Retail is one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world for both customers and talent. Musgrave needed an outstanding graduate programme to attract, develop and retain early career talent to work with their market-leading brands.
Musgrave, with 10 market leading food brands including Supervalu, Centra, MarketPlace and Frank and Honest, feeds 1 in 3 people in Ireland. Musgrave needed to invest in high-potential talent early in their careers to ensure they become part of Musgrave’s future. In response Musgrave partnered with IMI to develop a world-class graduate development programme.
Winning the Talent War
Musgrave identified the need to differentiate itself from its competitors in the search for top early career talent. With both retail and wholesale brands, the business operates in a highly competitive graduate employment market which has grown exponentially in the past few years.
As Musgrave offers graduate options in a range of streams from Finance to Supply Chain to Buying, they are not limited to looking for graduates interested in purely in a retail or wholesale environment rather they compete against other established graduate employers in the accounting, FMCG and retail sector.
Up against well-established, well-recognised and heavily resourced graduate offerings, Musgrave required a programme that would attract the top graduates available and would deliver real value for both sides.
For Musgrave, the value came by accelerating the graduates’ development and reducing future turnover. A key part of this strategy was to assess graduates against key competencies identified in high performance talent in Musgrave and for fit against
the company’s values. In other words, rather than simply selecting the 20 ‘best’ graduates out there, they selected the 20 best graduates for Musgraves.
‘The Musgrave graduate programme is, for me, very personalised to both the graduate and the business unit they work in’ said Siobhain Scanlon, Early Careers Manager at Musgrave and lead for the graduate programme. ‘We don’t just look at a graduate’s grades and education, we look at how they would work with others, how the interests they have outside could be harnessed in their day-to-day working lives and how their ambitions sit within Musgrave. Musgrave is a fast-paced and tough environment; our graduates have to rise to that challenge.’
Developing Leaders for Now and the Future
Carried out over two years, the Musgrave graduate programme is focused on both developing practical skills and the graduates themselves as professionals.
The delivery is flexible based on the needs of the individual participants. As graduates will rotate within the function, and potentially across different business units, this agility in delivery is essential – a graduates’ needs at the beginning of a programme will typically be very different than what they need when it ends.
‘The graduate programme has two main themes’ said Siobhain ‘the first is about developing those practical and professional skills they need to thrive in a work environment. The second stream is about developing them as people, as team members and as future leaders in Musgraves. The overarching narrative is shifting their mindset from being graduates to leaders; not an easy step to make.’
Modules on the programme include general professional skills development such as Presentation Skills, Communicating Effectively, Decision-Making and Problem Solving, Sales & Marketing, Project Management and Change Management, amongst others. Tailored modules such as Transitioning to the World of Retail and Retail Leadership wrap these skills to the environment in which Musgrave operates.
This is capped off with a business project which the graduates undertake in the final few months of the Programme. The graduates are assigned a business question to research which is aligned to the Musgrave strategic objectives. The graduates are mentored by senior managers in the business and also avail of group coaching within the IMI.
They present their findings and recommendations to the CEO and Executive team of Musgrave at the Graduate Summit held in summer. The Graduate Summit brings together all graduate cohorts, senior management teams from across the business and graduate managers for an opportunity to recognise the work completed by graduates in the business and provide insights to managers and graduates alike on the early career experience in Musgrave.
‘This generation of graduates is just as worried about being ready for the future economy as any other’ said Julie Ryan, Head of IMI Customised Solutions. ‘Our programme directors designed programmes that give them both the skills they need to be impactful in their work today, but also the mindset they need whenever the landscape shifts.’
Results and Business Impacts
The Musgrave Graduate experience is one of a personalised journey of professional development to leadership excellence, all under the umbrella of the retail and wholesale sector. This personalised journey is extremely difficult to achieve, but the results speak for themselves.
‘We have focused on attracting and retaining high potential individuals. This requires a flexible approach at times and recognising the area of the business where these graduates can really grow and thrive. Musgrave has had evolving graduate career paths for over 25 years and with this development programme, it has allowed us to really focus in how we can develop and retain this early career talent and also build a platform where high potential individuals can return if they do decide to explore other career areas’ said Siobhain. ‘Graduates typically join our Progamme straight from higher education and may look to get the travel bug out of their system in the early stages of their careers. Over the past few years, we have had former programme participants return to us after completing their travels and we see this as a real stamp of approval for the experience they get with us.’
The business impacts of the programme have resulted in a significant investment from Musgrave leadership over the next 2-3 years which, in an industry under constant profit margin pressure, is a testament to the impact the graduates have made.
The programme has also been nationally recognised – a real achievement in the competitive graduate space. In 2018 Ross Kerrigan, a participant on the programme, won the gradireland ‘Graduate of the Year’ award. The programme was also shortlisted in the Best Training & Development Programme – Business/General Programmes, Graduate Employer of the Year and Best Internship Programme <50 intake category. The programme also won the Best Talent Development Initiative at the 2018 IITD National Training Awards (Irish Institute of Training & Development).
At the recent 2019 gradireland awards, Musgraves won the Graduate Employer of the Year, Best Training and Development Programme for Business/Management Programmes and silver for Best Graduate Recruitment Website.
Former graduates from the Programme have progressed to senior roles in the business up to and including Director level. This includes Financial Controllers, Head of Trading Strategy & Planning, Head of Business Change, Retail Marketing Manager, Operations Manager and Own Brand Operations Manager.
‘When you take a step back and look at how graduates are contributing to our business and the commercial awareness that they develop over the course of the programme, you realise the real impact it has had and will have’ said Siobhain. ‘We have created a pipeline of future leaders for Musgraves – this is something to be proud of.’