East of England Co-op honoured by HRH The Princess Royal

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We are incredibly proud to have been commended for our commitment to training and skills development by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal at a ceremony at St James' Palace in London yesterday afternoon.

We were one of 34 organisations honoured with a Princess Royal Training Award for creating lasting impact by successfully linking our skills development with our community investment. The winner, including prestigious car manufacturers, healthcare organisations and charities, all demonstrated that training can make a significant impact on employee morale, productivity and customer service.

The judges were particularly impressed by our bespoke Dementia Friendly Retail Awareness training. East of England Co-op Joint Chief Executive Mark O’Hagan, explained: “As a community retailer it’s important that we support local people to retain their independence and feel a part of their community for as long as possible.

“We made a pledge to become the first Dementia Friendly Retailer in our region. Our aim has been to create an environment where people living with dementia, together with their families and carers, feel comfortable and safe to shop. We also wanted to provide our colleagues with the necessary knowledge and skills for them to confidently support our customers when needed.”  

In our region alone over 50,000 people are living with dementia, a figure that is set to rise considerably by 2030. The East of England Co-op’s Dementia Champion and Learning and Development team worked in partnership with the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, University of Suffolk and Alzheimer’s Society to create four bespoke training modules for their 4,500 colleagues.

The Princess Royal Training Awards were delivered for the first time this year by the City and Guilds Group. Each of the 110 applications was assessed against three Hallmarks of Excellence and the Princess Royal Training Awards Commission, which comprised HRH The Princess Royal and ten leading figures in the business and learning and development community.

Mark O’Hagan continued: “We’re delighted that our dedication to training and development has been recognised in this way. At the East of England Co-op it’s important to us that we provide our colleagues with the chance to learn and grow in their roles.

“To be a true dementia friendly retailer we needed our colleagues to connect with our vision both rationally and emotionally. Dementia Friendly Retail was our first online course that looked specifically at our colleagues ‘soft skills’. Over 80% of our colleagues have completed the training voluntarily, so far, and it’s made available to all new starters. In true co-operative spirit, we’re now offering our e-learning to other businesses and communities.”

City and Guilds Chief Executive Chris Jones added: “All of the successful organisations deserve enormous praise. I hope these awards have shone a light on how important it is for businesses to invest in training to boost their productivity, address skills gaps and develop their leaders. This has never mattered more than in today’s uncertain economy. I hope this year’s winners inspire other organisations to share their experiences, and put forward their training and development success stories.”

To read The Princess Royal’s foreword to the City and Guilds Group Commissioners’ Report, please see https://issuu.com/cityandguildsgroup/docs/prta_commissioners_report