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Sharing moments that matter: helping people through every life stage

Caroline Cater, Vice President People & Culture at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

Caroline Cater, Vice President People & Culture at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners | Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

5 min read Partner content

Social mobility and the discussions around it is slowly but surely becoming more commonplace in businesses and organisations. It’s fantastic that we’re making progress, but it’s still not clear to everyone what the principal really means, and how it might relate to them.

The theme of Social Mobility Day this year was #ShareMoments that matter: sharing our own experiences of social mobility; why it means so much - for individuals, for communities and society. For me personally, I left school at 16, started my career on a Youth Training Scheme (the apprenticeship of its day) and later gained a degree through the Open Business School. I’m lucky, I’ve had great experiences with progressive businesses who invested in me and offered lots of great role models to learn from. 

At its simplest level, we want to bake this approach into what we do at CCEP, making sure we are a place where anyone can get in and get on, regardless of their financial position, the school they went to, or any other factor. For me, there are clear ‘moments that matter’ where there’s an opportunity to set the tone and demonstrate this and show our teams that what’s important is not where they came from but what they’re capable of.

Recruitment is key to this – our approach to attracting and recruiting people into our business can set someone off on their career in the right way, and have a positive impact on their future career. Throughout our organisation, I still meet people who tell me that they joined in the 1990s via the “Frontline programme” - a really progressive degree-based apprenticeship. Earning and learning is in our DNA.

We are a customer-focused business with a Field Sales team of around 800 people. Out of those roles, 500 are entry-level, meaning there’s no requirement for formal qualifications; motivation and a positive mindset are the key skills needed, so having regular access to a wide talent pool is incredibly important for our business. That’s why we work with a range of partners to build this pool of people, working with apprenticeship providers, schools, youth organisations and through work experience programmes, so that people are aware of CCEP and the opportunities we can offer.

We’ve also changed our overall approach to recruitment to make sure we hire people based on their potential and their lived experiences, not their academic achievements. We believe it’s important to focus on what an individual can contribute based on their skills and their attitude. That applies to the interview stage too where we want to assess their broader life skills like critical thinking and problem-solving – not just discuss someone’s previous experience.

And once you’ve got a foot in the door, it’s important your progress is seamless and that you feel connected to the organisation from the outset. From your welcome letter to your induction plan, every touch point should help you feel like part of the family and demonstrate that the business is on your side from day one. We’re proud of the welcome day we provide where we give every joiner the opportunity to spend a day with others who have joined at a similar time, to build a deeper understanding of the business, the culture and to meet the Leadership team.

We might not realise it, but the language we use plays a crucial role in making this experience a success. That means ‘speaking human’, and avoiding corporate jargon and terminology at all costs that might only be understood by those with a certain kind of education or work history. We want our people to demonstrate their magic by what they achieve not by their education or vocabulary!

It’s why we’re making a concerted effort to tackle these kind of language barriers, and encouraging all our colleagues to use Everyday Language, such as avoiding the use of acronyms further to feedback we’ve received from colleagues. It’s clear that language can be vital in closing the gap between business leaders and those who work on the front lines, building understanding and helping to create a more inclusive and collaborative workplace.

And finally, we’re focused on helping our current colleagues at every stage of their life, so they can make their career what they want it to be. Our Career Builder programme is designed to help people develop throughout their careers, and grow through a broad range of apprenticeships and training that’s open to all ages and levels of experience. This also opens up opportunities for those who might want to retrain and move to another area of the business, with the option of Degree Apprenticeships helping many to upskill.

I find it inspiring that we have lots of colleagues in our Leadership Team who have worked their way through the business and have gained new skills at different points of their careers. We can’t assume people will have all the knowledge and skills they need from day one, or a clear idea of where they are headed. Access to the right training can unlock many undiscovered and unimagined pathways. You could be working on the factory floor one day, for example, and through an apprenticeship in Engineering, you could soon be trained up as a Mechanical Engineer before taking on a management position via a Degree Apprenticeship. There’s no rulebook here and we hope we’re providing the career bridges that many people are looking for to embark on their next step.  

In the interest of ‘sharing moments that matter’. I’d encourage you all – individuals and businesses – to share the stories that have had an impact on you. What was your experience of getting into the world of work? Was there anything that held you back, either from starting a role for the first time or from gaining a promotion?

I hope we can all continue to learn from each other and our own experiences to help people get in and get on at work.

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