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Learning and development: Careers at Matalan

Matalan Learning and Development Manager Cat Davys tells Drapers why all leaders play a central part in people development...
Written on 5/16/16

Learning and development: Careers at Matalan

Matalan Learning and Development Manager Cat Davys tells Drapers why all leaders play a central part in people development, why diversity and innovation should be encouraged, and how the value retailer is training the directors of tomorrow.

What is the leader’s role in development?

Leader’s are crucial to people’s development as they are the ones that can create a culture which makes it not only easy but also aspirational for people to develop, learn and grow. A leader needs to not only care about people’s development for the individuals themselves, but also see the commercial benefit to the business. At Matalan we understand that better developed teams will ultimately lead to better business performance. We expect all our leaders to provide opportunities for people to grow, give regular feedback and encourage them to work towards developing a longer term career which will help them to reach their potential.  

What makes someone stand out from the crowd and progress quickly in the workplace?

Standing out from the crowd and progression is most certainly linked to taking ownership of your own development. The people you always remember are the ones who focus on doing an amazing job first and then spend time developing their personal brand, building their network and putting themselves out there for things that they may not always be fully comfortable with. They are always open to feedback and ask for it regularly. They’ll push themselves out of their comfort zone, getting noticed and seeing everything as an opportunity. Taking accountability for your own career is a great starting point, you can make it happen if you work hard enough and do everything within your influence to work towards your goal.

How do you develop the skillsets of your employees?

At Matalan we have a development offer called Matalan Education (Me.) which supports all employees across the business to learn and grow. We recognise that we ey want to learn first and then choose the best way to learn it. This takes into account their own personal learning style and also takes advantage of all the business has to offer. They may decide to spend time with an expert, become part of a project, experience a masterclass, try out someone else’s role or simply learn from their line manager. The options really are endless and Matalan employees are empowered and encouraged to pick the right option for them. We want to give everyone the opportunity to drive their career at

What are some of the hot topics related to development that you’re working on in Matalan at the moment?

One of the big challenges facing most UK businesses at the moment is the issue of creating balanced business and by that I mean a balance across male and female representatives at all levels. Women make up just 26% of boards across the FTSE 100 companies in the UK with only 9.6% being executive directors.

With around 60% of graduates leaving University being Female, the challenge for businesses such as ours is to understand what happens from leaving University to getting to the board that stops women from progressing into senior positions. To continue to grow the talent pipeline we are involved in an external development programme aimed at supporting senior female leaders to develop on to that next step. A big part of this programme is also about sharing the learnings from this with other people across the business, male and female through mentoring. We have both male and female customers shopping across our channels so it’s important that we have better balanced teams at a senior level to ensure we are making the best decisions for the future to benefit them.

Another hot topic for us at the moment, and across the retail industry as a whole, is around managing change and driving innovation. Change is now the only constant and to stay on top, you not only need to adapt to change and embrace it quickly but you also need to continually innovate to stay ahead of the competition. We are doing everything we can to create a culture by which people can be creative, give their view, work at pace and shape the future. Our development offer is heavily focussed around this, encouraging Leaders to bring these attributes out in their teams.

What are you doing to engage people at Matalan during National Learning at Work week, which runs from May 16 to 22?

As this is a national event it gives us the perfect platform to shine a light on our learning and development programme. We have all sorts planned for this week, such as e-learning opportunities and masterclass sessions covering a variety of topics. Our board members will also be sharing their stories and key lessons they’ve learnt throughout their career. It’s really important for us to create an environment where learning is encouraged and nurtured. Though we do this all year round, it’s a really great opportunity to tie into National Learning at Work Week to keep everyone across Matalan inspired and motivated to learn.