AO introduces employee ‘skills swap’ initiative

Encouraging AO’ers – what AO employees are also known as – to strengthen their skills set and industry knowledge, AO, the online electrical retailer has launched a new ‘skill swap programme’.

Aiming to support AO employees and widen their remit, the retailer has launched a programme which looks at swapping skills between each other – already proving to be successful within the IT department the company is now looking at rolling the programme out across the wider business.

Unlike external training courses, which are one-offs, can be expensive and require travelling away from the office, AO’s skills swap scheme means AO’ers can obtain new skills, learn and develop their own remit while doing it in the comfort of their own office.

AO’ers put themselves forward to host their own session focusing on a specialist skill or expertise they have and host sessions for interested members of the business. The host will design a curriculum for their sessions, letting participants know what will be required of them, what they will achieve and how many sessions they will need to complete.

Through workshops, presentations, self-led projects and mentoring sessions taking place during the working day, AO’ers can learn a new set of skills that will assist them in their roles. The new programme has only been running for six months and has already seen several sessions take place covering a wide range of topics including ‘Inbox Zero’, ‘Amazon Web Services (AWS)’ and ‘Automated Testing’.

The most recent skills swap session ‘Inbox Zero’ explored a new system for managing emails helping AO’ers to remain in control of their inbox, freeing up time for them to be more productive. Another session focussed on ‘Amazon Web Services (AWS)’ looking at how to build infrastructure in AWS both with servers and serverless technology.

Around 25 participants took part in AWS workshops and then created their own projects, putting into practice the news skills they had learned. A session on ‘Automated Testing’ taught participants, including some with limited coding experience, how to write automated test scripts quickly and effectively.

Nick Peachey, Software Development Manager at, who came up with the idea said: “The aim of the skills swap programme is to exchange knowledge and expertise between colleagues in our team. It’s a great opportunity for people to expand their skill set during the working day and to accomplish new areas of expertise that will help them in their day to day roles. We’ve had some really positive feedback from people who’ve already taken part and I’m looking forward to seeing what other sessions will be planned in the future.”

On completion of each session, participants are awarded with a badge to recognise the new skills they’ve achieved. Digital badges can also be added into email signatures to show what areas of expertise people have, and so other colleagues can approach them for help with that specific area.