Whats your background and what do you hope to bring to the business?
Before I joined Costa, I was European HR director for a company called TTI, for their floorcare division. They own brands such as Vax in the UK; Dirt Devil in Europe and Hoover in the USA.
Prior to that I held various HR roles in Nestle, Woolworths and Carphone Warehouse.
Why did you choose to work for Costa (apart from the coffee, of course)?
Costa is a brand I have always loved. I drank Costa coffee daily en route to my last workplace; my son and I have often spent time in Costa on the weekends and Costa rescued me when I had sleepless nights with a newborn and I was a busy working mum. The brand really resonated with me from a personal and customer perspective, which was important to me in making my next career choice.
Importantly, I felt an immediate connection with everyone I met at Costa – the people at Costa are so warm, friendly and passionate about what they do, while also being incredibly ambitious and driven. It is a business that has a fantastic heritage, an incredible success story of growth and most importantly, is a business that genuinely puts the people agenda at the heart of everything.
Where are you based; and how many people, over how many locations, do you look after?
In the West Midlands, which works well because our stores are nationwide and so is our HR team. There are 22 people within the UK&I HR team, situated all over the UK. The team is responsible for HR business partnership, learning and skills and our apprenticeship programme. We benefit hugely from the set-up we have with HR shared services and centres of expertise within the wider Costa and Whitbread group teams, enabling us to operate a true HR partnership model.
How is Costa nurturing young talent and encouraging career progression?
We have a fantastic in-store learning journey, which provides a clear development path to take our people from barista through to store manager. We have lots of brilliant examples across the business of people where started as baristas and are now store managers or working across our support centre, different Whitbread brands or internationally.
We are also very proud of our WISE by Costa (Whitbread Investing in Skills and Employment) programmes – during the first 7 weeks of our financial year, we have already provided 42 work placements and offered apprenticeships to 33 people.
Last year, in addition to our finance, marketing and HR graduate programmes we launched our first operations (store/regional management) graduate programme. Our first intake are currently in their second rotation of a two year programme and we have just recruited our second intake.
Whats your stance on treating employees equally and fairly?
At Costa we truly believe that people are the most important ingredient in our coffee, and vital to ensuring that remains true is making sure we have an inclusive and fair business. I think a great example of treating our employees fairly is our approach to National Living Wage, something we worked incredibly hard to bring into our business as soon as possible, launching in October 2015.
Our approach to equality can be seen in the fact that we offer every one of our team members a starting rate of £7.20, regardless of age – and that £7.20 is just the beginning. We have a clear pay progression strategy, giving our team members the ownership and opportunity to grow their skills and have that recognised with their pay.
On multi-generational employees
We love the story of Costa’s longest standing employee, Mr Surjit (63), who’s been with the company 40 years meeting Valentina Alexandrea (22) on her first day to give words of advice – why is it important to connect multi-generational employees together?
No matter which generation you are from, you can learn something from one another.
Whats your greatest advice to leaders; to create an engaged, collaborative and motivated workforce?
It’s about connecting everyone with your vision and valuing everyone’s roles in making that happen. For me, the key to unlocking motivation is about understanding the diverse nature of our teams. Engagement and motivation can be quite individual and it’s about tapping into what drives people and what really matters to people. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’, especially in today’s evolving workforce. Collaboration is best achieved when employees are empowered to get on in their own way, connecting with anyone at any level they need to – great collaboration has no hierarchical barriers. Collaboration should be part and parcel of the ways of working, not as an added checkpoint. We should highlight the success and business benefits this brings and reward people for great teamwork.
Whats your favourite Costa coffee?
Do you know what advice Mr Surjit gave to Valentina Alexandra?
I don’t know the exact words of wisdom shared between them but I am sure it was enlightening for both of them.