Mitchell Grocery Distribution Achieves a Whopping 18% Increase in Cases Packed Per Hour

worker moving a pallet of goods in distribution center

Highlights: Mitchell Grocery Distribution

Need

  • A new HR director was hired to formalize the HR department.
  • Address rapid growth.
  • Formalize leadership training.
  • Frontline leaders were skilled operationally, but most had no management experience.
  • Teach supervisors and managers to effectively lead and manage.
  • A turnkey solution that is easy to implement.
  • Flexibility to meet the needs of varying roles in multiple settings with demanding schedules.

Implementation

  • Audience – Supervisors and managers
  • Curriculum The Leadership Journey™
  • Delivery – Blended learning. Self-paced learning delivered through two kiosks followed up with 30-minute group meetings.
  • Discussion – Monthly group meetings with discussion and group exercises that supported e-learning.
  • Application – Personal action plans were applied before each course.
  • Follow-up – During group sessions, 23 students would share their experiences applying their action plans.

Results

  • Productivity went up 18%: from 45 cases per hour to 53. The stretch goal was 50 cases!
  • Serious employee problems involving HR declined 90%.
  • Employee morale improved across all departments.
  • Expanded from 28 students to 150 team leaders, supervisors, managers, and potential leaders.
  • Mitchell Grocery rolled out The Leadership Journey to their 30 retail locations.
  • Their president presented Mitchell Grocery’s results to 400 industry leaders at their industry’s national conference.

The Company

Developing Leadership Skills in Distribution Center Supervisors Leads to an 18% Increase in Productivity While Reducing Serious Incidents by 90%

Leadership training has become increasingly important in an environment where employees are often working in a wide range of settings, including remotely.

As organizations work hard to ensure that they can continue providing top-notch products and services to their customers, they are increasingly realizing the value that developing leadership skills in supervisors and managers can deliver.

That was certainly true for Mitchell Grocery Corporation.

Distributing 20,000 Items from Soup to Nuts Requires Top-Notch Supervisors

Established in 1945, Mitchell Grocery Corporation is a wholesale grocery distribution center serving more than 200 independent supermarkets in the southeast and distributing more than 20,000 items—from a full line of grocery, fresh meat, fresh produce, dairy, frozen food and ice cream to health and beauty care and deli-bakery items.

With more than 500 employees with roles in warehousing, distribution, and a broad menu of services to support successful independent supermarkets—including payroll, retail accounting, advertising, retail pricing, computer host support, and new store development—the company also operates 30 of its own retail stores.

A growing business with a growing customer base, Mitchell Grocery recognized a critical need for formal leadership training to ensure supervisors and managers were adequately and uniformly prepared to effectively manage and lead their direct reports.

The Challenge

Finding In-house Leadership Training to Meet the Demanding Schedules of Supervisors in Varying Roles

Despite decades-long success as a thriving operation, Mitchell Grocery Corporation had never had a leadership development program. It was a gap that their new HR director was tasked with closing.

One of his first projects involved setting up a leadership training program, starting with 28 team leaders who had no formal managerial or leadership training.

The company recognized the need to provide leadership training to both existing and emerging leaders.

  • Frontline leaders were skilled at performing their operational work, but most had no formal training or experience in supervising or managing others.
  • One challenge was finding a way to cover the unique training needs of employees in varying roles and settings. With demanding schedules and multiple demands, getting the entire group together frequently wouldn’t be a viable option.
  • Another challenge was more personal. This wasn’t the only urgent imperative on the new HR leader’s plate. Time was at a premium and a do-it-yourself approach simply wasn’t feasible.

Mitchell Grocery wanted a sustainable training program for their leaders and didn’t have time to build one on their own. They needed a turnkey solution they could implement immediately.

These were challenges that The Leadership Journey was perfectly poised to address.


“I really liked that the courses were to the point. A straightforward approach, that used layman’s terms. I knew my supervisors would understand and use the ideas right away.”

Gary Cameron, Human Resources Director, Mitchell Grocery Corporation

The Leadership Journey™

A Straightforward Approach Teaching Practical Skills That Supervisors Can Understand and Use Right Away

Mitchell Grocery turned to Business Training Experts for a solution. They chose The Leadership Journey for its customizable turnkey approach for groups or individualized learning.

They also liked the training model—short bursts over time, with the option to choose when to access the training. This flexibility helps supervisors and managers learn practical skills while also meeting their job responsibilities.

They liked the approach because of its practicality and the fact that it laid out step-by-step exactly how students could immediately apply their new skills back on the job.

Distribution center employee driving forklift

Leadership is a shared experience and so is The Leadership Journey. The flexibility of the program allows organizations to adapt it to their unique needs.

For Mitchell Grocery, that meant taking a blended learning approach.

  1. The approach incorporated self-paced learning delivered through two kiosks followed up with group meetings.
  2. Supervisors could take the self-paced course at a kiosk whenever it best fit their schedules, as long as they completed each course before the scheduled monthly group meeting.
  3. Group meetings were short—30 minutes—and focused, including discussion and a group exercise.
  4. At each meeting two or three students would present their personal action plans to the group for discussion.

As buzz began to build, Mitchell Grocery’s president also started attending meetings to hear firsthand the ideas the team was generating and to demonstrate his support. His presence led to faster adoption of the new ideas he was hearing firsthand, often resulting in company-wide adoption.

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.

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.

The results speak for themselves.

The Results

Bottomline Improvements: Productivity Jumped 18% and Time-Wasting Incidents Dropped 90%

In addition to positive feedback from supervisors, managers, and staff members, Mitchell Grocery was able to demonstrate quantitative results from the use of The Leadership Journey in the company’s distribution centers.

  • Productivity went up 18%. Mitchell Grocery Distribution jumped from 45 cases packed per hour to 53. Before adopting The Leadership Journey, the company had felt that 50 cases was unattainable. Based on their experience, they’ve already set a new goal of 55 cases.
  • Serious employee problems, incidents involving Human Resources, declined 90%. That was significant not only in terms of demands placed on HR and the time required to address incidents, but also it improved employee satisfaction and a better workplace culture.
  • Employee morale improved across all departments. This was a strong indicator that the consistency in leadership and acquired competencies was shared across all leadership staff.

Mitchell Grocery’s president has been so impressed with the results initially seen in the company’s distribution centers that he decided to roll out the training to all 30 of the company’s retail locations. Over a five-year period, Mitchell Grocery has sent 150 team leaders, supervisors, and managers—as well as potential leaders—through The Leadership Journey training program.

Then, after seeing improvements in both retail and distribution, he presented the results at the company’s annual industry conference, recommending the program for all distribution and retail operations that were at the conference—approximately 400 organizations.

The Leadership Journey: creating a measurable pathway to excellence in leadership.


The Leadership Journey far exceeded our expectations. The skills taught have been very easy to apply. The results have been very apparent, very quickly.”

Gary Cameron, Human Resources Director, Mitchell Grocery Corporation

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