Learning and development Engaging and empowering our employees

Learning and development is an essential part of engaging and empowering our employees if sustainability is to be something we do together, every day. We take a localised approach to our employee engagement on sustainability, which means we can focus on the issues that really matter in each region. 

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Our 2016 performance

Our in-store colleagues are the ambassadors of our sustainability approach to our customers, making them a particularly important audience for training and engagement on this topic. Every consumer campaign we run at C&A is supported by internal communications and engagement, allowing in-store colleagues to bring our messages to life for customers.

Supporting employees’ development

We aim to support our employees’ personal and career development while they are with C&A. Across our markets, we make e-learning available to our employees on core topics, and run management development programmes that deliver additional training to managers with outstanding performance and potential.

In 2016, specific employee training programmes included:

  • Transformation Project – to support the transition to C&A Brazil’s new business approach, around 245 people in the commercial teams participated in training on planning tools and new ways of working.
  • New Hire Orientation – C&A Europe delivers a monthly, 5-day orientation programme for new hires that familiarises new employees with the business. In 2016 we welcomed 140 new hires through this programme.

Helping change sustainability perceptions in Brazil

In Brazil, we translated and released a Portuguese version of our 2016 summary version of the National Geographic documentary on organic cotton, ‘For the Love of Fashion’, and set to work ensuring that our employees were ready to engage our customers with the issues raised. Management meetings ensured our senior leaders were on board and we held special communications in-store for interested employees. Our campaign on more sustainable cotton in October was supported by specific employee engagement including e-learning programmes. 

Training our employees on sustainable products in Europe

Colleagues in Europe spent a week focusing on ‘We love BIO Cotton!’ (BIO is how we refer to organic cotton in-store). Organic cotton featured in the new window displays and store announcements in Summer 2016, and more than 28,000 store employees were given a handbook to help them engage with customers including a series of ‘Did you know?’ stats to help them feel proud of the organic Cotton products they continue to sell:

'Did you know …

... that C&A was the world's largest user of organic cotton?

... that today more than 50% of our cotton comes from more sustainable sources, such as organic cotton?'

Other initiatives

  • C&A Brazil developed an e-learning programme for store staff to support the customer campaign on more sustainable cotton, and training for employees on waste management and disposal to ensure waste is recycled where possible. 
  • C&A China is using WeChat, a popular instant messaging app, to communicate with all 1,466 employees – including store staff. Through this app, C&A China raised awareness and understanding of the story of organic cotton and the C&A China Sustainability Commitment. Employees had a lively discussion about the articles, and reported that the information made them feel proud to work for C&A.

Keeping engagement levels high

2016 has been a year of learning. After an extended period of growth, our sales have fallen in recent years, as has been the case with many other high-street retailers. We are determined to reverse this trend and are accelerating our business transformation strategy. Change communications have had to take priority, and we focused our attention on localised approaches to engagement, supported by a global framework.

Reporting on our progress

In 2016 our aim was to listen to our regions, to better understand what motivates them and what concerns them. Although we have reaped the benefits through engagement levels in initiatives such as Inspiring Women, this approach means it is harder to report year-on-year progress at a global level. Our plan for 2017 builds on what we heard from our regions in 2016.

  • More than 28,000 store employees in Europe received messages on organic cotton, helping them feel proud of the more sustainable products they are selling.
  • 1,466 employees in China are using the instant messaging app WeChat to hear about organic cotton and the C&A China Sustainability Commitment.

Where next?

Aligning sustainability with learning and performance management

For sustainability to truly become something we do every day, it needs to be embedded within training and objectives for those employees we trust with the delivery of our goals: our Sustainable Supply Chain team, the Fabric team that works with organic and Better Cotton, and selected members of the Sourcing team in Europe.

Regional engagement plans

In 2017 each region will develop its own sustainability engagement plan. These will follow the global framework and be based on the regional findings from our 2016 employee survey. 

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