Highlights: Brook + Whittle
Developing Managers While Experiencing Rapid Growth
Growth is generally a good thing for companies, but sometimes that growth can be accompanied by growing pains. That was the case for Brook + Whittle.
It was growth that the company attributed to its world-class employees, commitment to sustainability, print innovation, and the latest technological advancements. However, that growth didn’t have a built-in mechanism or process for ensuring management had the knowledge, skills, and abilities to serve a growing team of employees.
High Standards and Fierce Customer Commitment at Brook + Whittle
Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Guilford, Connecticut, Brook + Whittle has become one of North America’s leading manufacturers of pressure-sensitive shrink sleeves and heat transfer labels.
They serve multiple consumer markets, including personal care, beverage, food, nutraceuticals, wine and spirits, and household chemicals.
The company’s culture is one of collaboration and teamwork. But the ability to sustain that culture was becoming increasingly challenging as the company grew faster than new leaders could be developed.
Developing Their First Leadership Training Program for Simultaneous Rollout at Eight Plants
Brook + Whittle is good at what they do, and it shows. The company has experienced “crazy growth,” expanding to multiple locations across the country to best meet growing and emerging customer needs. Expansion occurred through multiple acquisitions over the past 5–7 years: eight plants in four states all running three shifts.
As they grew, they began promoting people into management positions from within, but with no formal leadership development program to help them make the transition.
While frontline leaders were skilled at performing their operational work, most had no formal training or experience in supervising or managing others. That was a gap the company wanted to close.
Brook + Whittle had the internal talent to create their own leadership developing training but not the time. They began to look for a solution that would be:
- Turnkey: an off-the-shelf program that could be implemented quickly and customized to their needs.
- Easy to implement: with many people to train and little staff to do the training, a simple solution was a must-have.
- Consistent: every supervisor and manager needed to receive the same message and the same direction for effective leadership.
It was a tall order, but Brook + Whittle was committed to making an investment in its leaders. The Leadership Journey was just what they were looking for and more.
“Everything is perfect with The Leadership Journey. I love the program, and the team at Business Training Experts (BTE) is so easy to work with and helpful. I’d absolutely recommend BTE as a leadership development partner to other manufacturers and organizations.”
Lynn Fair, VP of HR, Brook + Whittle
The Leadership Journey™
The Leadership Competencies Managers Need from a Turnkey Program That’s Based on the Science of Learning
Brook + Whittle initiated The Leadership Journey with a pilot session. While participants were initially hesitant, it didn’t take long before they enthusiastically embraced the program.
They loved the way it was set up, the active learning components, and especially the opportunity to interact and share with others.
But one of the things Brook + Whittle liked most about The Leadership Journey was the science behind its curriculum. The courses teach practical how-to skills, backed up by the knowledge and expertise of a diverse team of adult learning professionals, neuroscientists, and organizational psychologists.
It’s a research and evidence-based approach to learning, but with a focus on developing skills and competencies that can be directly applied in the workplace.
They also liked the ability to break the curriculum up over time. Instead of holding a three-day class, for instance, they could break the training down into manageable chunks for leaders who had varying schedules and commitments back on the job.
Classes were offered to 12–15 people at a time from all levels of the organization. Those unable to attend a session had the opportunity to take a self-directed e-learning course to cover the material.
Leadership is a shared experience and so is The Leadership Journey. Brook + Whittle appreciated the interactive nature of the training, especially during the pandemic.
In fact, they say they “hit on something extraordinary” when COVID protocols meant they needed to turn to Zoom to hold classes. Doing so, though, allowed people from different plants to attend the same training sessions leading to networking that would not otherwise have taken place. Participants were able to help each other solve problems across all levels of management and locations.
Sharing their responses, perspectives, and experiences led to lively and engaging conversation that the company feels offered tremendous benefits.
The opportunity to learn practical how-to leadership skills from a diverse field of featured experts, combined with opportunities for interaction with colleagues, created a shared experience and commonly understood expectations.
A Consistent Management Approach Leads to Improved Communication, Teamwork, Professionalism, and Praise from the CEO
The skills that participants in The Leadership Journey are learning are immediately applied back on the job—the impact is being seen by staff, management, and senior leaders.
Plant managers are among the most enthusiastic about the experience because of the changes they’re seeing in their teams. Communication is stronger and team building has been boosted by a shared culture and common language.
Most importantly, the company feels unified instead of like eight separate units. Each plant understands how they fit into the overall organization and the impact of the work they do.
Brook + Whittle likes to celebrate successes. When a group finishes The Leadership Journey, they hold a big awards ceremony where the CEO awards certificates to participants.
Participants are proud of their accomplishments and appreciative of the company’s investment in them and their leadership skills. It’s been a win-win that the company intends to continue on with to ensure consistency and a strong culture well into the future.
“We are getting so much value out of our investment. It is everything we expected, with all kinds of extras! The programs are exceptional, beyond my highest expectations. And the employees and the supervisors going through it are just as thrilled as I am.”
Lynn Fair, VP of HR, Brook + Whittle
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