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A blended approach for future leaders at Noble Foods

The challenge

A company more than 100 years old naturally goes through many evolutions, but in 2019 Noble Foods came full circle when the great-granddaughter of its founder brought it back into family ownership. 


The family acquisition signalled a significant shift in values and culture and the start of a new learning and development journey for the organisation’s leaders. In this case study, Louisa Hogarty, group HR director at Noble Foods, shares details of this leadership development journey and its impact to date.
 

The solution

 

A cultural change and a fresh look at leadership development

Noble Foods had humble beginnings. In 1920, William Dean started selling eggs from a wicker basket and a horse and cart. From there the business prospered over the decades and it expanded and acquired other brands. The company is best known today for its Happy Egg Co and Big & Fresh brands.


Until March 2019, when Sarah Dean brought the company back into family ownership, the preceding decades had been dominated by finance. As Louisa Hogarty explains, “There was an absolute famine of leadership development and people development. The sole focus of the business was to increase profit.


Sarah Dean wanted to change all that. She was and still is very passionate about building a culture she could be proud of. A culture that reflected the family’s values and would sustain the organisation for the next 100 years. Such a culture required a focus on people development and building leaders who could drive the organisation forward in the right way.
 

“We started with some fundamental refresher training.” Explains Louisa Hogarty. “But it soon became very clear that there was a distinct lack of leadership knowledge and expertise in business. The culture of ‘do what I tell you to do’ had severely restricted our leadership capability.”


There followed several years of upskilling from a leadership perspective. After that, Louisa and the executive team could start to see some green shoots and emerging leaders arise. 


Towards the end of 2022, when they were reviewing their talent, Noble Foods could see they had a few more people appearing in higher potential boxes than they had previously seen. 
It was time to supercharge leadership development, and that prompted Louisa to bring in support and expertise from Talupp.

  

The result

 

Supercharging leadership development


Louisa Hogarty initially identified 16 people to be part of this new leadership development programme.


It was all about supercharging their leadership capability, with specific aims to:

  • Build their confidence as leaders

  • Expose them to different and more challenging circumstances

  • Strengthen their networks

  • Enhance their understanding of themselves as leaders

Louisa approached Ines Wichert at Talupp to help them create this new leadership development programme. “I’d met Ines around a decade ago and kept in touch.” Explains Louisa. “I knew her occupational psychology insights would be really important for this programme. A huge part of what we needed to do was grounded in assessment. We wanted to really get under the skin of our leaders and find out who they really are, not who they had learned to be.” 


Noble Foods considered one other potential provider, but ultimately chose Talupp for two main reasons; first was their occupational psychology background and closeness to assessment, and second was the highly cost-effective approach Talupp could offer. 


In addition to that, Louisa explains that the style of the delivery Talupp could offer was a big positive for Noble Foods: “We didn’t want something off the shelf. We wanted to create something that would see the whole person. But we wanted to do that in a way that was kind, caring and empathetic, but that would also push our leaders and be an agitator, but in a safe environment.”

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The Noble Foods future leaders programme

In response to this brief, Talupp developed a comprehensive future leaders programme for Noble Foods that was launched in 2023 (see diagram). The programme has a strong digital backbone that supports all programme elements, delivers the 360 and provides an activities log for participants.


 

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Leader assessment and diagnostics

The first phase, following the launch event, was individual assessment and diagnostics.

 

Each participant used Talupp’s one-click key strengths assessment to log their key experiences quickly and easily. This was supplemented by personality profiling and 360-degree feedback.

 

The assessment phase concluded in September 2023 with an in-person assessment centre (diagnostics day). This included role play and simulated exercises to create an incredibly robust and reliable assessment of everyone on the leadership programme. Each Noble Foods leader met one-to-one with a Talupp coach to discuss the results of their assessments and the key output was a personalised development plan.

 

The diagnostic phase was necessarily in-depth, as Louisa Hogarty explains: “While the assessment went on over quite a long period of time, that really helped with the leaders’ reflection.”Talupp ensured that all assessments were aligned to the existing Noble Foods behaviours and ensured that the language matched what was already being used in the organisation. At the end of the diagnostics phase was a celebration. During this event, participants were encouraged to share their own insights from the assessment. This was important in bringing the cohort together, as Louisa Hogarty explains: “Up until that point, they had been on an individual journey. From then on, they were a group with shared experiences and a common goal. They started learning together.” 

Coaching

One-to-one coaching from Talupp supported leadership development. This enabled each participant to understand exactly what to do with the feedback they had received in the first phase of the programme. It also sets everyone up for success in the important development project phase of the programme.  

High impact development projects

The participants in the Noble Foods future leaders programme were split into three groups for their development projects. The projects were designed to deliver against a key business objective and also enable the participants to ‘learn by doing’ as they are supported through the project.


“One of the biggest opportunities was the outside in.”Explained Louisa Hogarty. “We wanted to address any insularity and also not just give them a ‘run of the mill’ business thing to do.


“To drive that external perspective, we teamed up with Magic Breakfast on two of the three projects. Magic Breakfast is a key long-term charity partner for Noble Foods.”


Noble Foods knew that Magic Breakfast faced some challenges and that its leaders could work on projects to help address them. One of the projects concerned logistics and how Magic Breakfast could best meet its aim of delivering a healthy breakfast to thousands of children in the UK.  The other looks at geographical growth for the charity.


The third project had a much broader remit and asked the participants to think big and come up with thinking and ideas for a potential £250 million budget. “We want to see them dreaming and really hope we’ll get something new out of this project.” Says Louisa Hogarty.
“Although the projects were 100% outside the organisation, the experiences were directly relevant to the day-to-day work of the participants and were clearly linked to us.” Revealed Louisa Hogarty.  


All three projects had clear learning objectives for the participants: 

  • Creative problem solving

  • Coaching others

  • High-impact presentations

The final output of the projects will be a presentation to the senior leadership team in October 2024.

Action learning groups
 

To support leadership development, alongside the one-to-one coaching, participants were allocated to one of two action learning groups. Talupp facilitated three meetings for the groups to embed the individual coaching and support peer coaching (learning from each other) across the group. 

Results to date

The Noble Foods future leaders programme is progressing very well.

 

The initial aggregated data from the assessment phase provided the leadership team with some valuable insights. Louisa Hogarty explains, “We did not see the individual reports – those are for the people taking part – but the aggregated data revealed that we still had a group of people who wanted to be told what to do. That was hard to hear as we thought they’d moved on. However, it was fundamental to knowing what needed to change.

 

“That insight has not only influenced the rest of this future leaders programme, but it has also influenced the wider work among our leaders. We looked at what we were doing to limit our future leaders' ability to take more initiative.”The structure of the programme has also successfully driven participant engagement in the development.

 

“The individuals have been super energised.” Says Louisa Hogarty. The initial assessment was daunting for some, but they all totally agreed with what they needed to work on.“The coaching feedback has also been exceptional.” Continues Louisa Hogarty. “People have gone out of their way to tell me how brilliant it’s been. It’s really great to hear that it’s working.“The participants are already gaining confidence – and that’s what it’s about. The more they have confidence the more they’ll give ideas, feedback and challenge. We’ve not quite nailed it yet, but it’s all great progress along that journey.

 

”Noble Foods has worked extremely closely with Talupp throughout the development and delivery of the Future Leaders programme. Talupp created the programme, ran the assessments and has delivered bite-size action learning and coaching. Continuity of coaches was particularly important for Louisa Hogarty: “Coaching relationships have rolled on into the project phase. This has delivered real value as our future leaders can receive coaching directly relevant to the project, and they have the psychological safety to explore their development as the relationship with the coaches was already established. ”Throughout the whole programme, Talupp has kept us on track.” Continues Louisa Hogarty.

 

“They’ve been extremely flexible as well, bringing in some extra, observational coaching and a few parts of new learning where the need was identified. They really work in partnership with you.“Ines Wichert from Talupp [programme director] has also come back to the leadership team at regular times to share external feedback to the wider leadership team. She has a good rapport with the leadership team, and everyone respects her opinion.”The outputs of the special projects are due to be presented by participants later this year. However, the future leaders involved in this programme are already benefiting from its careful curation of insights, learning (bite-size, coaching and on-the-job) and development. It’s a strong blend that delivers exactly what Noble Foods needed.

They’ve been extremely flexible as well, bringing in some extra, observational coaching and a few parts of new learning where the need was identified. They really work in partnership with you.“Ines Wichert from Talupp [programme director] has also come back to the leadership team at regular times to share external feedback to the wider leadership team. She has a good rapport with the leadership team, and everyone respects her opinion.”

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