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Leadership Tips from Geraldine Casey

Leadership Tips from Geraldine Casey, People & IT Director and Board Executive at Tesco Ireland

A little bit about myself:

I grew up in Cahersiveen in County Kerry and I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree from UCC. When I graduated from UCC, I joined Tesco through the company Graduate programme in 2001. I always wanted to work in retail - I really enjoy the buzz of it, it’s fascinating. You see trends before anyone else; you see the psychology of the customer; it really is having your finger on the pulse. My first big job was to open Tesco’s new store at Tralee Square as Lead Manager in January 2003, then Mitchelstown as Store Manager in November 2003, I also spent time in Killarney Park – so I covered a lot of our stores in Cork and Kerry. This experience was hugely important and I’m still in touch with my colleagues from these stores today. It gave me a very strong foundation in terms of managing people and teams and in coaching and developing people and building culture. From there I became Area Manager in March 2008 and then Store Director in June 2009, before progressing to Operations Director. In 2014, I was appointed IT & People Director. The retail industry is all about the people and in being adaptable, resilient and being able to work as part of a team.

My tips on building a strong quality culture within this industry…

Our best investment as a business is without a doubt in our people. The people in Tesco are what make it such a great place to work. Part of my role involves overseeing all our people and rewards strategy, creating ways for people to get on in Tesco, and helping to ensure Tesco is a great place to work. It’s our people that make the difference every day - helping us create value for our customers.

We believe in treating people with respect, giving everyone an equal opportunity to get on. For us, “Every little helps” is much more than just a slogan. It’s what we all work towards every day. Across the business, we’re all committed to doing more for our customers, communities and each other. It’s this upbeat, collaborative culture that makes Tesco such a special place to work. We’re in the process of rolling out smarter and flexible working policies across our estate and it’s those small changes that will really make a difference for our colleagues’ every day as we all strive to serve our shoppers a little better every day.

I’m really proud that Tesco successfully retained the Great Place to Work standard in 2019 for the second year running, which is assessed through Great Place to Work’s robust ‘Trust Index©’ employee survey and a thorough ‘Culture Audit©’ assessment of our policies and practices. As one of only four companies certified as Great Place to Work, recognised as a Best Workplace in Ireland and as a Workplaces for Women; we’re very proud of this honour. We will continue to build on learnings year on year evolving our business to better the wellbeing of our 13,000 colleagues. The Great Place to Work method celebrates Irish companies who promote employee wellbeing while supporting staff to perform at their best.

Companies are assessed on their policies and practices, as well as from the feedback of staff themselves.

My secret to driving change through challenging times…

Communication and engagement is the key in my view. Much of our performance happens in public: we are a Plc so our results appear publicly. There are monthly public analyses of shopping trends, market share etc. and things in the news impact on our business, whether it is the weather, banking crises or other issues. We are committed to ensuring our colleagues hear news from us first I believe that if our colleagues understand the challenge and the reason for making a change, they adapt more easily. We put a huge focus into our team meetings and internal communications and this helps us to advance change.

My secret to becoming a true partner to our clients…

Listening to our colleagues, our customers and our suppliers and meeting their needs is the most important thing in my view. We are trained to be good listeners. It’s interesting to see the public’s interest in the environment in the latest local elections for example and we have been taking so many steps in our business on being more environmentally friendly. Through our Little Helps Plan - we have set challenging targets that will deliver a step change in how much plastic waste we generate, and we are working hard to reduce the use of plastics through working with suppliers and by minimising plastic packaging in Tesco own label products. Our customers are telling us we need to do more. We recognise this, and we are challenging ourselves to indeed do much more.

The biggest challenge facing my industry today…

The Grocery sector remains hugely competitive which is great for customers. We face unprecedented times and our customers are more demanding in the offer they seek. Being a sustainable business is very important to us, and we’re equally proud to be a good neighbour and support the communities we serve.

The greatest opportunity available to our industry today is…

At Tesco, without question, our colleagues are our most important asset and critical to our business. How we help them achieve better work-life balance, fulfilling careers and that they see Tesco as a place where everyone is very welcome whatever their gender, ethnicity, beliefs, background and so on remains an overriding priority for us in what is unprecedented times of challenge but also a time of many opportunities.

My view on key concerns to look out for moving into 2019/20…

Businesses need to stay highly adaptable to remain competitive. Being a sustainable business is very important to us – from sustainable growth to broader issues of sustainability, including climate change and responsible sourcing so that we’re well placed for the years ahead. We’re also focused on building a sustainable tool of talent and we are committed to supporting people at every level and from every background, to develop their careers with Tesco.

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