Co-op boss Steve Murrells strengthened his executive team this week by promoting Helen Webb to the position of chief HR officer.
It’s an astute move by Murrells who has an excellent working relationship with Webb having worked alongside her in the Co-op’s food business and knows the qualities she will bring to the role.Webb is a rarity in that she is an HR director with strong operational and commercial skills honed during a career in food retail that has encompassed senior positions with Morrisons, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s.
While at Asda, Webb was a key figure in the integration with Wal-Mart, and at Sainsbury’s her wide-ranging remit included profit protection, facilities management, and planning and response.
She is also strategically minded. During a two-year spell with Aviva in the early noughties Webb was responsible for creating a global diversity strategy. Indeed, diversity is an enduring passion of Webb’s and her advocacy for women, in particular, has been recognised with an ‘Everywoman Retail Ambassador’ award.
Since returning to a retail setting with M&S in 2003, Durham-born Webb has solidified her reputation as one of the most accomplished HR professionals within the sector.
She thrives on the fast-paced environment of grocery retail and as a foodie herself has a natural affinity with the product.
Webb has spent the past three years at the Co-op in the role of HR director for food, where she has been instrumental in writing and developing the people strategy for over 60,000 employees in stores, logistics and support centres.
The Co-op has recently moved from the ‘rebuild’ phase of its transformation plan into ‘renewal’ to coincide with Murrells succeeding Richard Pennycook at the helm of the Group.
Webb’s priority will be to work closely with Murrells to translate his vision for ‘renewal’ into a people strategy that supports the Co-op’s values as a consumer co-operative and community-based retailer.
I wish her every success in her new role.