Coles: Recognizing the value of the team to support business transformation

Today’s post was written by Ian McLeod, Managing Director for Coles.

Picture of Ian McLeod, Managing Director, Coles
Ian McLeod, Managing Director, Coles

When Coles started with one store in Melbourne, Australia, in 1914, it was built on delivering great service and great value for our customers. This commitment has made us a household name across Australia, with more than 2,300 supermarkets, liquor stores, and convenience stores, employing approximately 100,000 people.

However, by the early 2000s Coles had lost its way, losing customers and sales and eventually being sold about six years ago to Wesfarmers, an Australian conglomerate. As a new leadership team, we began a transformation to win back our customers. A significant challenge was to address the culture; we needed to make our team members proud to work for Coles and give them confidence in the business so that we could make Coles competitive again.

When you begin a transformation program, you have to include everyone and open up a dialogue. Communicating our vision for success to every team member was critical, and so was listening to what they had to say. Without committed team members who have a voice in how we can keep customers at the center of everything we do, our business will not fulfill its potential.


One of my favorite ways to get new ideas from our team members is to talk to them in our stores, right on the shop floor. Unfortunately, I can’t be in 2,300 places at once. I felt that technology should be able to help me “hear” our team members more efficiently; I just wasn’t sure of the best solution. When our IT and HR teams showed me “mycoles,” built on Microsoft Office 365, I recognized that this was a way to achieve the two-way communication that we needed. With mycoles, we could communicate with our team members about Coles and Coles’ programs, in addition to making life easier for them.

mycoles functions as a central information portal for the entire company, bringing together our core businesses of Supermarkets, Liquor, Express, Distribution, and Store Support Centres as a single unit. People use the portal to communicate across more than 2,300 geographical sites, to share ideas, support one another, view shifts, arrange vacations, access personal payment details, connect with colleagues, and take advantage of exclusive Coles team member promotional offers. We want our team members to share the belief that “I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else; I wouldn’t want to shop anywhere else,” and mycoles is certainly helping us along that journey.

In the last five years, we have built up our team spirit and turned the company around by winning the trust of customers and team members alike. We are also listening to the shop floor and improving the shopping experience for our customers as a result. mycoles helps us keep our team members informed about what’s going on in the business, making us a more agile, cohesive organization.

What’s the lasting value of mycoles? It’s a powerful expression of our commitment to the value of every Coles team member and our recognition that it takes everyone working together to the best of their ability to realize our goal: to give the people of Australia a shop they trust to deliver quality service and value.

For more, read the case study.