Action is a fast-growing international non-food discounter with more than 1,300 stores in seven countries. In recent years, Action has opened around 200 new stores each year. This rapid growth has had a major impact on learning and development among the people within the organisation. To face the challenges and ensure continual growth for all its employees, Action has teamed up with training partner Schouten Global, because Action knows that its people are what sets it apart.
Action gives its employees the opportunity to develop at every level of the organization. It works with training partners like Schouten Global to develop and implement individualised training programs. Despite the broad diversity among its workforce, all Action employees have one thing in common: they identify with and live by the company’s values.
Action’s values are customer-centricity, cost-awareness, simplicity, teamwork and discipline. As Learning & Development Manager Dianne Beerepoot says, ‘These values reflect what Action stands for. They are the basis for our success. Even though each country has its own culture, 95% of the training content we offer is identical across all countries. That means Action’s company culture comes before national cultures.’
No complaining, just action
As Director of Store Operations, Bart Raeymaekers is internationally responsible for all the company’s stores. He knows better than anyone about the possibilities for development within Action. He first learned about the organisation in 2012. ‘Back then, Action was still relatively unknown in Belgium [his home country]’, he says. ‘When I heard about Action for the first time, I was immediately drawn to the organisation’s values. I felt a connection with its positive, solutions-oriented approach. “No complaining, just action.” That really resonated with me.’ Raeymaekers left behind his career at a successful food retailer for a new challenge with Action. He started as Head of Sales in Belgium before eventually becoming Head of Sales in the South Netherlands region as well.
After setting up the Belgian head office for Action, he became General Manager there. Later, as General Manager in France, he oversaw a significant increase in the number of Action branches. Since April 2018, Raeymaekers has been Director of Store Operations for all of Europe. It is important to him that the store managers and their assistants (who often grow to become store managers themselves) receive the skills and tools they need for their stores to flourish.
‘Our store managers are highly driven. They are truly master sales people’, he says. ‘The Action Leadership Program, which we developed in collaboration with Schouten Global, teaches them to know themselves better and gives them insight into how they can motivate others.It provides them the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their ambitions. It’s very motivational and ensures that everything runs smoothly within the stores.’
Challenging yourself and others
Raeymaekers has witnessed the fast-paced changes at Action in recent years. ‘In 2012, my colleagues and I were faced with a huge challenge’, herecalls with some irony. ‘We had to open two stores in the same week. How were we going to pull that off? Today, we open ten or more stores in a week, and everything runs smoothly. That’s the Action approach. We continually challenge ourselves and others to improve. In my view, that’s the directresult of our training.’
‘As an organisation, we must always ask ourselves: what do our people need?’ says Raeymaekers. ‘What can we offer them? And how does this make things better, for the individual as well as for the organisation?’
A feedback culture
‘A feedback culture is not always a given everywhere in Europe’, explains Raeymaekers. ‘We made sure this is a fundamental component of our Leadership Program, because feedback is essential at Action. As a result, people can now speak their minds about what’s going on, where they might have not said anything in the past. That’s crucial, because you can’t address challenges unless you call them out in the first place. For example, when I started working as General Manager in France, I noticed that my employees hardly gave me any feedback. This was the complete opposite of what I was used to in a country like the Netherlands. I thought it was a shame, because we always need to give each other feedback if we want to improve. After the training, it became clearer to everyone that part of working at Action is giving feedback, so we can help each other improve and grow. Since then, I’ve received much more feedback and I’ve even been able to carry out a 360-degree assessment.’
A multinational training operation
Dianne Beerepootdescribesthe challenges that she and her team face: 'We are a relatively small L&D team, yet we're carrying out many different training programs in multiple countries. That means we all have to work together and stay on the same page. Action only works with partners who can roll out a specific training program in all the countries where we have branches. For our Leadership Program, as well as our aggression and violence training programs, we count on Schouten Global for all the coordination, logistics and scheduling, as well as the recruiting, onboarding and assigning of trainers. The project manager at Schouten keeps us constantly up to date. Plus, we’ve set up a back-office team, where the people from Schouten take care of all the everyday operations. It’s really an enormous job.
We’ve been working together for three years now and have invested heavily in each other. You can see the results, too. We outsource most activities that are outside our core business. However, we keep a firm hold on our vision, our training policy and the development of our people. Schouten Global ensures that our training programs are organised and carried out consistently for Action employees on all levels and in all seven countries. Thanks to the high quality and strong management from Schouten Global, the L&D team at Action can focus on our core tasks and leave the operational matters to them without any worries.’
Action is growing rapidly. At any given Action store in the Netherlands, there are 40 to 60 employees. In other countries, where it is less common to employ students to work as part-time shelf stockers, the average team size is 20. The stores are open six or seven days a week, and a manager or an assistant manager is always on duty. Diane Beerepoot says, ‘Assistant managers are sometimes young men and women in their early twenties who may have started out as part-time workers on the Saturday shift. They are responsible for keeping things running smoothly at the store when the manager is off duty. Some of them have finished their education, but others have not. Action offers them an extensive range of internal operational training, as well as the opportunity to participate in our Leadership Program. That gives them the tools they need to succeed in their jobs. But it also prepares them to grow into the role of a store manager, so they can ultimately run their own Action branch one day. Many of the assistant managers are very eager to seize this opportunity. It’s incredible to witness their transformation into driven, talented professionals.’
‘Action offers equal opportunities to all its employees’, explains Beerepoot. ‘Promotions are based on dedication and job performance. With its assistant managers, Action has the pool of high potential talent that it needs to build its future. Growth is possible on all levels at Action. Many of our current district managers were once store managers themselves.’
Employees are crucial to any organisation’s growth. Action is optimally developing its human potential to achieve its ambitions, creating a win-win basis for personal as well as organisational growth.
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