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Co-operative Group – Career Management Support for Senior Management

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over six million consumers. The group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 100,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn. 

Dynamic and visionary leadership is key to the continued success of the Co-operative Group and the Group Talent and Organisational Capability team support leaders across the organisation with the needs that emerging talent, the talent pipeline, leadership and organisational capability require.

Nicola Rowe, Leadership & Development specialist, approached Windmills to talk further about how, given their knowledge and expertise, they could support the top 500 managers from the trading arm of the business within the field of career management and development.



The talent and organisational capability team wished to add career management and development content to their interactive portal for senior management in the business – The Leadership Development Zone. This zone was extensively utilised by senior management, being a platform to hold a wide variety of development content, aimed at assisting this “time poor” population with resources that were relevant and beneficial for them. It consists of self-directed learning resources, seminars, networking opportunities and has the facility to maintain a personal development log for all users.

Focusing on a new theme every couple of months Nicola spoke with the team at Windmills abut utilising element of the Windmills portfolio (click here to find out more about the Windmills portfolio) as part of a career themed development zone. Additionally she wished to supplement these online tools by offering a master class session facilitated by Peter Hawkins, for those mangers who wished to focus further on this topic.

The objectives for this project she summarised as being:

  • Provision of a series of engaging, relevant, and easily accessible tools to assist Managers to explore their career satisfaction within a time poor, potential high need context
  • As a result of these tools Managers will gain the opportunity to reflect on their own learning and consider this within the context of their current role, next steps and wider career goals
  • A series of support tools that Managers can use for themselves but is transferable for use by their own teams  to encourage self reliance, personal responsibility and improved management of their career goals
  • A choice of support that allows those who wish to engage in a master class session to explore these issues in more detail
  • An opportunity to test a selection of the Windmills portfolio within the Co-operative via both a web based offer and a master class to review potential wider use within the group after this pilot project

In the light of the above Windmills developed the following solution.


Recognising the phrase…..

“We spend more time planning our holidays than we do planning our careers”

Windmills understood that for these senior managers, time was of the essence. These individuals were very successful, in senior positions within the organisation, fulfilling critical roles for both the current health of the business but also importantly the future strategy and direction of the group. They did not have a lot of time to devote to managing their own careers, maybe for many they felt they were already at the top of the ladder, but Windmills wanted to give them the opportunity to ask them if they were maximising their potential in a way that was meaningful and relevant for them given what was happening in their lives at the moment?

Importantly Windmills wanted to give this group time to reflect on the journey they had taken to this point and consider the next steps they wished to take to maximise their personal value and contribution in a way that played to their key strengths, talents and priorities.

A blended learning approach was identified with some online tools and activities combined with the opportunity for managers who wanted to know more to access a master class session.

Windmills  introduced the following framework (click here to find out more about this framework)  as way of brigading a number of activities it felt would provide senior managers with the opportunity to do this:


Whilst the whole tool-kit of activities was aimed at maximising individual’s potential each dimension of the framework contained a couple of activities that would help users to review their career development and consider actions to manage it further in the future.

Discover                    What’s on my plate? Click to find out more
                                    Career Fitness Check

Create                        What do I want from my ideal job?
                                    What is my Attitude, Belief, Commitment related to my career?

Realise                      Master class including:

  • No Regrets on Sunday Click to find out more
  • Working, Learning, Playing and Giving Blend Click to find out more
  • Walls and Windmills Analysis
  • Skills Card Activity Click to find out more
  • Action Planning and Postcard to self



The leadership team commented on the positive feedback they received from managers utilising the materials that were available on the development zone and the creative and engaging materials that had proved suitable for web use.

The masterclass generated interest from across the range of Co-operative businesses and feedback was positive.

More of the same, great course”

“Many thanks to all those involved”

“A longer session would have been helpful – with more time to reflect”

This last comment underlines the tension that remains with this group related to the timescales of sessions like these versus time away from their day job.

The Co-operative have committed to the extension of the Leadership Development Zone for a further 5-6000 users next year and are considering how the Windmills materials could fit with this expansion.

Linked also to other potential uses the Graduate and Apprentice programmes are further areas that have expressed an interest in utilising the Windmills portfolio to support key cohorts of staff across the group.