Lending a hand in-store

On 21 September we launched our new membership, meaning our members now earn 5% back on Co-op products and services as well as 1% back for their community. Colleagues from our 1 Angel Square support centre lent a hand in-store, picking up the slack and keeping the stores running whilst frontline in-store colleagues took the time to explain our new membership to existing and potential members.

Michael helped Cardigan Road’s Co-op in Leeds

Cardigan Road is a really busy store and was in the busiest week of its trading year as the local freshers arrived the week before. Being back in-store reminded me of just how hard it is on the shop floor: breaking down outer cases, working trolleys of product and keeping the shelves stocked.

There’s a lovely team at Cardigan Road, with some very loyal, long-serving Co-op colleagues. It was really good to see our new packaging coming in too.

Nathan went to his local Co-op in Grappenhall

I spent a day with a great team who had really put the extra effort in to support our membership launch. Friday was delivery day and seeing how the team have to manage the store, customers and shift changes whilst not really knowing what time deliveries would arrive, gave me a great appreciation of how hard it is for store teams to balance everything.

I personally managed to sign up six new members in a 30 minute slot, when I wasn’t stacking shelves.

Catherine spent the day in Camley Street’s Co-op

Catherine Brien

Catherine with Umesh and his team

I spent the day stocking shelves, marking down product and serving customers on the tills. I was most struck by how much juggling my in-store colleagues need to do. Camley Street is a small store, so colleagues need to jump between shelves and tills minute by minute.

My high point of the day was signing up five new members. After an 8 hour shift I was exhausted, I have tremendous respect for my colleagues on the frontline day in, day out.

Russell went to Grosvenor Street’s Co-op in Rochdale

I was joined by Adam, a new starter learning the ropes. Adam didn’t know much about the Co-op, but was fascinated by membership and – by the end of his first shift – was a real advocate.

All the colleagues I met seemed genuinely pleased with our new brand, new membership and new products.

Sophy helped Glentworth Road’s Co-op in Morecambe

Store manager Dave had me helping out with stock reports when I arrived and soon I was chasing round the store hunting for products that had run out and for gaps on the shelves.

Dave, Linda and the rest of the team make me feel welcome. Still, the work is complex and I was slow, (I spent 15 minutes searching for a product called a ‘Sour Cup’ with the chilled ready-meals. It turned out to be a pot of mixed sweets.)

Linda visited West Street’s Co-op in Leek

I helped the team take in their deliveries and restock the shelves. The store manager, Christian, was excited to hear about the digital projects that came from our service design workshops with Food and how they could help stores and customers alike.

Ian went back to his home city, Peterborough, to help Werrington’s Co-op

It was great to see store manager Richard and Debbie, the store’s community pioneer, getting involved in events. The team found some extra budget to create a fantastic Halloween display and had begun planning an afternoon tea, with games and prizes, for the local community residents’ group, (which Richard was coming in to support on his day off.)

Richard has also been supporting other stores in the area which don’t currently have full store manager cover, some nearly an hour’s drive away. Richard stepped up without complaint, confident his team would continue to do what ‘s right for customers and members in his absence.

Together colleagues from across our Co-op helped to inform existing members about their new membership and also recruited nearly 500,000 new members.

Visiting Edge Hill University

Last week Laura Hiard an interaction designer and user researcher Tom Walker visited Edge Hill University. Tom graduated from Edge Hill 2 years ago and was invited back to talk to some third year students who are currently studying web design and development.

Picture of the interior of Federation House
Laura Hiard & Tom Walker

Why did you do it?

Laura: I graduated  3 years ago and remember what it was like to be in my final year and how unprepared I was for the real world. Since then I’ve worked for a number of companies in varying roles and I’ve learned a lot. I felt like I’d be able to connect and hopefully offer something of use to them. I also saw it as a good opportunity to practice my public speaking skills with a slightly more forgiving audience.

Tom: For me it was a similar thing. I was on the same course as these students just a few years ago and it felt good to have an opportunity to try and curb some of the fears and worries that I had around that time.

Picture of Edge Hill University
Edge Hill University

What did you speak about?

Laura: Our brief was to speak to the students about anything we felt would be useful, but to discuss how we incorporate the user into our processes and decisions. With that in mind, once we spoke about doing the talk together, it became clear that it would be good to highlight within a specific example how user research and design work together.

We began by showing the difference between user experience design and service design, and the importance of starting with user needs to make something that’s not just usable, but useful too. Then, we discussed how to use these, along with hypotheses, to make design decisions.

Tom: We also took the opportunity to give the students some advice for their working lives, based on our own experiences. I think that part went down particularly well. We spoke about how to make the best of a bad working situation and how to keep learning and striving for their goals. Their tutor gave me some really positive feedback about that part.

A picture of Lara and Tom talking to third year students at Edge Hill University

What was the response like from the students?

Tom: The response was great. We got some really astute questions about our work process while we were there and a few students even reached out to us on Twitter afterwards to ask advice.

Laura: A few of them even set up Twitter accounts after we said how useful it can be for networking.

What did you learn?

Laura: I learned that there definitely seems to be value in going out and speaking to students. Talking about what a real working day is like in the careers that they’re striving for, and introducing them to new practices that they might not yet be familiar with. After some feedback about them wanting a little more detail about some of the topics we covered, we know what we’d change for next time. We heard that some of the students were later looking at the Co-op jobs site, so we must have made a fairly good impression.

For students that weren’t there, what advice do you have for them?

Tom: A couple of things. These are the points we touched on during the talk. 

Immerse yourself and continue learning outside the classroom. Which is a lot easier than you might think. You can read and reading doesn’t have to be boring. You can do that on Twitter or read some Medium blogs or a few articles. Try to attend meet ups and get to know the community. And talk to each other. If you have read something, tell someone about it. Ask them about the things they have read or the meet ups they’ve attended. Then continue into your career.

Identify your own personal weaknesses. Studying for a degree is difficult and does take time but don’t give up. If you’re not good at something, try to understand why you might not be good at it and fix it. I struggled with code when I was a student. So I filmed myself talking through my code and then watched it back. It helped me cemented my learning and understand that it was some basics stuff that I didn’t quite get. Once I knew that, I knew what I needed to do to change it.

Thank you to the students and staff at Edge Hill University.

Laura Hiard and Tom Walker


Data Leaders

At our AGM we committed to making the Co-op trusted with data. We’ve set up Data Leaders to be the authority in keeping the data we hold on our members secure. They met for the first time last week.

What do Data Leaders do?

We’ll come together as a group to set the standards and principles for how we operate and treat data. Any decisions that we make will be communicated clearly and acted upon by all areas of Co-op. The group will investigate and discover any issues, share and resolve them quickly. We’ll make sure that we’re visible, making sure we lead the way forward for data protection and handling.

Who are the Data Leaders?

We’ve asked people from Digital to our Legal business, Human Resources to Food and every department in between. We’ve a broad range of experience and expertise in the group, and everyone is encouraged to bring any issues they have to our fortnightly meetings.

How can I find out what’s being discussed?

We’ll discuss and make decisions at meetings; minutes and any decisions will be published openly.

Picture of Catherine Brien Data Science Director at the Co-op
Catherine Brien, Data Science Director

Catherine Brien
Data Science Director

Our response to the Digital Economy Bill

Last week I gave oral evidence to the Digital Economy Bill Scrutiny committee in the House of Commons. It was a joint session with Jeni Tennison CEO of the Open Data Institute (ODI) and a member of our Digital Advisory Board.

You can watch the full session on Parliament Live or read Hansard.

We support the sentiment behind the Bill, there’s much to applaud in it. But it’s really important that Government embodies the principles of open access to public data, with strong and transparent operational processes in place. This is a commercial issue because of the extra friction of duplicate and inconsistent public data. For us it’s also a member data issue, in terms of access, privacy and trust.

We need registers to do this. Sharing of data between different areas within Government has the potential to worsen the current situation.

I talked about radical transparency at our AGM. We should all be able to see where and how Government shares data.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of this Bill in the weeks and months ahead.

Mike Bracken

Chief Digital Officer

Attending the Digital Masterclass

Last week I attended the second Digital Masterclass. It’s a half-day session aimed at giving us all one consistent way of understanding digital ways of working –  what we do, how we work and better practice.

I’ve been at the Co-op for 11 months, 9 months leading the transition to our new look in our Food business and the last 2 working in the Digital team.

Picture of Jen Farmer
Jen Farmer

The move to our new look was date led and governed by more traditional project management methodology. After the launch I was asked to work within in Digital team, an opportunity I was really excited about, but a little nervous too. I imagined a world inhabited by people far cooler than me where plans or milestones didn’t exist. This is probably a common misconception and the reality is very different.

I had lots of questions. I had no idea what the difference was between a delivery and product manager, or how to work in an Agile way.  In my first week Wikipedia became my new best friend.  What I really needed was some kind of training on how to deliver successfully in an Agile way.

The masterclass isn’t just for people who are new to digital, it’s for everyone. It’s great to have a mix of new and more experienced colleagues so everyone can get the most out of the session.  There’s nothing more valuable than hearing people’s real life experiences of projects they’ve worked on (the good and the bad). During the class you get the opportunity to reflect on your own experience as well as listen to those of the experts across our communities of practice.

Picture of the second digital masterclass at Co-op
Amy Wagner sharing the Agile principles

The day was also really good for meeting colleagues from the digital team who I recognised but  had never spoken to before. I now know a few more people to call upon when I need help outside of my area.

So what did I learn? The biggest takeaways for me being the different methodologies in Agile, how we practically apply them and how we’re using Agile to deliver some great things in the Co-op.  I also learned that a game involving Lego brings out the competitive side in everyone and 2 minutes is not enough to build a Lego house (bit of advice if you’re going on the course – start small).

Picture of the second digital masterclass at Co-op
Jen Farmer (centre)

So my verdict, regardless of if you are new to digital or Agile, you’ll find these sessions useful. Even if you’re in a role where you think you don’t directly need to use these skills, understanding how the people around you work will be useful and will make us stronger.

Jen Farmer