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PiRA24 Judge Interview: Tea Colaianni of WiHTL & Diversity in Retail

Meet Tea Colaianni, an industry leader with over 25 years of experience in consumer-facing industries, including pivotal roles at Hilton Hotels and Merlin Entertainments. As the… View Article


PiRA24 Judge Interview: Tea Colaianni of WiHTL & Diversity in Retail

Meet Tea Colaianni, an industry leader with over 25 years of experience in consumer-facing industries, including pivotal roles at Hilton Hotels and Merlin Entertainments.

As the Founder and Chair of WiHTL and Diversity in Retail, Tea is dedicated to creating diverse and inclusive working environments, impacting 5 million global employees by 2030. Tea currently serves on multiple boards, including The Watches of Switzerland Group.

What inspired you to become a judge for the People in Retail Awards 2024?
The Retail industry is vast and has over 3 million employees in the UK alone. At Diversity in Retail, we have circa 50  of the best known UK retailers as members with a total workforce of 1.2 million employees and I have witnessed first-hand the vibrancy and motivation to make this sector a fantastic place to work, with inclusion at its heart. The People in Retail Awards are a concrete endorsement for the efforts made by individuals and organisations and I am delighted to be a part of that.

What role do rewards and recognition, particularly through awards like this, play in the retail industry, and why do you think they are important?
Our work lives are extremely busy, and consequently we can forget to pause and look back at how far we have come and celebrate the amazing accomplishments of those who work incredibly hard to make a difference to people and their organisations. Small steps or giant leaps are all worthy of celebration. Rewards and recognition are given during an evening of award ceremonies, but are the culmination of incredible, ongoing work over months and years. Credit where it is due should be brought to the attention of others and, for those who win an award, it is a sign of gratitude and encouragement to continue such great work.  I believe that awards provide huge inspiration for others to learn something new, excel in their jobs and continue to make a difference.

Can you share an experience from your career that exemplifies the significance of recognising excellence in the industry?
While I was at Merlin, my team was recognised for the culture change programme we delivered across more than 100 attractions globally. That was followed by the company being recognised in the top 10 best employers by the Sunday Times. 10 years on I still feel a huge sense of pride for what we accomplished as a team. At the time, that award put us on the map as an incredibly attractive employer that put people at its heart. It became much easier to attract great talent in the organisation.

How integral are people to the success of a business, and why do you believe focusing on individuals is crucial?
People are a business’s most crucial asset. From the newest joiners to long-standing team members, every employee is unique and brings their own individual attributes and experience which feed into the success of any business. Shining the spotlight on an individual enforces the message that one person can – and does – make a positive difference. Recognition of individual efforts propels them and their organisations into the spotlight. That in turn generates a sense of accountability and responsibility to continue to go the extra mile, generate value and improve performance.

What criteria or qualities are you particularly looking for when evaluating nominations for the People in Retail Awards?
There are three qualities which are not only pertinent to these awards but are also observations about people in any walk of life:

  • inspiring leadership and being a role model for someone coming up the ladder behind you;
  • maintaining a growth mindset and the humility to always be willing to learn; and
  • having courage to advocate for change in order to make the workplace/world better for everyone.

Any advice or top tips for companies entering?
I would like to see evidence of tangible impact brought about by individuals and companies wanting to create positive change; impact which can be emulated by others and amplified across the sector as a whole. Setting examples which highlight the employee voice in establishing a fantastic workplace and which works in alignment with the business imperative.

Entries for 2024 are now open. 

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