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Leadership Development at Farmlands Co-operative

Sunflower seeds


In 2016 Farmlands Co-operative embarked on a three-year total business transformation to support their vision of preparing themselves and their stakeholders for the future.

The ‘Braveheart’ programme touches every aspect of Farmlands and impacts on all staff, uniting them as one business, one culture, one brand, one technology platform and one single view of their customers/shareholders. It will see Farmlands become a data-centric organisation, which will enable shareholders to harness data to make evidence-based decisions to enhance their own business performance.

‘Leading Farmlands Together’ is a six-month learning journey, with four face-to-face modules delivered across the whole of New Zealand.

160 executives and senior and frontline leaders have completed the programme. The impact on individuals, teams and the organisation has been incredibly positive and has created a step change in leadership at Farmlands through the digital transformation.

Braveheart is one of New Zealand’s most significant digital transformations (the fifth largest programme for Microsoft globally by scale and complexity) with ambitious strategic objectives and culture change required.

Farmlands recognised that leadership capability is critical to successfully delivering their business transformation and worked in partnership with Impact to custom-design a unique leadership development programme aligned to their vision and including content centred on their three strategic priorities:

  • Enduring customer relationships 
  • Impregnable business model
  • Leading agricultural knowledge & expertise

Farmlands has a loyal workforce who are passionate about delivering outstanding service to their shareholders. Many enthusiastic managers had been recruited into leadership positions but had not received appropriate support to develop leadership confidence or capability. Whilst there were pockets of excellence, there were also significant skill deficits.

The aim of the programme is to ensure leaders are prepared and best-equipped to work with the business and shareholders on the change journey. This significant cultural shift required silos to be broken down, leaders to connect throughout the whole organisation and teams to work together across business units and geographies. This new collaborative operating model was named Together StrongerTM.

The programme follows a natural journey of discovery, designed around a variety of experiences that connect with local communities.

Module 1 – Lead yourself Learning why leadership is critical to the wider business transformation, reflection on self, growth mindset focus and Action Learning Projects (ALPs) are launched.

Module 2 – Build your impact Equips leaders with the tools and skills to be able to lead business performance, be resilient, strengthen culture and inspire and develop others.

Module 3 – Take your people with you Makes critical links between leadership and successful change, imparts strategies and the confidence to deliver the transformation.

Module 4 – Deliver the results together Develops and executes strategy, reflects on the journey and sets leadership goals.

The learning was applied in the workplace with a ‘whole of business’ approach, supported with 1:1 coaching for continued development. ALP progress was presented to a senior stakeholder panel with an emphasis on constructive feedback. As a result, participants were able to reflect back on their practice and leave with clear priorities and an established network, to ensure enterprise-wide collaboration and problem solving.

Leadership skills increased and culture improved: Increases in living the values across the organisation, greater readiness for change and people feeling they are being supported through the transformation.

Social identity improved (sense of belonging and togetherness), and participants felt more supported by their colleagues.

Exceptionally large increase in productivity (for participants and their direct reports), suggests people are enjoying their jobs more and feeling more constructive in the workplace.

The programme also influenced people metric trends:

  • Wellbeing: Average sick leave decreased and personal wellbeing increased.
  • Retention: Average staff turnover decreased.
  • Engagement: Participation in performance/career development sessions increased from 23% to 95%. Employee NPS improved from -17 to -8 over 12 months.
  • Quarterly pulse survey: Participation increased from 49% to 86%, with improvements across most areas. 
  • Positive business metric analysis Farmlands produced another year of growth and profitability in 2018-19, with revenues higher than in 2017 and a profit of more than double the previous financial year.

Impact, in partnership with Farmlands Co-operative, won a coveted Brandon Hall Group gold award for excellence in the 'Best Advance in Leadership Development' category and a Brandon Hall Group bronze award for excellence in the 'Best Learning Programme Supporting a Change Transformation Business Strategy' category.

Impact's win was announced on August 26th 2019. Learn more about The Excellence Awards.
Sara Shea
Head of Organisation Development
Farmlands Co-operative
“We have seen a significant shift in leadership capability and subsequent impact on organisational performance. Leaders have the confidence, skills and belief to lead their teams through change. This programme has also made a significant difference in raising awareness about the wellbeing and resilience of individual leaders and the important role they play in supporting our people, particularly through business transformation.”
Peter Reidle
Farmlands Co-operative
“The programme has been exciting and stimulating and people have wanted to pick up the ball and run with it. We now have highly motivated and developing leaders and that has put us in a better place on our journey.”
Brad Smith
Programme Participant
Farmlands Co-operative
“It has really changed me as a person but also you can see the change around the organisation.”