- Tell us a little bit about you and your business
Harris Farm Markets is a family owned fresh food business with 25 retail markets and complementary wholesale and independent distribution businesses. My role here is as Director of People and Culture. It is a broad role, and in addition to a fairly typical HR portfolio, I also work closely with the CEOs and Leadership team to drive ongoing performance within the company.
- Why did you approach Human Tribe initially?
The biggest problem that HFM faced as an organisation was its capacity to lead and manage at all levels and after years of being a family owned company with 3 Co-CEO’s, we had fairly well embedded silos and dysfunction at all levels of management. Teams had developed behaviours where they competed against one another instead of working together. I approached Human Tribe and had worked with Nic previously and her advice was to come up with a solution of trying cohesive behaviours. The Area Managers had oversight of 1500 staff so we needed them working as a cohesive team to ease the load on the CEO’s as well as improving the working lives of the 1500 people working underneath them.
- What was the problem you were encountering and how did it make you feel?
The dysfunction within the Management group meant you had 4 people who were looking after 20-25 stores. Our biggest strategic challenge was our capacity to build the next generation of highly skilled staff and capability and that was being severely diminished by the lack of teamwork at the Area Management level.What we were experiencing is that the Area Managers were actively competing against each other and hiding talent in their stores. This meant we weren’t offering our people career opportunities because they were being hidden in stores.Some stores were very strong and some were very weak and we weren’t able to understand the true nature of skills or capability in store because no one spoke honestly. We had dysfunction around trust, common thoughts were why would I tell you that, what am I going to gain by sharing with you?” There was a mentality that they would lose something if they told each other about their talent and strengths within a store. It was limiting our capacity to build teams and achieve strategic goals.The CEO’S were really worried about our capacity to achieve our strategy because we didn’t have the capacity to build people, embed change, embed operational efficiencies or get compliance. We couldn’t manage innovation because if we rolled something out in one store, we couldn’t get anyone from that store to help get it going in another store. We felt very restricted in terms of what we could actually do and this was affecting the business.
- Why did you choose to partner with Human Tribe?
I wanted to work with an organisation that was not just going to roll out a pencil and tell you to buy the pencil, but rather one that would listen to the problem, assess it, identify a solution and truly partner with us to deliver it.We had experienced that with Human Tribe; we had shared values, they understood Harris Farm Markets and that we aren’t your typical grocer, they understood that we didn’t want a solution that was going to rely on rules, procedures and bureaucracy to create change as we are a business that operates behaviours and values, not on rules.I knew that Human Tribe would see it as a behavioural issue not a structural issue, so when Human Tribe suggested the 5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team, we trusted the suggestion as it really seemed like the right solution for what we were facing.
- What could have happened if you didn’t address this problem?
What was already happening was that we were experiencing high turnover, low moral and constantly had wages over budget where we couldn’t implement any process improvement. Our biggest issue however was that the organisation as a whole wouldn’t have been able to achieve its strategic objectives because the objectives rely on building capability and building capability for us is fundamentally around leaders working together to share in the accountability for training 1500 of our staff.
- What was the outcome of you partnering with Human Tribe?
The Area Management team now looks very different to how it looked three years ago. The team collectively take responsibility to ensure that any change is implemented quickly and that they hold each other accountable. In the past we would start things and they would fall off the wagon, now that we have a team of people who are working together, they keep each other accountable, they give each other feedback and they are very focused on performance. Things don’t fall off the wagon anymore, as they don’t let go of things until they have seen it successfully embedded in the stores.The secondary outcome is that we have changed the leadership style of the Area Management team and in turn they have become more powerful role models for the store managers below them. So the cohesive behaviour training that the Area Managers did is being instilled to the next level, just because they are treating the people below them better and are encouraging more trust, more vulnerability and more accountability at the store manager level. Gone are the days where the store managers would lead the team by yelling and screaming at them, they now role model the leadership styles of the people above them.The program is so beneficial that one by one we are putting other teams through the same process. Most of the people who took part in the first program are now going through it with their teams. The journey is not over; the language of trust, vulnerability and accountability is now common place and people know what we are talking about when we use those trigger words and we can now use them in bringing people back to appropriate behaviours in the workplace.
- What would you tell other organisations that are thinking about partnering with Human Tribe?
The 5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team program is incredibly beneficial but you need to commit to it. It is an uncomfortable process to go through but it is one of the most valuable leadership interventions your organisation will experience. Trust in the process and look forward to having a team of people who can openly share in the collective responsibility for leading your organisation.