The food-service division of Hormel Foods is responsible for the sales and marketing of Hormel Foods products to food-service distributors and end users such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals and schools.
Recognizing the need for a development program to grow leadership talent and help increase productivity through actively engaged managers, Hormel Foods partnered with Harvard Business Publishing to help its managers build and enhance leadership skills critical for Hormel Foods’ business. The initial group of approximately 50 users included individuals from management, marketing and sales, along with directors and vice presidents. The management training program needed to deliver high-quality content and resources in a way that would fit into the busy schedules of the group.
Rolled out in early 2008, the program is designed primarily as self-study, with facilitated sessions as a major component. All participants have access to an online collection of content that maps to Hormel Foods’ business goals. The management development curriculum covers five topic chapters, including customer focus, team leadership, core management functions, thinking and acting like a leader and managing change. Each chapter is offered over a period of several months. Participants have online access to content, including articles, videos and e-learning modules to help build skills in these areas. They also can find online tools and resources that can be integrated into their daily work.
At the completion of each chapter, the group is brought together for sessions that coincide with regularly scheduled quarterly meetings. Held in person or virtually, the sessions include an interactive case discussion led by a facilitator. Participants then move to assigned smaller groups in which they further discuss the topic related to Hormel Foods. The discussions allow participants to openly share ideas and brainstorm better ways to perform their jobs.
“As a group, we wanted to develop an advanced management and leadership training program that would benefit the entire food-service division and also supply the instant credibility that Harvard Business Publishing provides,” said Tom Day, senior vice president of the food-service group at Hormel Foods.
Participation from the division’s senior executives is a key element of this experience. The culture at Hormel Foods supports open communication between employees, and this program offers another forum for employees at various levels to interact.
“The group really gains a lot from having direct interaction with our executives,” said Alex Sales, sales training manager of the food-service group at Hormel Foods. “Participants actively join in candid discussions and share their personal experiences, which makes the experience even more engaging.”
Reflecting this engagement, participants come to sessions prepared and ready to offer their opinions on the case, character or particular situation. Many individuals have stated learning goes to an even higher level when they are able to hear and discuss others’ opinions and potential solutions. This approach is helping the participants solve real business challenges for Hormel Foods.
To reinforce learning, regular surveys and checkpoints have been built into the program. Hormel Foods also has integrated leadership development expectations into performance reviews for all program users. These components supplement and reinforce the coaching and mentoring that are key roles for these employees. The feedback on the program has been positive during the first year of implementation.
“While the group has embraced the e-learning and case studies, the most beneficial portion has been the facilitated sessions at the end of each chapter,” Sales said. “On several occasions, I have heard participants reference a particular character or situation while in their day-to-day activities.”
Feedback also has come from the workers in Hormel Foods’ sales force not currently in the program. Based on the positive comments they have heard, they frequently inquire about when it will be their turn to participate. The food-service group recognizes the support from Hormel Foods’ Human Resources department, which is researching expansion of the program throughout other divisions in the organization.
“Always getting better is part of our culture and philosophy at Hormel,” said Deanna Brady, vice president of sales with the food-service division at Hormel Foods. “This program helps our employees enhance their skills and is helping us develop future leaders.”Filed under: Leadership Development, Technology