Co-operative retail society Scotmid has been running a number of initiatives designed to grow and develop its workforce from within.
The retail society’s training programme, Grow Aspire, aims to develop future Scotmid store managers by teaching commercial, financial and operational aspects of the business. Launched in 2015, 109 Scotmid employees have graduated from the programme so far, including 35 in the past year.
One of these graduates is Nicole McDonnell, who has worked at Scotmid for 13 years. After working her way up to senior team leader position in the Broxburn store, Nicole applied for the Grow programme. She says that seeing supervisors take part and go on to run their own stores was part of what led her to apply.
“I have a passion for retail and loved my role but wanted more of a challenge than my current position,” says Nicole.
The course Nicole took part in launched during the pandemic, meaning that it was delivered online.
“I found this challenging as this was a totally new way of learning for me, but the support from the learning and development team throughout was great.”
Whilst taking part in the programme, Nicole was also dealing with staffing issues and other day-to-day challenges brought by the pandemic. Though this meant having to carefully manage her time, Nicole says that it was “rewarding seeing my team pull together and support each other throughout”.
Nicole is now store manager at the Uphall store. Having achieved her original goal, Nicole is now focusing on developing her own team. She says that being in this position has made her realise “how important it is to keep developing my own team and sharing my knowledge to help them achieve their goals within the society”.
In addition to its own training programme, Scotmid has partnered with national initiatives to recruit and develop staff, such as the government-backed Kickstart scheme, through which the society has employed over 100 young people in six-month work placements. Half of these 16-24 year old recruits have stayed on with Scotmid in permanent roles.
Holly Brown, who has now been working at the co-operative retailer as a customer service assistant for the past year, found out about the Kickstart programme through her work coach. “I chose to take part to gain experience and build my confidence,” says Holly.
Holly also wanted to gain skills that would help her in working with members of the public. Holly explains that she had to overcome shyness whilst on the course, and that support from her colleagues as well as customers has helped with that.
“Having finished the programme, I’ve gained new skills, more experience, new friends and two new qualifications from courses I’ve been on,” says Holly, adding: “My confidence and capability has improved from when I first started.”
Holly is now taking on more challenging roles, completing them to a higher standard and with more confidence. “My future hopes and plans are to maybe become a supervisor and gain even more experience with the supervisor role.”
Scotmid has also worked with Graduate Career Advantage Scotland (GCAS), an initiative which supports Scottish graduates living in Scotland to find high quality employment. Through GCAS, Scotmid has recruited a digital media and marketing intern, Rosie Glenwright, for a six-month paid internship.
Rosie found out about the internship through GCAS after studying Digital Interaction Design. During lockdown, Rosie had completed a Kickstart placement with a small digital marketing company, working on UX design. “[I] really enjoyed the marketing side of things and wanted to get more experience,” says Rosie.
Rosie is halfway through her internship and says she is enjoying herself in the role. “There is still so much to learn and everyday is different! Scotmid is really flexible and there have been so many opportunities for me to go out and meet amazing people and charities and just get involved with what we do as a society.”
Rosie describes the initial challenge of learning about the various different aspects of the retail society – from head office to in-store activities, as well as Scotmid’s various community and charity partnerships, but adds: “I had a lot of support though, and everyone has been really welcoming and taken the time to help me get my head around it all.”
Scotmid is Scotland’s largest independent co-operative, employing around 4,000 people in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England across almost 290 retail outlets. The society’s businesses include Scotmid Co-operative, Lakes and Dales Co-operative, Semichem, Scotmid funerals, Post Offices and a property division, which are collectively owned by its members.
“I wanted the opportunity to work in the field of Digital Marketing with an organisation that makes a difference to people’s lives,” says Rosie, adding: “Finding out more about how the society works and what it means to be a co-operative has been amazing.”
Nicole shared a similar sentiment, saying that the fact Scotmid is a co-operative “makes a difference as an employee as, being part of a community and living and working in the community, you can see the investments that go into the local area.”
Rosie didn’t have an extensive amount of knowledge about co-ops before her placement, but says that seeing the work that goes into the running of the society has been “incredible”, highlighting the work atmosphere at Scotmid.
“The energy from the staff within head office and stores is so good to be around, I have never worked somewhere with so many long term staff! I can really feel the team bond that surrounds and supports the society and what they do.”
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