TJ Awards: East of England Co-op – ticking the boxes of best practice

Debbie Carter looks at the work of the TJ Awards 2017 L&D Team of the Year.

Changing culture in an organisation is a tall order. As my colleague Jon Kennard says in this month’s leader: “It’s hard to define and even harder to implement. Get your culture right (whatever that means for your industry) and the sky’s the limit, get it wrong and you’ll destroy your business.”

The East of England Co-op’s L&D team won the TJ Awards 2017 L&D Team of the Year and, through a commitment to their business and their own professional development, they are making a real impact at the Society. By using innovation to move their business forward, they are shaping the culture of the business.

Stephen Flurrie, head of L&D, admits they are a mix of characters who work well together. Adrian Driver and Karin Holland are both lead trainers. Stephen says: “Adrian, or Ade as he is known, is keen to inject fun and excitement into the programmes and he achieves this through creative use of video. His fun, outgoing character is balanced by Karin who is conscientious and inclusive.

“Jeremy Usher, our technology expert, has moved the elearning offering from basic off-the-shelf materials to bespoke, interactive materials that are fun, inspiring and engaging. Many of them include colleagues from across the business. Effie Burrell our L&D consultant is fiery, often wears red, and keeps us on our toes!”

Stephen has been leading his small but dedicated group of professionals for three and a half years, and has seen a radical change, as he explains: “There used to be an ethos of learning being given to you, but  we are now seeing learners choosing their own routes.”

By using innovation to move their business forward, they are shaping the culture of the business.

This shift is essential when you consider the team is responsible for the learning and development of over 4,200 colleagues across nine different business lines, from food retail to stonemasonry, delivering about 20,000 learning hours through face-to-face, online and on-the-job training a year.

The team has built excellent relationships with the business through their openness, collaboration and the delivery of some innovative solutions. Everything they deliver is built on partnership with the relevant departments and practically everything is designed and developed by the team. 


The East of England Co-op was struggling to recruit and retain high-quality team managers in its food business. Food retail is often seen as a stop-gap for people in their careers, but the team manager apprenticeship programme has changed perceptions in the organisation with a pipeline of potential apprentices waiting to start.

The project, headed up by Effie Burrell, created a new level of energy in the Society, providing opportunities for people in the most junior retail roles to gain new skills and qualification, and start to progress through the business.

Learning technologies

There was a need to create a learning environment that could engage a diverse workforce in a learning culture and bring the classroom to the branches. Engaging with learning technologies was crucial to success. When fi rst launched, the e-learning platform had an approval rating of 46%.

The implementation of a ‘kiosk’ system, along with investment in video learning that was a blend of internally produced materials and a collaboration with Video Arts, saw approval ratings in 2017 rise to over 85%, with more departments asking for help from the L&D team. 


Know How: Leadership is a programme that the whole L&D team was involved in creating and delivering. Effie and Jeremy were trained in performance consulting to analyse business issues and consult with the business on the programme.

With clear learning outcomes, they won support from retail and operations who invested the time needed for success. An opening video introduction from the joint chief executives set the tone for the programme. 

Evaluations showed an increase in skills and effectiveness in areas from communicating and delegating with colleagues through to recruitment and managing performance. Learners now coach their own teams through the modules in the programme, taking on the role of mentor and reviewing action plans.


About the author

​Debbie Carter is editor-in-chief of TJ.


Want to showcase your great work in L&D? The TJ Awards are free to enter and submissions close on 18 April. Click here to start your application today. 


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