PT Awards profile: Wolseley constructs talent pipeline

Wolseley win the Talent Management 2013 award
Wolseley collects the 2013 Award for Talent Management

Wolseley UK had a clear business goal in mind when it embarked on its new talent management strategy, which won it the Personnel Today Award for Talent Management at last year’s celebrations.

The company provides construction products and materials through a nationwide branch network, and – after a restructure in 2011 – it needed to develop its talent pipeline to meet its ambition of becoming number one or two in its chosen markets.

Among the primary focuses for talent development were its 700 branch managers. “We wanted to improve the bench strength of our management population so that they could manage, coach and lead better,” says Nick Scott, head of employee engagement.

With this in mind, Scott and his team set up a clear learning and development programme for branch managers, aimed at helping them to “have better conversations with staff, give better feedback and talk about their development”, and introduced business-focused training on management accounting and the sales process.

Wolseley UK also set up apprenticeship and graduate programmes in a bid to nurture future managers from an early stage in their career.

It was not just these groups that benefited; development levels across the whole of the company have more than doubled – training hours are up to 14 per employee from just over five.

And in Wolseley UK’s online training academy, double the number of courses have been completed since the talent programme was launched, and 95% of all staff – not just those who are customer facing – have completed the customer service module.

Coupled with this increased focus on development is a more feedback-driven culture. Previously, performance reviews had been optional for managers were carried out infrequently with non-managerial employees. The appraisal templates were revised to be more user-friendly, and reviews are now accepted as “business as usual”, rather than one-off conversations. “If you want to be world-class, feedback should be ingrained in your culture,” says Scott.

Measuring talent

Measurement sits at the centre of Wolseley UK’s talent management strategy and – where possible – everything is linked back to business performance and goals.

For example, the company ran a workshop for managers on how to improve gross margin in their branches. Of those who attended, their branches have enjoyed a 1% improvement in gross margin.

Crucially, customers’ perception of Wolseley UK is also on the up. In 2012, its net promoter score in its Pipe and Climate Center sat at +28%, compared to just +4% in 2010.

The next priority for the company is to look at how it recruits, says Scott, which will include improving the application and onboarding process for candidates.

Embedding leadership behaviours is also a priority and current workshops for leaders include “communicating with impact”, with the focus on encouraging senior managers to understand their leadership styles better and the affect that they can have on the business.

“I think our entry stood out not just for the quality of programmes we offered, but the fact they were linked to overarching business objectives and the people plan,” Scott concludes.

The judges acknowledged this, adding that “the dispersed workforce dimension makes the achievements even more impressive”.

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