TJ interviews Kerry Jary from the Co-op

Kerry Jary, a woman with blonde hair in a blue suit jacket.

Kerry Jary is the learning and development campaigns manager at the Co-op, here she talks to Conor Gilligan about this newly created role in the L&D department, her belief in communication as the key to engaging people in learning and how she is raising the bar on diversity and inclusion across the organisation.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and how you came to be learning and development campaigns manager at the Co-op?

Whilst I’ve very much had a squiggly career, one thing I’ve always had is a love of learning and a curiosity to increase my understanding when encountering anything new coupled with a real passion for making a difference for others. When I joined the Co-op, it was in our food stores, where I grew my career into management. I loved the colleague communication and engagement part of my role and seeing the massive impact great communication had for our colleagues during the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic, I wanted to move into our business services to influence this wider and affect further change.

Having completed a successful secondment as an internal communications business partner dealing with a broad spectrum of communications, I found a real passion for supporting colleagues’ development and growth. I moved into the newly formed L&D campaigns manager role, which encompasses all my passions and skills across internal marketing, colleague development, engagement, and communication. Creating and executing strategy to connect the dots between our business objectives and vision with colleagues across the business to support embedding a positive lifelong learning culture and retention of talent.

We see marketing and campaigns as a key tenant to any modern L&D function, why do you see this as being important to drive engagement?

The world of L&D is seeing an exciting evolution with the bringing together of marketing principles to develop opportunities with communication skills becoming highly sought after in the L&D world.  There’s now a deeper understanding of the need to continually engage colleagues with learning that goes beyond what is mandated and with many commonalities between the two sectors this makes for a natural collaboration for future focused businesses. 

It’s all about challenging people’s thinking and begin weaving an inclusive narrative across our work enabling us to provoke others’ thinking and start to imagine a world where we are more inclusive in our thoughts and actions.

From the shared purpose of influencing behaviour change to the challenges within L&D of how to keep content fresh, retain colleague engagement whilst achieving business aims and demonstrating impact. By applying marketing practices that focus on creating strategies and tactical campaigns enables us to obtain buy-in from the consumers of our content and create a branded and consistent narrative for our colleagues giving credibility to our L&D offering and showing tangible ROI. 

Marketing starts its journey with the consumer (or in this case the employee) front of mind. It’s more than bums on seats but creating a safe space where colleagues can actively participate in learning that feels relevant and fresh without taking time away from the day job. Carving out the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and understanding the ways in which individuals consume content and on which platform for maximum impact allows us to address the forgetting curve and make our learning truly ‘sticky’ with an interactive learning experience.

If there were three tips you could provide the readers when it comes to campaigns in L&D, what would these be?

The most enjoyable part of my role is the creative freedom it allows me, enabling me to produce some really innovative solutions especially if the subject matter is a little less exciting – from creative branding and slogans to creative writing and storytelling which I always create with the end user in mind. This is where I’d suggest starting any campaign – start with a clean slate with no presumptions of what you think your audience wants – step back and gather some real insight – research your audience. 

There is no one size fits all especially with such a diverse range of colleagues with wide ranging goals, having a clear strategy for each campaign is a must. Once you have defined your separate audience personas – their motivations, barriers to development and what influences them – use this to utilise the right channel and media mix to connect with them and start to change behaviours in real life.  Having a clearly defined campaigns strategy which will underpin all your campaign plans will keep you on track to achieve the desired outcomes for both your learner and your business.   

Gain buy-in from the bottom up and the top down – never underestimate the power of peer-to-peer influence and how sharing a success story can truly inspire and ignite passion and curiosity in another.  Engaging the leaders of the business is key to keeping development on the agenda and making this part and parcel of how we do things.  Often employees feel they need permission to take part in learning and engaging our leaders forms part of empowering all employees to proactively take part and drive their own development.

I know you are a champion of diversity as co-chair of the Aspire Network promoting equality for women across the Co-op.  According to a study, which was featured in the World Economic Forum, some of the skills needed to foster a diverse workplace environment are influence and negotiation. Tell me more about how you are enabling this within the Co-op group and what successes you have seen?  

Inclusion and diversity is so important, especially in L&D where we want all of our resources to be accessible by everyone to enable all colleagues to unlock their potential and removing any potential barriers to learning. We all have a part to play in being actively inclusive every day in whatever capacity we can.

My role with Aspire and working with our other colleague networks increases my understanding of any barriers to accessing and using our development resources. I use this to influence the wider teams in how we approach our work to ensure we’re addressing this at every step. It’s important that we use any influence we have to support our colleagues from every angle in their working lives and champion change so that we can make this second nature for our colleagues now and in the future.

It’s all about challenging people’s thinking and begin weaving an inclusive narrative across our work enabling us to provoke others’ thinking and start to imagine a world where we are more inclusive in our thoughts and actions.

We’ve recently delivered an inclusive hiring piece of work which centres around how we can address our own unconscious bias and allow us to hire from a more diverse pool of candidates. Providing the tools for our line managers to challenge their own thinking and having this learning available at the time of need and accessible whenever a line manager needs to recruit to refresh their thinking.  We’re creating resources that support colleagues in speaking up when they see anything that isn’t right, empowering them to challenge others’ thinking no matter their role or work level. It’s ensuring all colleagues know the part they can play and that they can speak up and challenge when needed in the right way.

This is a two-pronged approach for our L&D teams – how do we increase the understanding and the skills of employees through providing access to inclusion and diversity skills training and secondly how do we ensure our approach to our work and campaigns is truly inclusive in its execution and delivery. An ongoing piece of work which has seen many highlights recently is working on our youth employment strategy and inclusive hiring resources to ensure we are listening to our diverse range of colleagues bringing a richness and diversity of thought.


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