future including web chat. Our aim is to fix problems faster, improve the proactive service we offer, and ultimately free up time for you to do what matters most.


We’re also helping to support the Leading the Way programme by providing information on the pain points which stores and our colleagues experience – this insight has allowed the programme to prioritise what to investigate first, and how we can make your lives in store simpler.

How you can help

Simply, we’d love your feedback. We’re hearing that you’re happy with our service via our internal CSAT, but we also want to hear your ideas on how we can improve further. You can comment on the blog post or send an email to

Gerri Barrington
Interim OSS Manager

Bringing digital skills and thinking into Leading the Way

We know that store colleagues can sometimes find it difficult to get the information they need to do their jobs. Whether it’s hiring a team member or loading a bakery price gun, it’s taking valuable time out of the day and making things generally harder than they need to be.

So we’ve formed a team in Co-op Digital, working with colleagues in Food, to build a new digital product to solve the problem. It’s all part of our ‘Leading the Way’ programme. This product has a working title at the moment, of ‘How to do things in Food stores’. (Got a better name? Answers on a postcard, no citrus fruits please…)

Making things easier to find and understand

First of all we’re taking content from Citrus, the intranet, and anywhere else we can find it, about how to do things in a store, and we’re putting it all in one place. We want our information to be easy to locate with a navigation structure that reflects how store colleagues think about things, and to make searching easier.

We know that Citrus’ search doesn’t work. We also know that our colleagues in store (along with millions across the world) are using Google to find things out in their day-to-day lives. So we want to build something for the Co-op that meets those expectations and does the job it needs to do.

But we’re also making our content easy to read and understand, when it hasn’t always been that way in the past. This is important for everyone: for colleagues who have been with us for over 20 years, as well as for colleagues who might be new, or have English as a second language.

Building digital skills and thinking

As well as building a product, we’re helping to bring digital skills and thinking into Leading the Way. What do we mean by that? Well, a few things…

Working in multidisciplinary teams

Often, companies are organised into functions – marketing, operations, IT. Those teams sit together in their functions, and interact with other functional departments in working groups or steering groups or other groups.

photograph showing part of our multidisciplinary team around a whiteboard.

At Co-op Digital, we work in cross-functional teams every day. Rather than having a team of software developers and a team of designers, each team is a product team made up of lots of different roles. We have an interaction designer, a user researcher, a content designer, a delivery manager, a product manager, and a few software developers too. We all work together and use our expertise in different areas to work quickly. No more waiting for the weekly meeting to find out that something isn’t technically possible, or that a user told us that something didn’t make sense. And we’re collaborating closely with our colleagues in Food – we have 5 colleagues from stores helping us to write content, and a subject-matter expert who is running the workstream, too.

Putting users first

photograph of our work on a white board. main message says: how to do things in Food store. Start with user needs.

The users of the product are more important than the people building it or the business. Those users could be anyone, but in this situation, we think it’s primarily colleagues in stores, and colleagues who work at OSS. We want to learn about how this fits into a user’s life, and what their needs are. For example, we know that a lot of our policy content is quite long at the moment – and we think that really, colleagues go to look up a policy or a procedure when they want to do something. That means we want to give you the information you need at the point you need it – not to have to trawl through lots of irrelevant words.

We’ve seen this kind of thinking in action all the way across Leading the Way, and the way the test and trial process works means that all ideas are getting tested by users before they’re implemented across all stores.

Short feedback loops

Those users I just mentioned…well, in this instance, that’s you: colleagues in stores. We go out into stores often and show colleagues what we’re doing. Usually we’ll show 5 colleagues what we’re working on every 2 weeks. We’ll sit down with a colleague, show them what we’re working on, and ask open-ended questions about what they’re seeing on screen.

photograph from one of our show and tells.

Getting that frequent feedback means we can improve what we’re doing. If no one can find the search box when we show them the website, we can move it, and make sure it is easier to find next time.

What’s next

We’ve given the web address to about 5 stores so far, but there’s not much content on there yet. When we have some more, we’ll be sharing it with more stores. We’ll keep on talking to people in stores across the country to get feedback and insight. It’s been brilliant to meet so many people in stores so far, and we’re looking forward to delivering something that makes life easier for our colleagues.

Anna Goss
Product Lead

Listen, Act and Fix

Co-op store colleagues are the most visible face of our business, and they will be the first experience many members have of interacting with our products and services. So it’s really important that we listen to their ideas on how we can improve things and remove complexity.

This is one of the main aims of the Listen, Act and Fix (LAF) team here at Co-op Retail Support Centre. We want to get behind these great ideas which will help improve the way we operate, for the benefit of our colleagues, customers and members.

We’ve been listening

To get this work off to the right start, we recently held a number of listening sessions for colleagues. We heard from 254 colleagues in 24 events in stores right across the country so that we could get a proper impression of what matters most and, just as importantly, hear colleagues’ ideas about how to make things better. We received nearly 1000 pieces of feedback, a 34% increase on the suggestions we received in 2016’s sessions.

Photograph of colleagues at a listening session in Llandudno

Photograph of staff in Bromsgrove at a listening session

We found that, above all else, our colleagues care about Membership: particularly registering new members. But we know that this is a much more difficult process than it should be and is taking too much valuable time in store. So we’re sharing our colleagues’ ideas with the Membership team, working to speed up registrations and make more customers want to join us. The tablet sign-up trial that’s underway at the moment is just one way of doing this, and the idea came directly from store colleagues.

We also found that colleagues had many suggestions and ideas on how we can improve our tills, which can cause unnecessary stress, especially at busy times. So as part of our annual review of assets and equipment, we’re replacing older equipment with newer, faster models, and making some changes to our software. After this we will focus on improving network speeds so that it is easier to get online – and stay there!

And we know that the TARA system is far too complicated for everyday use. After this came up regularly in our sessions, we decided to trial a simplified job structure as well as an app to provide TARA access from a smart device. We’re pleased with the early results and will hopefully have positive news to announce soon. Watch this space!

We’ve been learning

Visiting stores has certainly taught us a lot about the pressures store colleagues face in their roles and know there is still a huge amount of work to be done to reduce these pressures. But we are determined to keep making things better, and we want to put colleague ideas and suggestions at the centre of this.

We know we need to listen more, and ensure we’re championing our colleagues’ ideas. After all, no one knows better what works in-store than those who actually work there. New digital tools are making it easier than ever before to get insight into colleague ideas, and to respond, making the changes we know need to be made.

Our ambition is better engagement and insight: finding and using the great ideas that our colleagues have, and working together to deliver them. We want to make Listen, Act and Fix cultural, as part of a servant-leadership approach, and we want the insight of our colleagues to form a key part of how we plan for the future. Our mission in 2017 is to keep up the momentum.

The Executive team for Food has seen the recent insight from our colleagues and we will soon be sharing our future plans with them. By listening, sharing our ideas, and challenging us all to fix them, we can bring about the important changes we know will really make a difference to our colleagues, customers and members.

Joe Wheatley
Colleague Insight Support Officer

Introducing our ‘stores of excellence’

We’ve talked about the purpose of the Leading the Way programme before:

We want to help store colleagues with the things they need to do, in the time they have, and give them the freedom to be great Co-op shopkeepers.

To help us change things, we’ve been setting up ‘stores of excellence’ with the help of the retail support centre. We want to create a community of colleagues who speak about the changes we’d like to make within the business and discuss ways of working that will help us make them.

How it works

At the moment, we trial new ideas in around 20 stores. Once we’re happy and colleagues have told us those ideas are working well, we’ll roll them out a little further to our stores of excellence. Then we’ll speak to colleagues there to find out if they think the idea is making a positive difference.

When we go on to roll ideas out to all other stores, colleagues from stores of excellence will be able to share what they’ve already learnt.

Excellent stores embrace change

Image shows a screenshot of a tweet and a Twitter image. The tweet says: What a day! #storesofexcellence event complete. 45 store managers ready to be advocates if the change. The image is a photo of 45 managers sitting around a table.

Over the last few months, managers have been choosing their stores of excellence. The teams from those stores have been told about their new roles in transforming our business. There’s one store of excellence under each area manager and each one was chosen because they’ve already shown they can make changes effectively. In other words, these are stores with high standards that aren’t afraid of changing the way they work. They’re keen to make things simpler and more efficient for colleagues.

Listening to feedback

Listening is really important. Managers in the stores of excellence have been telling us how they feel about letting old processes go and trusting new systems or ways of working.

In the future

This is a new way of working for us in Co-op Food and we’re learning as we go. We hope colleagues from different stores will talk to each other at area meetings, on conference calls and in the stores themselves. Better communication between us will help everyone make changes across all our stores.

We’ll blog again soon to update you how things are going.

Elizabeth Lowther

Reducing paperwork when we’re cashing up

Remember that new cash paperwork that came out the other week? That’s one cool thing that came from Leading the Way (LTW). We know how much paperwork you have to deal with and we want to remove as much as we can.

How I ended up on Leading the Way

LTW aims to make life easier for colleagues in stores. It’s really important that the programme includes field colleagues who know the reality and challenges of working in a store day-to-day. Having people in the team with first-hand experience of that means we can focus on what store colleagues actually need, not what we reckon they need.

That’s why myself and the other workstream leads are here – we all have experience out in shops and know them inside and out.

I started as a CTM at the Co-op over 10 years ago. I became a team manager while I was studying and then took on my first store manager role. I looked after a number of stores including one that was less than 500 square feet (a shoe box!) and one that went through a Gen2 re-fit. Then I successfully applied for the Shining Stars programme and got seconded to an area manager role, eventually looking after Leeds.

Our mission

It’s simple really.

We want to help store colleagues with the things they need to do, in the time they have, and give them the freedom to be great Co-op shopkeepers.

How do we do that though? We’ve started with 7 different projects or ‘workstreams’, with the intention that each one will tackle a different instore area. My workstream is called Simple Stores and focuses on how we make admin, paperwork, back office systems simpler in the day to day running of a shop.

This year we’re looking at what we can simplify quickly, and we’ll also to begin to think about how we transform entire parts of our operation over the next few years.

Simplifying cash paperwork

Our Simple Stores workstream is looking at how we can simplify cashing up. I’ve been cashing up since I was a CTM and one of the things that really bugged me was the number of bits of paper.

photo of 5 forms that used to be used during cashing up

They add unnecessary complexity. If we just had everything on one document, we wouldn’t have to print all the bits of paper off every week – better for the environment and cheaper for the store. Plus it’d just be much neater being able to complete all tasks needed to cash up on one page.

The central cash team, Helen Holland and Pauline Wilton, were really keen on helping out and we worked together to create the simplified document.

photo of Dave Tyas holding one sheet of paper. this is the new condensed version of the cashing up forms.We tested the new document in our Green Quarter store – thanks guys! We listened to feedback and changed the document based on recommendations. After we had it right, we rolled it out to 2 areas for final feedback before we rolled it out further.

This was the first piece of work that we sent to our ‘stores of excellence.’ These are stores that try out new things first and then help the other stores in the area if we roll out the new thing out further.

It’s gone down well. Here’s some of the feedback:

“I now find that in terms of recording, the paperwork is much simpler to use and easier to follow.” – Mike, SM

“Better visibility for colleagues. Easier to chase discrepancies. Welcome the change!” – Kath, TM

“The new cash document is great and easy to use, which results in less of a paper trail.” – Carole, TL

What’s next?

Simplifying cashing up is just the start for the Simple Stores workstream. Here’s what we’re looking next:

  • How can we completely revolutionise how we cash up using technology and digital tools?
  • Do headsets make life easier for store colleagues?
  • How can we get rid of all paper from the office and make it digital?
  • Can we make the back office systems mobile so we can access them wherever we are?

We want to hear from you

We’re running ‘Listen Act and Fix’ sessions in 26 locations across the country. The aim is to bring colleagues together to talk about how we can make things simpler.We’ll keep you posted about the details.

We’re already hearing some brilliant suggestions, ranging from how we can sign up members more easily at the checkout, to how we make our store processes simpler. If you have ideas on things that could make life instore simpler, let us know by emailing

We are listening!

Dave Tyas
Workstream lead