Meet … Jenny Holsgrove, head of culture and performance at Co-operatives UK

'We are working hard to make sure that our people feel connected to our values and that our strategy puts culture at its heart'

Jenny Holsgrove joined Co-operatives UK in November 2019 from Northwest Employer, where she was head of membership services. We spoke with her to find out more about the role – and what she thinks the Covid-19 crisis means for future work cultures.

What drew you to Co-operatives UK?

The importance of values and culture attracted me to the co-op sector. The opportunity to be a part of a team and culture that was united in its aim was exciting. I felt that my experience of forming communities, culture change and engagement in the workplace would be a good fit.

What does your role involve?

My work at Co-operatives UK develops and builds on our strong work using coaching and strength based approaches. , so that we can work more effectively and co-operatively. I am also providing support to our members to empower the sector to recognise the impact of co-op values, principles and cultures.

How have you found working in the co-operative sector compared with working in other organisations? How does the culture differ?

When I think about culture I think about the people that form and shape it. Working in the co-operative sector, the values and principles really drive the behaviours – and the impact of this is massive. The co-operative sector brings together a wide range of businesses – all united in a way of working.  Co-ops lead the way in showcasing innovation and challenging the way we think about work. But  also, most importantly, they challenge how we feel about work.

We are living through uncertain times. Remote work can lead to isolation and lack of relationships among colleagues as well as difficulty in maintaining a close relationship with members or customers. What advice would you give co-ops right now?

We are facing so much change at the moment, but the most important thing to remember is to put your people first and remember the basics – eat well, sleep well and get some exercise when and if you can. Leadership and communication is critical now, so make time to find new channels of communication and share updates. Build in time and space for more feedback. The new working environment will be adding extra stress; by providing extra communication and recognition, you can help fight those creeping insecurities. Lead by example and share how you’re feeling, so when someone asks you, be honest. If you’re struggling, say so.

Could the future of work mean more remote working? If so, how can co-ops best prepare for this?

It is important to recognise that the way we view work has fundamentally shifted very quickly, and we are now seeing accelerated adoption of new technologies and ways of working. The way we understand and use the work environment will need to adapt to provide collaboration and creativity. Be ready to be flexible around working hours, location and how you understand productivity – we are reinventing ourselves. This is a journey and we don’t know where it will take us, but if you put you people first, you will be moving in the right direction.

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