Current Role: Store Manager
Joining the retail industry
“I’ve been in retail since leaving school at the age of 16. Since joining Tesco in 2010 I’ve done several different roles, from shelf stacking to working as a Store Manager at Tesco Express. As Store Manager, I run the shop, manage colleagues and keep the store safe.
When I first started work, you were expected to just get on with things – but times have changed, and people recognise that being there for each other is important. As an employer, Tesco is really supportive of its colleagues – managers always want to know what more they can do to help.
Tesco’s partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is an important one when it comes to supporting colleagues. Tesco wants to be a great place to work for all, and that includes anyone with sight loss. RNIB has helped review our policies at Tesco, looked at what we do well, and told us the areas where we need to do more. Then, earlier this year we achieved RNIB’s Visibly Better Employer standard as recognition for our commitment to being an inclusive employer and the work we’ve done to react to their feedback.
Developing a supportive leadership style
Tesco is introducing new leadership behaviours that encourage colleagues to be brave and curious. We want everyone to be inclusive in their actions and to have the bravery to ask, “What can we do for you?”. I think that’s something more companies should do, because it can lead to more open conversations and make sure everyone gets the support they need to do their best work. We’re also supporting our management teams to understand disability better.
The biggest workplace adjustment for me has been ensuring my manager understands I have a visual impairment and the ways it might affect my role. Not only have they been understanding, they also help me come up with solutions when I encounter problems. For example, I need to meet certain standards to run my store – if I’ve missed something my manager will check in with me first to see if I’ve been able to see everything properly. I have four shift leaders that work directly for me, and I’ve helped them understand my requirements too. I know it’s important to be open with my team so that they can support me in the right way, and the culture at Tesco means I feel completely comfortable doing that, and asking for help if I need it.
Making the right adjustments and using the best equipment
My current role as Store Manager involves emailing, going through spreadsheets, and lots of video calls. In-store, we use a lot of desktop PCs to do our role – but I struggled to use them. I have to zoom in to be able to see what’s on the screen, so Tesco provided me with an iPad as an alternative. Using an iPad is great as it means I can zoom in on anything I want. Having this tech has made a massive difference to my work and changed the way I do things. If I can’t read a piece of paperwork, then I can use the camera to take pictures of things and zoom in to see more. Having this as a resource has really helped me be more effective in my role.
Encouraging professional development within the company
I’ve also just been accepted onto a programme called the ‘Diverse Talent Community’. It’s for colleagues from underrepresented groups at Tesco including any colleague like myself who identifies as disabled. It gives all of us access to extra support and development opportunities so we can hopefully progress our careers and move into more senior roles eventually. Programmes like this are key to increasing representation and helping to ensure that being visually impaired won’t hold you back at Tesco. I wouldn’t call myself a role model, but I am showing others who have sight loss that Tesco’s a place where they’ll not only be supported in their role, but encouraged to progress too. Hopefully, when the next partially-sighted person comes along, they can feel more confident that nothing should hold them back here.
Raising awareness with the Disability at Tesco Colleague Network
Tesco offers the opportunity to get involved with things like the Disability Network too. I joined earlier this year – and it’s growing all the time. Being part of the network has made a big difference and helped me feel more comfortable at work. Everything the network does comes down to building knowledge and raising colleague awareness. We host events for colleagues to join in person or virtually. We also provide fact sheets and information about disabilities.
Working with different partners such as RNIB has also been really effective. Since joining the network, I’ve volunteered to take part in workshops where we shared our own experiences of living with a disability. Through these conversations, I’ve learned a lot about people and seen that there are more people affected by a disability in some way than I would have thought. Tesco is really good at encouraging us to have these open conversations.
Every fortnight the network steering group meets, and we discuss and build our plans for the year. By getting involved with the Disability Network and talking about my disability, I feel that I’ve been able to help other disabled colleagues in a positive way. It’s felt like the right time for me to step up and be counted.
Breaking down barriers and leading change
My next career goal is to move out of store into an office role. I want to be a catalyst for change in the disability community and encourage people with a disability to have the confidence to talk about it and to explain what help they need. I’m passionate about making a difference and building a better future.”
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