IT and personnel director at Tesco, Geraldine Casey, has always enjoyed the buzz of working in retail, and the Kerry native tells Pádraig Hoare that its people are the supermarket giant’s best asset
Caherciveen native Geraldine Casey is IT and personnel director at Tesco Ireland — no small feat of management, considering it has 13,000 employees across 150 stores.
Ms Casey joined Tesco on its graduate programme after completing her Commerce degree at University College Cork, before being handed the reins at a number of stores in Cork and Kerry.
“I always wanted to work in retail — I really enjoy the buzz of it, it’s fascinating. You see trends before anyone else. You see the psychology of the customer. It really is having your finger on the pulse.
“After I graduated from UCC, I joined Tesco in 2001. My first big job was to open Tesco’s new store at Tralee Square as lead manager in January 2003, then Mitchelstown as store manager in November 2003.
“I also spent time in Killarney Park — so I covered a lot of our stores in Cork and Kerry. This experience was hugely important and I’m still in touch with my colleagues from these stores today.
“It gave me a very strong foundation in terms of managing people and teams and in coaching and developing people and building culture. From there, I became area manager in March 2008 and then store director in June 2009, before progressing to operations director.
“In 2014, I was appointed IT and personnel director. The retail industry is all about the people and in being adaptable, resilient and being able to work as part of a team,” she said.
It is often said commerce in UCC helps open many doors for graduates — something with which Ms Casey firmly agrees. The Irish Management Institute was also invaluable, she said.
“The BComm is an excellent course. People emerging from UCC are well equipped to go into business management and analytical roles. A BComm is a really strong foundation to take on many different roles and positions. I am very proud to see the progression and am personally supportive of the plan to invest €100m in business education at UCC and bringing it to 4,500 business students.”
Tesco is a place where opportunities are given to further careers, according to Ms Casey.
“I love what I do, and the people in Tesco are what make it such a great place to work. I ended up having different careers in the same business, whether at the front line in stores, managing operations, overseeing IT, or being people director, which I do now.
“It involves overseeing all our people and rewards strategy, creating ways for people to get on in Tesco, and helping to ensure Tesco is a great place to work.
“With over 13,000 colleagues working across 150 stores, head office and our distribution centres, there are a whole host of opportunities at Tesco. I was very proud this year when Tesco successfully achieved the Great Place To Work standard,” she said.
With gender pay gaps startlingly wide among some of the world’s most recognisable firms, Ms Casey is adamant Tesco Ireland is to the fore in gender equality.
“I’m really proud to work in a gender diverse organisation — at Tesco Ireland, we have a gender balanced board of directors with four men and four women, and the Tesco team across our business is 50:50 male and female too.
“As a business, we believe that gender diversity is really important, not only because it leads to better decision-making and collaboration, but also to a more diverse and inclusive culture.
“We recently celebrated International Women’s Day with colleagues from across the organisation coming together for workshops on the importance of building personal brand based on competence, confidence and communication skills, to encourage and empower colleagues to develop in the workplace,” she said.
Ms Casey says she is under no illusions that the gap has a long way to narrow in society before it is is truly fair.
“One of the main challenges is that genders confine to the traditional, somewhat certain, stereotypes at work — it’s an automatic conditioning from society and the traditional norms that women are good communicators, where men are more assertive.
“We need to get beyond these overly-normalised gender stereotypes and get to skillset as the core purpose.
“We believe in treating people with respect, giving everyone an equal opportunity to get on.
“I believe that more and more organisations are recognising the importance of bringing together a diverse and representative set of people. In order to be successful, they have to represent their customers in the society in which they operate,” she said.
Tesco Ireland’s average pay is the highest in the industry, she said.
“Our best asset is our people. Tesco is one of the biggest private sector employers in Ireland and I’m proud that Tesco offers the highest average rate of pay in the industry and market leading benefits.
“Every organisation strives to have the most qualified individuals on the team but we have people with no formal qualifications who have done very well and those with qualifications who have also excelled.
“For us, it’s more about teamwork. If you’re prepared to go the extra mile for our customers, you can get more out of your career at Tesco. More opportunities to develop valuable skills. More scope to make a valuable contribution.
“Across the business, we’re all committed to doing more for our customers, communities and each other. It’s this upbeat, collaborative culture that makes Tesco such a special place to work.”