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Leading the Way from the Front Lines

McLane’s Frontline Leader Training course imparts invaluable skills to new McLane leaders

At McLane, we pride ourselves on investing in our teammates and helping them develop as both people and professionals. Frontline Leader Training (FLL), an instructor-led course designed for supervisors to learn and improve leadership skills, aims to do just that. The two-day program helps participants build the foundations of their leadership toolkit, setting frontline supervisors up to thrive in their evolving roles and responsibilities.

FLL is strategically designed to foster supervisors’ career development and enable them to mentor and engage their teammates effectively. By instilling essential skills and nurturing trust, care and camaraderie within teams, FLL contributes to a harmonious work environment and unlocks exceptional growth opportunities within McLane.

In 2023, the Frontline Leader Training transitioned for the first time to be McLane-led. The newly-designed program was piloted successfully in July 2023 at McLane Southern, and eight training generalists were certified to lead the FLL course throughout the company. The transition resulted in a more McLane-centric, relevant experience for supervisors as content was developed with McLane specifically in mind.

This change meant that McLane’s values and principles of leadership could be incorporated in all parts of the program. Today, FLL is fully customized to McLane, with McLane instructors leading each training and scenarios specific to real-life situations faced by leaders in McLane distribution centers.

“The Frontline Leader Training is now ‘McLane-ized,’” said Eric Gillard, senior manager of learning and organizational development. “Instead of using high-level theory or off-the-shelf examples, it’s very targeted to McLane-specific scenarios that supervisors encounter every day.”

The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. In a survey of 228 teammates who participated in the program in 2023, survey questions received between 93.4 to 99.5% positive responses. Additionally, because of these changes, 425 total supervisors were able to complete FLL in 2023 compared to 279 in 2022.

“What McLane understands well is that the focus area for building leaders has to be on the front lines, at the supervisor level,” said Gillard. “McLane’s frontline leaders are dealing with the day-to-day challenges that make or break success in an organization. We move at the speed of trust, and this program is designed to further build our trust in each other.”

Over the program’s two days, frontline leaders take part in courses starting with the basics of good leadership and ranging from organization to conflict resolution in the workplace. Leaders learn how to build and maintain a positive team culture based on trust, and how to coach, retain, and develop teammates.

A typical day of training involves a combination of presentations, exercises, discussion, and self-reflection that help leaders understand how the leadership principles they are learning align with McLane values and can be implemented in their teams. Frontline Leader Training doesn’t stop with just one two-day session, though. Supervisors are encouraged to complete the full program once a year, and shorter, follow-up refresher sessions are held monthly to help them retain what they’ve learned and track their progress.

“Frontline Leader training is relevant whether someone is brand new to leadership or has spent 20 years in a leadership role,” said Charles “Chip” Pray, general manager of McLane Phoenix. “Perhaps the most important part is the follow-up and constant reminder of the valuable leadership foundations that FLL teaches. It re-energizes supervisors and their teams to strive for operational excellence.”
On his team, Pray says that he has been impressed with how the Frontline Leader Training encourages supervisors to take more ownership of their roles, better understanding the kind of decisions they are able to make and how to lead their teams through change. The positive changes in supervisors’ leadership skills and confidence levels have helped build trust and facilitated effective communication and feedback within teams.

Supervisors vouch for the program as well, speaking highly of the knowledge they gained and responding positively to constructive feedback surveys. One supervisor noted, “I came in apprehensive about spending two days in training, but I actually learned a lot…It was good to take a step back and I often found myself self-assessing where I’ve done things right and wrong.”

The future of the Frontline Leader Training is bright, with plans to make the program bigger and better in 2024. This year, McLane plans to expand FLL to all distribution centers through regional courses taught by McLane’s training generalists, who are certified FLL instructors. A more streamlined, automated sign-up process for distribution centers has already been implemented, and 15 completed the program in the first quarter of 2024. Going forward, McLane will offer yearly repeat training for all supervisors, while continually adjusting the course to enhance engagement and preparation, including operational training for a comprehensive onboarding program.

“I am really excited to see how supervisors who participate in FLL and similar programs learn and grow,” said Sage Devyldere, training generalist for learning and organizational development at McLane Phoenix. “FLL is a kickoff for ongoing development, and it’s incredible to see people taking advantage of these lessons and investing in this opportunity.”

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