A recognised business need
Improving number confidence at Lincolnshire Co-op was never a tick-box activity. We didn’t think “Oh, maths is really topical at the moment, let’s get in on this” – instead it came from a recognised business need.
We were using a new recruiting system where people could find our vacancies, create a profile, allocate interview times…it was a one-stop shop. We were also implementing a new HR system where colleagues could request leave, access rotas, timetables, pay slips…lots of things that are more number-focused than you may realise. So, there was a lot of new stuff that our staff would be facing where being numerate was key. And not numerate in terms of things like Pythagoras, but everyday maths. So, there was a real business need in relation to upskilling our colleagues, which went hand-in-hand with the need for digital confidence and literacy as well. It became a strategic focus for the CEO, Senior Leadership Team and board, to empower our colleagues with numeracy confidence and skills before we started rolling out the new system.
Our Head of People and Performance kept driving the need for numeracy support, along with the board. And during Learning at Work Week our CEO talked about the importance of numeracy and how it’s really key for any position or role; numeracy will always have an impact, so it’s important to consider it. When our Head of People and Performance got those of us in Learning & Development involved, we knew we had to focus on the messaging around it. When we had tried to offer numeracy support in one of our business areas before, it wasn’t well-received and fed into people’s anxieties around maths, with them fearing it was a witch-hunt for people with low confidence. We didn’t focus on the approach and cultural shift, which is what we now endorse as communication is the key to unlocking mindsets.
You have to set the tone and help people understand what it is because, especially with maths, there’s a fear factor that will put people off immediately. So, we decided it needed to be a whole-society approach, rather than just saying “Guys, maths is important, so here are some maths courses for you to do.” We were put in touch with Sally and Cassia at National Numeracy and had a really open discussion about our concern around our colleagues being disengaged, because there are such a variety of roles people are in and we needed to reach all of them. In retail, staff use a scanner and get told by the machine how much something costs with 25% off – but what if the scanner isn’t working? With travel agents – what if someone comes in and wants to know how much currency they can get for £500, and the one person who knows the conversions isn’t working? And all of our colleagues need to be able to tell if they’ve been paid correctly and able to read their payslip. So there was a dire need, and getting the messaging right was key.