How the UK’s biggest supermarket chain makes sure everyone’s welcome

“MY COLLEAGUES are the best thing about working at Tesco – they are fantastic, so patient,” says Matt Thomas, from Worcester, who started as a customer assistant in August 2021.

Matt, 33, is deaf, so he relies on lip-reading to communicate with his colleagues and customers.

“When I joined during the pandemic, I was worried about how customers might react if I asked them to lower their masks so I could lip-read. Luckily, my colleagues were on hand to step in and help, which is fantastic.”

One of Matt’s colleagues has even learnt to sign in order to support him further.

“This is just one example of Tesco’s ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ ethos in action,” says Emma Taylor, Tesco’s chief people officer.

“Our colleagues must reflect the communities we serve, and by taking part in the Government’s Disability Confident employer scheme, we’re able to attract and develop more disabled talent by making any adjustments they need from day one.” 

Matt says this has made his “day-to-day” easier.

“My interview process was pretty normal and I didn’t feel like I was treated any differently to other people who had applied for the same job,” he says. “It was a mixture of lip-reading and relying on an interpreter if I didn’t understand the interviewers.”

Matt was unemployed during the pandemic, which he found tough. He says: “I am much happier since I started working here, because I have something to looking forward to, which I didn’t have while I was unemployed.”

Since working at Tesco, I’ve found that I can be more independent, as I’m trusted to just get on with the job.

Working at Tesco has helped in other ways, too. “I’m trying to rely on myself more rather than having others do things for me,” Matt says.

“Since working at Tesco, I’ve found that I can be more independent, as I’m trusted to just get on with the job.

“I’m so proud of the friends I’ve made at Tesco. My family have noticed I’m much happier now, working here.”

Matt’s story is a perfect example of the way Tesco’s inclusion policies and ambitions play out in real life.

As well as being Tesco’s ethos, “Everyone’s Welcome” was the title of the company’s diversity and inclusion report, which was published in February.

In the report, Tesco launched its Black Action Plan, a transformative blueprint to help Tesco address the barriers disproportionately faced by black colleagues and communities.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 3 per cent of the British population identify as black.

So Tesco has set a target that by 2030, not only will at least 3 per cent of talent at every level within the company be black, but 3 per cent of its suppliers will be black-led, 3 per cent of its new product development will address the unmet needs of black customers and 3 per cent of its community contributions will go directly to the black community.

Tesco colleague Jordon Watson, 30, from Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, is an assistant buyer in colourants, styling and world beauty.

He was working at Tesco in the fruit team, as a buyer, and looking for a new challenge when the job came up.

“I wasn’t sure about applying, given that I wouldn’t be using the products myself,” he says.

“But I spoke to my mum and cousins and quickly identified a massive opportunity to make these products more accessible. So there was room to improve – a challenge.”

As he takes on this new role, Jordon wants to help Tesco work with more black–owned suppliers and offer more products that meet the haircare and beauty needs of black customers.

Jordon also has a mentor at work. Tesco’s mentoring programmes are aimed at improving black representation at all levels and are a big part of the company’s drive to be more inclusive.

Jordon also uses the open forums in Tesco’s Race & Ethnicity network to ask colleagues questions, such as: what kind of products would they like to see in world hair?

Tesco is open to having conversations that need to be had

Jordon believes inclusion is about talking and connecting.

“Tesco is open to having conversations that need to be had,” he says.

“If you’ve got something to say, you can have a conversation at all levels, right up to the most senior. Colleagues listen.”

Building an open and inclusive culture is especially important when it comes to younger talent entering the workforce.

After a ten-week internship with Tesco last summer, Amali de Silva, 22, from London, says she really enjoyed the culture. 

“If I had any questions, people were always available. The whole experience was very warm and welcoming,” says Amali.

And there was opportunity too – for everyone. “Although it was an internship, I really felt challenged and taken outside my comfort zone,” says Amali.

“I’ve done internships before and you end up making tea, but at Tesco, I was supporting the buying team and I felt I was able to really contribute and have an impact.

“I was paid too, which made such a difference; if an internship isn’t paid, it limits who can do it.

“Your background should never be a barrier to what you can achieve in your career – it should be an equal playing field.

“I was given responsibilities and felt supported, and beyond the day-to-day job, Tesco organised mentoring and skills sharing sessions, which I found so helpful. They really boosted my confidence.”

Amali is starting on Tesco’s graduate programme in September, after she’s finished her degree at the London School of Economics.

“When they offered me a place, I knew it was the right environment for me and immediately said yes.”

She knows she’ll receive a warm welcome back. And as Tesco is the biggest private employer in the UK – with a wealth of job opportunities, from marketing, buying and store management to finance, tech and more – she feels it’s a place where she can really grow.

To find out more about Tesco’s drive to ensure Everyone’s Welcome, click here.

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