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Retail Q&A: Working at Iceland

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Grocery retailer Iceland ranked sixth in this year’s 2011 Sunday Times survey of the Best Big Companies to Work For in the UK, up from 13th in 2010 and 14th place in 2009. Meanwhile recent Kantar Worldpanel data shows that it has increased its market share to 1.9 per cent and grew sales ahead of the market average over the last year. Retail Gazette caught up with Area Training Manager Wayne Veall to talk about his career with the company, and find out why he believes it is an ideal place to work.

Why would you recommend Iceland as an employer? I would recommend Iceland as an employer as it cares about the people that work with the business. It has a family environment and your quality of life is better than with other retailers.

There are no barriers within the company, the directors seem to be able to get into all the stores and get to know all the staff. It feels like we are all working together.

Iceland is a fun, friendly and very fast-paced environment to work in, we all have a very hands-on approach and everyone is known by their first name. There is opportunity for every colleague to have involvement and communication about the business, whether this is by offering feedback or putting forward their own ideas. Each store has a ‘Talking Shop rep’, which is a fantastic way of making sure there is a link between management and all of our front line colleagues. We also support charities and undertake different activities within the community.

How has your career at Iceland progressed, and what are your future prospects? My role has been fantastic; from starting as a Store Manager just under two years ago, I have been an Area Training Manager for two months now. This is in addition to managing my store - I love the role and it gives me great opportunity to support and develop my colleagues. This also really drives my own development.

Ideally I would like to progress to an area management role in the next few years - this would be the next big positive step in my career with Iceland. Area Managers and HR Managers spend a lot of time in store supporting colleagues so it’s a great and growing Iceland family. These opportunities are available for everyone; it’s about putting your hand up and letting people know.

The work/life balance is very good, the people that we work with are exceptional. Also there are lots of opportunities to progress, while the fact the head office is quite small allow you to get to know people quicker, making it much more of a family business. There are, of course, many day-to-day tasks I need to undertake to produce a store which is fit for trade, which is a challenge.

How have things changes at Iceland since you started your career? People are now looking much more at their behaviours rather than just the tasks - the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’. We do this through training and development. We also have team building sessions, which provide a great opportunity to spend time getting to know and engaging with colleagues.

Capabilities have been introduced focussing people more on how they do their job, how they interact with their teams and their self progression. The opportunities are there and there are people who will help you progress. We’ve attracted some fantastic managers from outside of the organisation who have helped to strengthen the business as well - we are always on the hunt for new talent and now is a better time than ever.

Grocery retailer Iceland can offer candidates long and rewarding careers
Grocery retailer Iceland can offer candidates long and rewarding careers

How is Iceland dealing with the challenges facing UK grocers this year? People have less money to spend so consumers’ shopping habits become a lot more prudent. So it’s about having the best propositions and standards, and presenting to the customer in the best possible way. We must provide them with an environment where they want to shop.

Iceland is constantly looking at innovative ways to bring new foods to the market, so for instance we currently have a fantastic snacking range, which recently launched and is doing really well.

Iceland shapes a value to the customer and there is a wonderfully friendly feel when entering the stores. People in Iceland tend to know their local customers by name.

Published on Monday 16 May by Editorial Assistant
Tags: employment

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