Shamrock Foods Improves Supervision and Employee Engagement by Focusing on Learning and Applying Leadership Skills

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Highlights: Shamrock Foods Company


  • Develop formal management and supervisor training.
  • Train frontline leaders promoted based on operational skills.
  • A turnkey solution that could be implemented immediately.
  • Provide practical skills training.
  • Offer group and individual training options.
  • Deliver content with a high production value.
  • Experienced subject matter experts who could present in a common sense way.
  • Focus on application and behavior change, not just learning.


  • Audience – New and existing supervisors and managers.
  • Curriculum The Leadership Journey™
  • Delivery – Monthly 90-minute (30-minute review + 60-minute new content) group training sessions.
  • Facilitation – HR team members.
  • Discussion – During group training sessions.
  • Application – Personal action plans applied before each group session.
  • Follow-up – Leaders shared their experiences applying skills during the first 30 minutes of group sessions.


  • The Leadership Journey is developing better supervision throughout the organization.
  • Behaviors are changing.
  • Phenomenal engagement.
  • More human connections.
  • More genuine and authentic leadership.
  • Fewer barriers between different levels of leadership.
  • Participants try new skills and share their successes.
  • Over 275 supervisors, directors, and vice presidents voluntarily participated.

The Company

Introducing Consistent Leadership Training to Drive Engagement and Productivity

With almost a century of experience behind them, Shamrock Foods Company is a people-first organization—its associates, customers, and the families it serves in the western United States are always top of mind.

With growth, though, comes challenges. The new HR director was promoted from within, so he knew firsthand the importance of introducing leadership training to help both current and future leaders develop the skills needed to lead consistently for better engagement and productivity.

Bringing the “Family” Closer Together with Unrelenting Quality in People, Products, and Service

Shamrock Foods Company is a privately held, family-owned and operated Fortune 500 company that was founded in Arizona in 1922.

Today, almost 100 years later, it is one of the top 10 largest foodservice distributors nationwide, operating through a family of companies including Shamrock Foods foodservice distribution and Shamrock Farms dairy manufacturing.

Shamrock Foods has more than 4,000 associates and serves restaurants, hospitality, and institutional foodservice customers throughout the western United States. The company’s mission—to “treat associates as family and customers and suppliers as friends”—guides its work and focus on an unrelenting quality in people and products and service, an innovative approach to business, and a commitment to the community.

Maintaining that focus and continued quality, though, requires exceptional supervisors and managers all working together through shared philosophies and practices to ensure the company culture supports its mission.

The Challenge

Starting a Formal Management Training Program to Develop Supervisors Who Were Promoted Because of Their Operational Skills

Shamrock Foods never had any formal supervisory development in place despite its many years of operation. That was something that the director of human resources noticed immediately as he took on the role—and it shocked him. Having earned a master’s degree in industrial psychology several years earlier, and based on his own experiences, he says, “I think, intuitively, every one of us knows how we want to be led. And yet, we often don’t lead others that way.” That, he felt, didn’t make a lot of sense.

Frontline leaders were skilled at performing their operational work, but most had no formal training or experience in supervising or managing others. He wanted to institute a formal management training program that would provide current and future managers with the practical knowledge and skills needed to lead consistently and effectively.

He quickly learned that he didn’t have time to develop a program himself. He began a search for the perfect solution, but was having a hard time finding it.

And then he found The Leadership Journey™.

The Leadership Journey is exactly what I dreamt of building myself. The way your experts talk about the competencies, and most importantly, the way the program gets people to apply their new skills. That’s the game changer.”

Jim Kramer, VP of People Operations, Shamrock Foods Company

The Leadership Journey™

Shifting the Focus of Learning to Application and Behavior Change

Skeptical at first, the HR director couldn’t believe that he’d found exactly what he was looking for—a turnkey approach that met his needs and offered an option for both group and individual training.

The Leadership Journey’s training model was ideal: short bursts over time to help supervisors and managers learn, and immediately apply, practical skills.

Three core elements of The Leadership Journey really stood out for Shamrock Foods.

  1. Its focus on application. “If we aren’t focused on applying behavioral change, we’re wasting our time.” Their HR director knew that to change behavior you have to change beliefs. Changing beliefs changes actions. Learning is about application—and action. The Leadership Journey content helped supervisors understand how to apply their new skills. Small group follow-up sessions created shared accountability.
  2. Videos. The videos are brief, focused on real-world management issues, and, again, rich in application. They offered insights into the kind of situations that managers face every day.
  3. Subject matter experts. Best practices in management skills are covered by seasoned experts who deliver the material in a common sense way, covering 10 core leadership competencies—the “foundational Legos of good supervision.”

The Leadership Journey was, they felt, “the perfect answer” to the need they were facing.

training group touring distribution center

Leadership is a shared experience, and so is The Leadership Journey. The director of HR led the first session at each location himself before turning facilitation over to HR managers at each location who lined up facilitators for the other sessions.

Participants met for 90 minutes to go through course materials, discuss new topics, and follow up on their own personal application of the course’s how-to’s on the job. They follow a training plan designed to ensure consistency, the practical application of skills learned, and professional development.

Shamrock Foods purposefully added extra time to each session so that, after the first module, each subsequent module could begin with an opportunity for participants to share their learnings with each other and talk about how they implemented what they learned back on the job. They were able to accomplish a lot during each 90-minute session.

The opportunity to learn practical how-to leadership skills from featured experts, combined with opportunities for interaction with colleagues, created a shared experience and commonly understood expectations—and accountability.

The creation and use of personal action plans served as a shared point of focus for communication between supervisors and their managers as well as their employees, ensuring accountability at all levels.

Importantly, Shamrock Foods found that the program works at all levels of leadership. From supervisors to VPs, all come together to learn and share. Those shared experiences and the practical advice from leadership experts has led to real results.

The Results

Genuine and Authentic Leaders Who Improve Engagement, Drive Human Connections, and Consistently Manage and Supervise

Three years later, the director of HR was promoted to vice president of people operations, and more than 275 of Shamrock’s supervisors, directors, and vice presidents from eight locations have voluntarily participated in The Leadership Journey—representing about 70% of Shamrock’s leadership team.

Their positive experiences and word-of-mouth praise have spurred others to participate. Demand for the program remains high.

Engagement is spurring action, the VP of people operations says. “I know that this is proliferating better supervision throughout this organization, because they’re in here talking about how their behavior changed. How they tried something that they hadn’t tried before and how successful it was.”

One supervisor, who had put off a difficult conversation with a direct report for six months, finally found the confidence needed to have that conversation. It was well worth it. “I feel like a weight has been lifted,” he said.

Other supervisors are also sharing their success stories and having conversations about how they’re applying the skills they’ve learned with great results across the entire enterprise.

The Leadership Journey is making a big difference at Shamrock Foods.

The Leadership Journey is one of the first things I would implement if your organization is struggling with supervisory development. It’s so easy, fast, well done, and engaging. There is no downside to it.”

Jim Kramer, VP of People Operations, Shamrock Foods Company

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