Sainsbury’s + t-three: Trainee Manager Programme

In 2018 supermarket group Sainsbury’s, which employs 178,000 people in the UK, completed one of its largest reorganisations to meet the challenges of today’s fiercely competitive retail food market. New roles were needed for the next generation of leaders, with better pay and increased levels of responsibility to improve engagement and help Sainsbury’s future strategy.

The company wanted a programme to accelerate high potential employees into leadership positions. Delivered by internal L&D managers, it required a deep understanding of the business and the technical/behavioural skills needed to be an outstanding store leader and custodian of the culture within Sainsbury’s stores.

"It opened my eyes to how I want to behave as a leader"

Sainsbury’s appointed behavioural change consultancy, t-three, to design this innovative blended learning programme. Following consultation with the business, a bespoke online learning platform, Trainee Manager Launch Pad was created. A self-directed training approach was adopted, supported by the platform. Action learning sets, online learning, on-the-job learning and in-store challenges were all used. Each month new topic areas were introduced by Store Heroes – senior individuals who role model the behaviours Sainsbury’s looks for in their colleagues.

Outcomes surpassed expectations. One of the key objectives was to place people into Grade 3 management roles within six months, when it had previously taken two to three years. By the end of the six-month programme all trainee managers were placed into Grade 3 or higher roles. Even better, 80% of trainee managers went into even more senior roles as store manager roles, 96% of all online goals were completed and on average a 93% improvement was recorded in the goal areas set. But it’s the words of participants that perhaps show best the impact this programme has had. As one says: “This programme changed me as a person for the better outside of work, as well as inside.” Another adds: “It opened my eyes to how I want to behave as a leader.” These participants are truly living the Sainsbury’s values.