'You said, we did'

Over the last year or so, our colleagues told us what's important to them here at our co-op. Through the 2021 Our Co-op workshops and the first Our Co-op, Your Voice colleague survey, our colleagues had their say, and we listened. 

Our colleagues' feedback has led to real change. As a direct result of what our colleagues told us, we've actioned improvements to the way we work, including better communications (launching our online colleague community, The Loop), access to more colleague benefits via our new Your Benefits Gateway, as well as reviewing colleague uniform and improving our in-store radio in our Food stores. We've also initiated new programmes, such as Helping Hands, to build even stronger relationships across our family of businesses.


As the largest independent retailer in the East of England, we operate at the heart of our communities and always aim to provide excellent customer service. We're immensely proud of our colleagues - after all, one of the things that makes our co-op so special is our people and the connections they have to the communities they support. This year, we placed particular focus on 'value based' recruitment, to increase retention and ensure that we hire for attitude and train for skill. 

This year we recruited over 1,200 new colleagues. To help us place the right colleagues in the right roles, we improved our recruitment process, re-writing our job descriptions and realigning our candidate interview process. In addition, we forged partnerships with local organisations, including The Mix, Essex Cares Limited and refugee support initiatives, to help those who are less fortunate into work. 


Combining practical training with on- and off-the-job study, our apprenticeship programme supports professional development at our co-op, unlocking the potential of our colleagues while they continue to earn a fair wage. Our apprenticeships truly underpin our value of “A place for people to grow”. 

The pathways include: 

  • The Apprentice Team Manager Programme, which helps colleagues progress into more senior roles.
  • We also use apprenticeships to improve management skills throughout our co-op, including in Funerals and for our Central Support colleagues. 
  • Additionally, we support our Finance, Marketing and People departments by providing professional qualifications. 

We saw three new apprenticeships added to our offer, bringing the total to 17. A Funeral Team Member pilot for Funeral Operative and Arrangers, as well as Business Analyst and Marketing Manager, which is equivalent to a degree. 

This year, we also held the first 'live' apprentice celebration event since Covid-19, applauding the achievements of our apprentices. Seventeen colleagues successfully completed their apprenticeship - 59% with distinction! 

During National Apprenticeship Week, we highlighted how apprenticeships can make a massive impact – employers benefit from a skilled workforce and apprentices flourish and succeed in their careers. We set out to update people’s perceptions about apprenticeships and to let them know about the brilliant opportunities that are available. 

Our Co-op in action – new colleague benefits

In direct response to our colleagues’ feedback, in October 2022 we launched a new colleague benefits platform, Your Benefits Gateway. Your Benefits Gateway is a ‘one stop shop’ for all colleague benefits, bringing together access to every tool and resource available from our co-op to support our colleagues’ financial wellbeing. The dedicated website includes access to discount and benefit schemes to empower our colleagues to save money on almost anything, from everyday groceries and healthcare to new technology and even trips to the cinema. There are hundreds of offers from top high street retailers including M&S, Currys PC World, Cineworld, Hotels.com, John Lewis and many more. As of January 2023, our colleagues had made more than £4,500 of savings.   

The successful launch of Your Benefits Gateway was followed by Wagestream, an initiative that allows our colleagues to access up to 30% of their pay, in advance of payday, as well as providing expert coaching, tools, tips and articles to help support the management of their personal finances. In December, we launched a third new benefit: SmartTech, a service designed to help manage unexpected expenses. Through SmartTech, colleagues can purchase new technology at point of need and then spread the payments over 12 paydays, interest-free.  

Cost of living support for our colleagues

We wanted to do what we could to support our colleagues through the challenges of the ongoing cost of living crisis. This winter, we were proud to be able to offer all our colleagues £50 in vouchers to spend in our Food stores, while also increasing our colleague discount from 20% to 25%. 

Pennies from Heaven 

This year we introduced Pennies from Heaven to provide an easy and affordable way for our colleagues to donate to good causes. Through Pennies from Heaven, our colleagues can sign up to donate the spare pennies from their pay each month, with all money raised going to our East of England Community Cares Fund. Our Community Cares Fund supports the work of local groups who make a real and meaningful impact in our region’s communities. 

'Our Co-op, Your Voice'

One of our co-op objectives is to be the best place to work in the East of England and ongoing listening and learning is a really important part of delivering this objective. We want to hear about what's important to our colleagues so we can keep improving. That's why in January 2023 we partnered for the second time with industry experts People Insights to run our comprehensive colleague survey, Our Co-op, Your Voice.

Introduced in 2021, the Our Co-op, Your Voice survey provides a really important opportunity to take a 'temperature check' of our whole business on key topics like job satisfaction, personal development and manager support. We want to hear what it's like to be a colleague here, as well as what our colleagues need, want and expect from their place of work.

The Loop 

A business of our size and complexity will always have to work hard to communicate well. Improving how we share information and work together has been a focus this year and we made a big stride forward in June by launching a brand-new online colleague community called The Loop. 

Accessible online to all colleagues, The Loop was created to showcase the very best of our co-op. The Loop is a hub for news from across the business, as well as fun competitions, photo sharing and essential information pages. There's even a complete colleague directory and a Thank You Card area that allows colleagues to give and receive praise. 

Uptake of The Loop has been going from strength to strength, with more than 2,200 colleagues active on the platform so far. 

Suffolk Mind training for managers

This year, with the support of our wellbeing partner Suffolk Mind, we introduced new mental health and awareness training for our managers. Initiated in February 2022, and continuing into 2023, the face-to-face training shares practical advice and toolkits to help our managers create healthy working environments. The course also emphasises the importance of manager mental health, ensuring our managers have the resources they need to build their confidence, as well as motivation, productivity and positivity within their teams. The training has been very well received, with all those responding to a follow-up survey saying they’d recommend the course.  

This report reflects our five 'Our Co-op' strategies.
Click on a strategy to learn more:

Building our fanbase

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Improving the daily lives of our colleagues

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Taking action to help save our planet

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Championing local

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Growing and evolving our business

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