Around 70,000 people work for the Co-op Group across 5 business areas so it’s safe to say there’s a lot of people we’re never going to get to know. It’s really easy to only spend time with people you come into contact with which is a shame because we can learn a lot from colleagues working in other areas.
To help bring people from the Co-op Group together and to start conversations we hold ‘Tea for 3’ meet ups. Over the last 3 years there have been over a thousand meet ups and over 350 people have connected. We’re hoping more people will get involved after reading this post.
The meet ups are an opportunity for colleagues across the business to say hello, find out what other people do and whether they have any common interests inside or outside of work. Ultimately, meeting and chatting to people with different expertise is an excellent way to get different perspectives on solving problems and ways of working.
How it works
The meet ups are open to colleagues across the Group. If you’re interested in getting involved you can sign up to take part. Three people are chosen at random and introduced over email beforehand. They then meet in person, over the phone, videoconference, Google Hangout or however works best.
The next 30 minutes is up to them. We haven’t proposed a series of questions or conversation cards or anything. The whole thing is supposed to be really informal so that conversation will flow freely.
The lowdown from this month
We were involved in this month’s Tea for 3 meet up. We are Nassali Douglas, a food project manager in the Retail Support Centre and Sabrina Jacobs, a community programme management office (PMO) manager.
Nassali’s role is to manage changes that affect our food stores. This includes things like our customer service learning and development initiative, Service Rocks, as well as setting up email in our stores to improve the way colleagues can communicate with the business and their communities.
Sabrina helps manage many aspects of the Community Change programme which aims to build on Membership as the community strategy. She also looks after budget management, recruitment, governance reporting and risk and issue management.
The third person at our meet up was Mike Bracken, Co-op’s Chief Digital Officer. Mike is responsible for making the Co-op an organisation that can operate effectively in the digital age.
We spent most of our meeting chatting about how we can use digital to encourage younger people to become Member Pioneers, and how the Digital team is helping some of the exciting developments in our food stores.
If it wasn’t for this meet up, it’s unlikely our paths would have crossed and even more unlikely that we’d spend half an hour chatting and learning from each other.
Tea for 3: networking works
Since the meet ups started, people have made new friends and acquaintances and there have been occasions when people’s informal networking has been useful in other ways.
One example of many would be when Nassali went to a meet up and found out that our Co-op Academies were looking for school governors. The person who told her encouraged her to apply because Nassali had mentioned she had a background in teaching and was looking for a way to reconnect with education. She’s now a governor for the Co-operative Academy of Manchester.
Every now and then you bump into people you’ve met through Tea for 3 and it’s great to already have a connection. It turns out that Nassali will be joining the same team as Sabrina when she moves roles in the next few weeks – good to have a friendly face in a new team.
See you for a cuppa soon.
Sabrina Jacobs and Nassali Douglas
Community PMO manager and food project manager