Driving a Performance Culture for the Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group

Prior to our engagement, the Co-op had traded through some challenging times and, like most organisations that face a period of commercial recovery, there was limited opportunity for the business to concentrate on people development. Naturally, time and attention needed to be spent on getting the business match-fit.

In late 2015, it was recognised that creating a performance culture would help transform the Co-op, in the long term. As an outcome, the Co-op undertook a competitive tender process to procure a provider who could assist them in developing the performance culture they required.

Step 1


The key strategic drivers for the project were as follows:

  • Raise the performance of the organisation through colleagues, for the benefit of customers, consumers and members
  • Equip managers with the right knowledge, skills and processes
  • Maximise the budget, so that the Group can gain the biggest return on investment in upskilling managers, to drive performance in 2015/2016 and beyond
  • Help create, launch and embed interventions/tools to upskill managers
  • Enable the application of consistent models and techniques across the organisation
  • Create innovative solutions which are simple, sustainable and scalable, and which make use of available technology, where possible, while recognising that many areas of the business have limitations in this area.

Innovation Central was commissioned as Co-op’s partner of choice and was kindly invited to undertake an independent investigation, to gain greater insight and feedback on what ‘performance looked and felt like’.

Innovation Central engaged with sixty-five managers and colleagues across the Group, over a thirty-day period, to understand the current state of the organisations, its best practices and to determine the future state that would be required to drive high performance. This was investigated through a range of face-to-face meetings, telephone interviews, focus groups and site visits.

As an outcome of the investigation, four common themes were clearly identified:

  • Maturity – the requirement to drive adult interactions, at every stage of the performance cycle, in order to create a sense of value in performance management
  • Capability – the requirement to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours associated with driving high performance and apply this, practically, back in the workplace
  • Accountability – the requirement to provide, and reinforce, clarity of accountability for performance management at all levels
  • Consistency – the requirement to define what a good job looks like and then apply this to the Co-op Group

Step 2


In response to the feedback and insight, gained during the investigation phase, Innovation Central proposed designing a range of ‘just in time’ learning resources, which would support the Co-op’s performance management cycle and make ‘life easier’ so that managers could drive a positive performance culture.

The design principles for all the materials were based on:

  • Providing simple, scalable and sustainable resources
  • Using less theory, more action/application in the workplace
  • Building upon best practice and the foundations set to-date across the Co-op Group
  • Using, and building on, materials that are currently in situ and fit for purpose, so no re-investment is required on existing materials
  • Supporting the application of learning practically – linking any new resources to previous learning, so that colleagues can see the connection.

Step 3


Over the following months, Innovation Central worked in partnership with the business to design a suite of learning resources that ranged from digital to print. These included:

  • Performance Animation – a three-minute engaging animation that explained the importance of performance and introduced the future learning resources to all colleagues
  • Pocket Guides –simple resources for colleagues and managers that explained what great looked like, in all aspects of performance from goal setting through to conducting a performance review. These were produced digitally and in printed in ‘pocket size’ format
  • ‘How to’ Guides – a range of best practice tools for HR business partners to drive consistency across the business, in areas such as goal cascading, talent and calibration. These included useful hints, tips, agendas and high-quality coaching questions
  • Behavioural Assessment – an individual and manager-driven assessment tool that focused on how frequently the new organisational values were being demonstrated
  • HIT sessions – a set of bespoke High-Intensity Training (HIT) modules for managers and HR business partners to cascade across the business in bite-sized chunks. Each HIT session ranged in duration from one hour, to a maximum of three hours, and provided everything that was needed to deliver an engaging learning session. They included; joining instructions, detailed lesson plans, PowerPoint and handouts.

Step 4


Throughout the creation of all the resources, Innovation Central worked collaboratively with the Centre of Excellence leaders and HR business partners across the Co-op Group. This provided ownership and influence over the final products and formed part of the overall project planning. It also ensured key stakeholder management ran throughout the heart of all activity.

For each launched resource, a range of engagement activities were delivered to support them, including conference calls, face-to-face meetings and train-the-trainer sessions. These ensured that the people who were ultimately delivering and embedding the materials felt comfortable and confident to do so.

As an outcome of focusing on performance, the Co-op reported a measurable increase in the number of colleagues who had:

  • SMART goals that were aligned to the organisational strategy
  • Meaningful performance reviews with their managers
  • Performance ratings that were reflective of actual performance levels
  • Accurate performance information input/reported in line with agreed systems and timescales
  • An improved capability to apply the online performance system correctly.

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