Cotton On is a company on the move. Over the last two decades they have grown from a market stall to a major clothing retailer with 1,300 stores and over 19,000 people working in 16 countries around the globe. They also have an audacious mission for further rapid expansion with the aim of becoming the dominant fast fashion retailer globally.
However, the company’s rapid growth has provided significant challenges relating to people development and the need to continually build capability within the business, and Cotton On is meeting these challenges head on.
According to Cotton On Group Chief Financial Officer Michael Hardwick, the company realised that there needed to be a greater emphasis on staff development if the company was to meet its mission of rapid global expansion. ‘As fast as we have been growing over the last couple of years, we have been moderating that growth to make sure we have the people and systems in play to deliver a world-class experience for our customers. It was that moderation that drove us to the investment in people ahead of future growth opportunities so we can grow even faster than we have been in the future.’
To help prepare its staff for global expansion, Cotton On partnered with DeakinPrime in 2012 to develop its Learning & Development Academy (L&DA). ‘The aim of the Academy is to provide ongoing professional development opportunities for staff in a stimulating environment’, says Lisa Thomas, DeakinPrime’s Head of Business Development. ‘It focusses on developing competencies though highly experiential, relevant, engaging and fun programs with a blend of face-to-face and e-learning delivery modes.’
Much of the learning is workplace based, which allows participants to explore issues and come up with solutions helpful to the company and their everyday activities. There is also the opportunity to work towards a Diploma of Management, developed in conjunction with Deakin University.
According to Michael Hardwick, ‘feedback has been phenomenal’. Although some staff were apprehensive of the program as they had not previously done any tertiary study, they were quickly made to feel at ease with the program, he said.
At present, L&DA programs have been successfully rolled out to over 630 participants in Geelong and over 50 participants in Singapore, and programs in Los Angeles and Johannesburg will be launched later this year. The success of the Cotton On L&DA has also led to the development of additional programs with DeakinPrime in areas such as planning and goal setting, with others in the pipeline.
Cotton On is passionate about staff development and considers it pivotal in the quest to reach their ambitious growth targets. They firmly believe that nurturing and developing their people not only motivates staff but allows them to meet their full potential within the business. DeakinPrime is proud to be partnering Cotton On and looks forward to further assisting them in meeting their professional development goals.