Episode 12: In today’s episode, we discuss the partnership between Kroger and the Rubel School of Business, which launched the Kroger Emerging Leaders Program. Ann Reed, Kroger Regional President, Jacqui Fritz, Kroger Assistant HR Leader and Dr. Natasha
Munshi, Dean of the Rubel School of Business discuss how the program was conceptualized, developed and implemented to help up and coming Kroger leaders.
In Episode 1, Dr. Munshi described her vision for
executive education certificate programs. The opportunity to work with Kroger to custom-develop an Emerging Leaders Program is a result of her passion and execution. This is a significant component of Rubel’s strategic plan.
Professional Development Challenges during the COVID Pandemic
Jacqui discusses a number of challenges Kroger encountered. As Kroger has grown in scale, the training and develop requirements have evolved. Larger volume stores bring their own challenges based on diverse personalities and larger numbers of employees. The technology challenges (i.e. e-commerce) increase as this aspect of sales continues to grow. There’s also the staffing challenges as people retire and move-on. HR looks to identify and cultivate new leaders to help cope with the myriad of both challenges and opportunities.
The Future of Work in the Grocery Retail Business
Ann comments specifically on the pace of change Kroger is experiencing. Food is a substantial part of Kroger’s portfolio. Investing in innovative ways to provide those items, and others, in a competitive environment is tantamount to Kroger’s success. How Kroger thinks about a traditional brick and mortar location is vital to continuing a presence as a local community center.
What Are the Skill Sets and Competencies Kroger Expects as a Result of this Partnership?
There was a lot of discussion about aspirant skill sets and gaps Kroger sees among the new leaders its cultivating. One aspect is equipping them so they have the confidence needed to make solid business decisions on a day-to-day basis. Adapting to the multiple employee groups, in addition to a diverse customer-base, is a specific competency Kroger values and is expecting to provide via its partnership with Rubel.
A confident leader will be ready to execute more effective and more efficiently. In examining the existing gaps, they understood the advantage of additional training in financial concepts and measurements. The program will help Kroger leaders to execute at the departmental levels within the stores.
From a leadership standpoint, specific training effective accountability discussions. Developing to skills and perspectives to lead a large group of employees is a highly-desired aspect of professional develop. Executing on excellence is at the forefront. Kroger and Rubel have designed the Executive Leadership Program to address these and other core (and advanced) managerial competencies.
Ann Reed Discusses Her Inspiration for this Program
Ann originally met Natasha via Susan Donovan, Bellarmine’s President. Both Ann and Natasha recognized the value of the “Zero Hunger. Zero Waste” initiative. Kroger is on a mission to end hunger in the communities it serves. This was the foundation for a working relationship and exploration of additional opportunities.
Ann was aware of some of the partnerships Dr. Munshi had developed in her previous roles, before coming to Bellarmine. Ann wanted to develop a similar development program for Kroger leaders, outside of the internal training already provided by Kroger. There’s value in the networking opportunities and exposure to other leaders in the community.
Initially, Ann and Jacqui were thinking about local-area instructors, but the Rubel School of Business program offered even more. Technology has enabled the program to involve instructors from across the country to participate in the Emerging Leaders Program.
In describing her personal path, a career in the grocery business was not what Ann anticipated. She started in Kroger’s Indianapolis division. She was new to this industry. What inspires her and interests her today are some of the same things she recognized 28 years ago.
The pace of change is something Ann loves. It’s a very kinetic environment with the opportunity in interact with many people and personalities. So many of her special childhood memories were around the table, and Kroger is all about food. In her opinion, there’s no better place to work.
Ann still values those aspects which initially inspired her: People, Serving the Community and Great Food.
Kroger operates in Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois and most of the counties in Kentucky. There are 116 stores employing 19,000 associates and is proud of its 90+ years. Kroger is one of the largest employers in Kentucky. They are the largest market-share grocer in the region. Kroger focuses on its customers. They want to be friendly; the items to be fresh and in-stock every single day.
HRs Targeted Outcomes for the Kroger Emerging Leaders Program
Once a high-potential leader has been identified, he/she may be offered the opportunity to participate in this innovative program. Kroger wants to instill a sense of accomplishment for those who complete this program. The skills and competencies they learn can be applied and demonstrated at the local store level. This creates a natural mentoring opportunity.
The program will drive improved financial results and the team’s ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
The overarching concept is that these leaders will be moving up and through the organization. Success as a result of this program will foster employee retention as the leaders pass on those skills to younger leaders and associates.
The Decision to Partner with the Rubel School of Business
Ann commented on how proud she is of what Bellarmine stands for in the community. The innovative approach to a developing a customized experience, using actual Kroger financial information, created in conjunction with Kroger is something that stood out for her. The Kroger leaders will learn using their own data and experiences.
Bellarmine moved extremely quickly to propose a workable concept that both parties refined and finalized together. The speed of development and implementation impressed Ann.
Kroger has really embraced this experience and is confident in how it will help its leaders to rise to the next level.
Natasha comments that the current iteration of the program is done using technology, such as Zoom video. This relates back to how Rubel is incorporating other thought leaders and experts to augment its own faculty in delivering a cutting-edge experience.
Key Take-Aways for other Senior Executives
As we conclude the discussion, we discuss how this type of partnership could help other organizations.
Long-term success is always about your people. The type of programs Rubel can develop can help to demonstrate a company’s commitment to its people and their individual success.
The Rubel team fosters strong communication as the program moves from conceptualization to implementation. This engenders trust and enables a more efficient rollout. It’s a partnership.
The value of the company’s decision to equip its leaders can also help with retention, another key metric for any organization.
As a community, we need to focus on being learners for life. This program provides an innovative opportunity.
While a company may have an internal training and development team, incorporating an external partnership can be exciting. There are outside perspectives and deliverables that could augment the internal team’s efforts.
Bellarmine’s strategic plan involves a focus on enabling transformative business education. In addition to this program, Rubel is also partnering with Kroger in the Rubel School of Business’ Women of Color Entrepreneurial Leadership Certificate. This is another demonstration of Kroger’s commitment to the local community. They sponsored 3 women entrepreneurs so each could participate in the program. We recorded an episode detailing the aspects of the Women of Color Entrepreneurial Leadership Certificate.
Bellarmine’s business school wants to partner with other organizations to enhance our community. We are ready to pursue a similar opportunity with your organization.
THE MONTHLY FORECAST:
Fall 2021 – Mentoring Opportunities – This continues to be a strength of the Bellarmine experience. Many fellow alumni mentor undergraduates and that opportunity continues to benefit the Bellarmine community. Click here for more information.
9/11/21 – Women of Color Entrepreneurial Pitch Contest – As part of Dr. Munshi’s strategic plan for Rubel, this event provides an opportunity to see ideas and concepts being pitched for possible backing and sponsorship. Click here for more information.
9/16/21 – Bellarmine Alumni Awards Celebration – Join Bellarmine in celebrating our distinguished alumni award recipients. This exciting evening will be part of our inaugural Alumni Weekend. Click here for more information.
9/30/21 – Dean’s Executive Speaker Series – We are finalizing our guest speaker for this event. The website will be updated soon. Click here for more information.
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