CASE STUDY: Coles - The GEM (Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness) Movement


Members only

Case Study

Member Case Study: Coles – The GEM (Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness) Movement

Please can you tell us how the GEM Movement came about?

The effects of the global Covid -19 pandemic faced by Australians presented one of the toughest workforce challenges for Coles Group in its 100 plus year history. While Coles team members were assuming their new roles as essential workers, the challenge had been set; to quickly and innovatively implement a revised mental health program that would ensure Coles supported its team members and their families when they needed it most.

Through a brief period of intensive strategic planning and design consultation, three mental health and wellbeing delivery pillars were established; ‘I am Seen’, ‘I am Heard’ and ‘I Matter’. And through a partnership with The Resilience Project, Coles aligned their organisational purpose to inspire healthier and happier lives amongst their team members through the GEM (Gratitude Empathy and Mindfulness) Movement; a yearlong program that has now become embedded in the Coles vernacular.

The GEM (Gratitude Empathy, Mindfulness) Movement was launched to our workforce of 118,000, which assisted Coles to ramp up support of our team members as they navigated through one of the most mentally challenging times in their lives.


How does the GEM Movement fit into your overall mental health strategy?

Four key campaigns were delivered under the “I matter” pillar over of the year focusing on positive mental health through practicing health and wellbeing activities that promote sustainable change and lifelong habits.


1.The 21-day GEM campaign
The Resilience Project focuses on three key areas that have been proven to cultivate positive emotion: Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness (GEM). The focus was to teach positive mental health strategies to adopt strategies that would empower them to address mental health challenges. The focus was on the practice of GEM across the 21-day campaign. All team members received a journal to document progress.


2. The 10 20 30 challenge
This focused on the link between looking after physical health to improve mental health. It involved daily activities including improving nutrition, physical activity each day and tips for better sleep. Each Team member received a “10 20 30” challenge chart to track their progress.


3. The ‘Connection’ challenge
This challenge promoted the mental health benefits of staying connected and strengthening relationships in a virtual world. All team members received a 21-day connection booklet, with daily activities to share with family, friends, and co-workers.


4. “A Christmas GEM”
The final campaign brought together all the learnings from the earlier campaigns. Each store received an advent calendar with daily mental health and safety activities to practice and recall all the mental health education learnt throughout the year.


What was the impact?

Program outcomes and impacts:


  • Employee engagement: Annual mysay employee engagement score showed an increased % positive response for the question ‘My manager genuinely cares about my wellbeing’.

Positive feedback included;


“With The Resilience Project and GEM, mental health awareness has come a long way and is being treated with respect rather than embarrassment”


“The work with The Resilience Project and the idea of practicing Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness over the past year has been really inspiring to see and the regular GEM challenge handbooks have been a great tool in looking after my own day-to-day mental health.”


  • Average unplanned paid absenteeism rates: Many companies were reporting large rates of absenteeism because of employee health and safety fears of being at work. Coles rates remained unchanged from those of previous years (FY18 and FY19).
  • Rolling 12 Total Recordable Injury Frequency (R12 TRIFR): Our injury rates results demonstrated less team member recordable injuries in FY20 compared to FY19.
  • Social sentiment: Positive with over 2,100 Yammer posts shared on our social media platform Yammer with the hashtag #GEM


Key Takeaways

The campaigns were delivered to all team members during the pandemic in a very short period and produced positive impacts for our team members across the country.  It created important discussion about looking after our mental health.


Key learnings included:

  • Importance of providing bite sized resources that weren’t too time consuming for team members to avoid overburdening them at this busy time.
  • Importance of considering the diversity of our team in the campaigns messaging. For example, the social connection campaign referenced different household and family situations and backgrounds, i.e., those living alone with no family vs families with children
  • Ensuring the campaign resources including videos, tip sheets etc were available on our learning hub so team members could engage with the resources online when it suited them and their families
  • Ensuring that we had leadership buy in prior to the commencement of each campaign to support leaders own wellbeing and that of their team through tailored peer support sessions.


The GEM Movement has had a profound and lasting impact on Coles’ workforce, promoting a sustainable culture of care and support for the mental health of our team during the pandemic and beyond.