“Outcomes from the programmes have been incredible, with increases in employee and customer Net Promotor Score, store performance, and a large number of graduates promoted. Cultural change has also been fantastic. Our teams are becoming more involved with their colleagues from other brands in the group, sharing success, and what’s working for them. This has created a growth mindset and enabled participants to take more risks and try new things.”
The Warehouse Group is New Zealand’s largest retailer, with 260+ stores and distribution centres across New Zealand, and more than 12,000 employees.
In 2019 the group recognised they had leadership gaps that forced them to recruit externally to find quality store managers. This was costly and time consuming, and reduced employee satisfaction, as their team saw less opportunity to advance internally.
Store managers needed to know how to empower their team, support them to realise their potential and create a sense of shared purpose to deliver a fantastic in-store experience.
The group lacked a training tool to encourage these attributes in their store managers. Inspire Group won a tender to co-design and develop two bespoke leadership programmes.
“I came into this course wanting to learn how to make everything around me better. But I learned there were areas where I needed to become better in how I manage workflow and the way I interact with people.” - Leadership programme graduate
This project was a partnership between The Warehouse Group and Inspire Group. Design began with understanding where learners are at before they embark on a programme. Then the team defined a clear vision for the way great store managers behave.
The co-design team agreed on:
The Warehouse Group’s leadership behaviours and values became cornerstones of the programmes. Existing tools, language, and real-life scenarios from the shop floor were woven through the learning journey to make the programmes relevant and relatable to learners.
“I learned how important reflection is day to day, using reflection after every conversation to understand how it went and what I can do better.” - Leadership programme graduate
This leadership development initiative includes two programmes:
Emerge: for new and emerging leaders with a track record of results.
Evolve: for more established leaders delivering results and seeking advancement.
Both programmes are delivered annually through a combination of digital learning, virtual workshops, peer-to-peer coaching and practical exercises, culminating in a graduation event where learners present their journey to their peers.
The learning journey
The programmes begins with a rigorous application process. If a leader is accepted (and it isn’t a given) they embark on an intensive journey to learn how to lead themselves and others.
Participants prepare for four virtual workshops with digital learning modules and printed resources. During the online workshops, exercises, virtual breakout rooms and whiteboards encourage interaction and collaborative problem solving.
After each workshop, learners participate in peer-to-peer coaching sessions revisiting key concepts. Throughout the programme, learners work on a real business challenge they’ve identified and complete assessments, including a 360° appraisal and reports on their insights.
At graduation, a panel of senior executives asks questions to help the new graduates reflect on how they can apply their learnings to their day-to-day work.
The two programmes are delivered by the Warehouse Group’s team of learning facilitators.
Training the trainers began with a workshop to introduce facilitators to the programme content. A further session helped the team become confident facilitating virtual workshops to create energy, engagement, interaction and impact. Facilitators were also given guides and resources, and Inspire Group learning experts supported them with regular check-ins.
“I’ve learned to delegate a lot more, to trust people and let them fail. Failing isn’t failure in an individual, it’s their first attempt at learning.” - Leadership programme graduate
Business impact has been strongly positive.
Other positive impacts include reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint as a result of less travel for training. Feedback from learners is enthusiastic and inspiring, sharing how the programmes have helped them be more effective leaders, not only at work, but in life.
The Warehouse Group was so pleased with results that they adapted the learning framework and launched a third invitation-only programme, for senior leadership in 2021, called Enable. Thirty four senior leaders have taken part in Enable since.
“The transformation I’ve seen, not only in myself, but in everyone else in this group, is absolutely night and day" - Leadership programme graduate