Rachael made her way into retail after university with a role at one of our competitors, before becoming a Deputy Store Manager at Lidl. She then joined our Retail Graduate Management Programme.
How were your first few weeks with Lidl?
I started in logistics because I already had a sales background. They really tailored the training to suit me. There is a structure, but they work really hard to flex that to make the most of what you already offer. Lidl really try to provide variety and a challenge, and give you the widest knowledge they can.
I spent my first week with the Selection team, picking in ambient, then a week in chiller. This was followed by fortnight stints as a desk clerk and with the Assistant Team Manager. I then went on to Goods In, where I spent a week checking, a week shadowing Assistant Team Managers learning about targets and KPIs, and then a week to cover everything else. Finally it was Goods Out, checking in drivers, examining pallet loads - I had responsibility straight away.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started at Lidl?
I wish I'd known that even as a manager, you'll still need to step in and help at all levels. You stay shoulder to shoulder with your staff. If the tills are busy, the manager gets on one. If your team's flat out but there's a shelf empty, you fill it.
What has been your highlight of working for Lidl so far?
I've loved logistics – I went in with a bit of trepidation because my background is pure sales, but it's been fantastic. The work is really varied with a huge range of challenges, and the people have all made it a really positive experience. Logistics depends on everyone pulling together, working as one. I've never seen this kind of team spirit in action before. It's great to be a part of.
What is the learning and development like at Lidl?
I’m always learning! I always thought time-management was one of my strong points, but now I'm in sales, working alongside an Area Manager. I've had two external projects given to me by Heads of Sales, I've found I really have to pull out all the stops to fit that into my schedule. I'm still building my understanding and finding better ways of working – every day's a school day.
I'm always being shown things from a new perspective, taking initiative and getting other people on board with new developments. My project work, looking at ways to improve turnover, has helped me to build a really strategic, top-down view of decision-making. Before, I was having to make the decisions but now I'm getting to understand the rationale behind the decision-making process, and how we can do things better.
Have there been any surprises during your time at Lidl?
I've spent some time in Supply Chain, and that was a bit of a shock to me. The level of graft that goes into managing supply - the ordering, the calculations. I thought it would be more automated and transactional but it's really analytical and strategic.
It can be overwhelming at times, but you just need to be open and honest with your line manager and say 'I need a bit more time to understand this' and they are very flexible to give you the time you need if you're struggling. I’ve learnt I'm capable of doing more things than I thought I was. I've learned that I'm much more adaptable and able to learn than I thought I was.
What is the team like at Lidl?
I love it, in stores especially. Life at Lidl can be really full-on, so you need genuine camaraderie to help everyone get through the day. In every store I've worked in, the teams have been like a little family. They all look out for one another and if someone needs a hand, they always step up. It's the same in the warehouse, everybody's so friendly and welcoming, and they just want you to do well.
What’s it like to work for Lidl?
You have to like working for Lidl, to work for Lidl. You have to get that satisfaction out of doing things well, otherwise you wouldn't have the motivation to do it. It is hard work, but it’s a really lovely place to work. I want to do well for the company - I want to make sure my store's a success. My work life balance is really good. I don't come home stressed or worn out, I can go to my line manager whenever I need to catch up.
For me, no two weeks are the same. You have to make the most of every opportunity – you could end up with more repetition week on week. But you need to push and say 'I want to learn this specialist role' or ‘can you please teach me about the KPIs’. You can push your own training as much as you feel is appropriate.
What is the support like at Lidl?
My Regional Training Consultant has been very good. It's quite difficult to feel anchored and supported when you're moving around departments so much, but by forming relationships as you go with your team managers and area managers, if you have any problems people are happy to help.
How do you see your next steps in terms of your career?
They won't give you a career on a plate. Lidl give you great training, but it's up to you to find your way forward, work out where you’re going to next and then get yourself there. You have line manager reviews and feedback to help guide you at the end of each rotation. I’m still deciding where I want to go - I'm going for Property I think, or Logistics.
What advice would you give future applicants?
Be open to all the opportunities you're given. Your preconceived ideas about certain areas of the business are probably going to change – be ready to give it your all, that's the only way you'll get back everything you can from Lidl has to offer.