Community scheme develops leadership talents
ainsbury’s has developed the leadership skills of its graduate recruits through a community-based project. As part of their induction, recruits on the UK retailer’s graduate-training scheme last year worked for the first time on a two-day project with a primary school in London’s Newham borough.
The project, designed in co-operation with management-development group Impact, involved 50 graduate trainees in projects such providing a healthy-eating allotment at the
300-pupil school. This not only enabled the graduates to develop their leadership skills, but also advanced the retailer’s core values and promoted ideas of sustainability and environmental awareness in the community. The design challenged the graduates to bring to life sustainability and a green theme across the school.
Sainsbury’s wanted to develop its graduates’ awareness of their personal impact and to increase their understanding of the interpersonal skills needed for working in a team, while bringing to life the company’s leadership principles. At the heart of the learning were
Sainsbury’s so-called Different Values for corporate responsibility – Best for Food and
Health, Sourcing with Integrity, Respect for the Environment, Making a Positive Difference to
Communities and Being Great Place to Work.
Impact worked closely with Sainsbury’s throughout the diagnostic and design process, to align the learning with Different Values. The graduates were challenged to develop a green theme across the school, and so bring sustainability to life.
Innovative project design
A half-day induction before the project framed the whole program, developing strategies and agreeing outcomes without the risk of getting ‘‘swallowed up’’ in the task.
Innovative project design was required to meet the dual objectives of building leadership capacity and delivering a successful project for the community partner. The graduates worked in project teams to complete a healthy-eating allotment, green team activities, an aromatic border and fence murals. Alongside the projects, a ‘‘learning pod’’ was designed to direct participants to explore and observe leadership in action.
‘‘It was a complex and consequential project that elicited real behaviors that could be explored and experimented within the graduates’ everyday business lives,’’ commented
Joanne McGuire, development consultant, graduate development, Sainsbury’s.
‘‘We aim to fulfill our responsibilities to the communities and environments in which we operate – and the community-action learning program truly embodies this. It reflects the direction we are moving in as a business – fully demonstrating our commitment to communities, young people, food and education. It also helps our graduates to feel they are
VOL. 16 NO. 7 2008, pp. 21-23, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 0967-0734
HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT INTERNATIONAL DIGEST
an important part of the company and helps them to make the transition between university and their working lives.’’
Among the comments of the graduate participants were:
We have learned that leadership is an action rather than just a person. Good leadership can come from lots of people and working as a team.
We’ve had a great team involved in the program and we’ve all got stuck in and had loads to do.
It has been a real cooking-pot of ideas. Everyone has been participating.
Andy Caldwell, Impact consultant, said: ‘‘Like all our programs, this one was designed to forge a sustainable enterprise that operates both profitably and with enhanced social responsibility.’’ Other aspects of the graduate-training program
The community-based project formed just part of the Sainsbury’s graduate-training program induction, which aims to help graduates to develop their personal, commercial and management skills. Other aspects cover a who’s who of Sainsbury’s and,