At Turkey Hill Dairy, talent development is a key ingredient to creating a high-performing organization. In this Powered by Learning podcast episode, Grayce Langheine, Manager, Talent Management & Culture Development, Turkey Hill Dairy, shares how she and her team help inspire close to 1,000 workers every day.
In this episode, you'll learn more about the connection between training and performance. Grayce Langheine, Manager, Talent Management & Culture Development, Turkey Hill Dairy shares these take-aways and more.
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Susan Court: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning. I'm your host, Susan Court. With me is d'Vinci CEO, Luke Kempski. Today, we are going to talk with Grayce Langheine, manager, talent management, and culture development at Turkey Hill Dairy about the connection between training, employee development, empowerment, retention, and culture. Luke, I'm really looking forward to the conversation with Grayce.
Luke Kempski: Yes, me too.
Susan: For our listeners who aren't familiar with Turkey Hill Dairy, the company is well-known for its delicious variety of ice cream, frozen dairy treats, milk, iced teas, and fruit drinks. It includes a manufacturing operation, distribution facility, and corporate office in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, and manufacturing in Searcy, Arkansas. Their products are found nationwide. In addition, the company operates the very fun Turkey Hill Experience, a tourist destination where visitors learn about dairy culture, the company's story, and how ice cream and iced tea are created. Welcome, Grayce.
Grayce Langheine: Thanks so much for having me, Susan and Luke.
Luke: Great to see you again.
Susan: Grayce, let's start out. Tell us a little bit about your experience and what you're doing in your current position.
Grayce: Sure thing. My experience is largely in manufacturing and especially food manufacturing, and isn’t central Pennsylvania the perfect place for that? There are so many food manufacturers in this area and there's something about working with food that is just so exciting because if you ever get any freebies, then it's probably going to be delicious.
I've worked in food manufacturing for about, goodness time flies by, close to 20 years now, either in a leadership function or in a training function. Currently, like you said, I'm with Turkey Hill, been there for five years now, and my responsibilities have slightly changed over the years, but always been a focus on talent development as a major function. In addition to that, I've picked up talent acquisition, performance management, and culture development. Man, I really love that challenge of trying to make all of those things play well with each other and make sense with each other and become one cohesive thing that ultimately works to make the culture at Turkey Hill, and the people at Turkey Hill really love their jobs and love what we do and the products we serve.
Luke: I know in our family, we definitely love the products that you have, and have a refrigerator and freezer full of them.
Susan: Yes, same here.
Luke: Grayce, with Turkey Hill having manufacturing, distribution and office employees and sales employees, how do you try to get a commitment to learning and development across all those areas?
Grayce: We really are one big hill of lots of different types of functions. Like you said, it's manufacturing, it's sales, it's fabrication, and diesel mechanics and marketing and finance and trade marketing. Man, I certainly could not know all of those functions myself. I was talking the other day to a vendor, and they were explaining to me the value of their product. It was a really great product, and my answer to them was it's incredibly valuable and a company with one or two functions will benefit greatly from that, but with our span of roles, some products don't make sense for us, or some approaches don't make sense.
Ultimately for us, it’s a both/and. It's both recognizing that there are some things that everybody has in common, most people are the same in a few different things. Most people want to learn. Most people enjoy learning new things and training. This is why, one of the reasons why how-to videos are so popular. People love to learn. Most people also don't want to be talked to like their children. Most people want to be recognized for the things that they already know, and most people will resist training if it's required. It doesn't matter what position they're in. I tell you what, if it's somebody who works on the shop floor or somebody who works in the office, most people are like, "Uh, it's required. I got to go." If it's not required, somehow they're excited about it.
At the same time, it's both/and, it's also creating learning solutions that are incredibly custom-tailored for that particular person or that particular group. It can't feel like it's cookie-cutter because people see right through that. Most people are adults, they love learning and at the same time don't want to be forced into it. For all of those positions, and like I said, most people get excited about training. I don't want to exclude the truck driver, who's very interested in active listening skills. I don't want to make assumptions about his or her role. And then the 40-year veteran, who's really excited about the latest in data analytics. We have people been with the company for 45 years and they love learning new technology, and so it's not making assumptions about what people's motivations are. Really treating everybody the same in those respects, but also creating a really personal experience.
So, we're going to create training that's accessible to everyone. We're not making assumptions about what they are or not interested in, and most people want to be trained in a way that's best for them. We want to make sure that the training itself doesn't feel like it's coming from a-- It's built for a kindergartener. It's built for adults. Then we have to be really flexible in providing several learning solutions for the same topic. I have time management as a classroom training, and I also have time management as an online training. I have it on demand and I also have it as a one-hour lunch and learn. Most people have the same feelings about learning. They're excited about it if you approach it from the right direction and most people don't or can't respond to that cookie-cutter approach to learning, either because their schedule doesn't accommodate for it or because they have a different method that they'd like to learn.
Luke: It sounds like people really are inspired to want to learn at Turkey Hill. How do you take that into their expectation as an employee? Or how does that get fostered in your culture? Do you have it as one of their core values? Do you have a motto or is there something that really brings it to the forefront in your culture?
Grayce: I think at the end of the day, it's where the rubber hits the road. We've worked incredibly hard within our team to create and build a reputation of when you come to one of our training sessions, you're going to walk away with a new tool, with a new lesson learned. Training in the classroom is not where the magic happens. As learning professionals, we spend a lot of time and energy on making sure that everything either in that virtual classroom or a physical classroom is right, but that's really not where the magic happens. The magic happens outside of the classroom, and so our biggest focus is two things.
And these are our core values within our learning team is customer service. So, we're going to listen to the customer, adapt to their schedule. We're going to listen to their feedback. We're going to respond to them quickly. If we have to cancel something, we are doing everything within our power to reach out to them and make sure that they don't find out at the last minute. So, customer service, and then really creating value with that training. It's where the rubber hits the road. They've got to walk away with something that's going to help them.
Ultimately, you look at what's the point then? What's the point of learning and development? For some people, we're in the workplace, it does come down to is this going to result in a job promotion or something of that sort? We do have a structure, for example, within our manufacturing positions where we have a low-level leadership program that's completely voluntary. Again, it's up to the individual to sign up for this stuff.
We also don't put any restrictions on it. You don't have to apply for any of these classes. You can just go sign up. It doesn't matter what skill level you are. You can be in the door for two days and sign up. We have these leadership courses, it takes about a year and a half, maybe two years to get through all of the courses and they include assessments. Not only are you going to take a course on meeting facilitation, but I'm going to go attend one of your meetings and watch you facilitate it, and I'm going to assess your ability to facilitate that meeting. They have several skill boxes they have to complete, and at the end of that, they get a significant pay increase and a promotion.
Throughout that program, now we're seeing the long-lasting effects of it. The long-lasting effects are three years into this program, of the people who have completed it, 95% are still within the company and this is for manufacturing positions, and one-third of them have moved on to being a supervisor, a continuous improvement leader, a mechanic, into even higher levels of the organization. Those kinds of results are things that people can attach to and say, "Oh, that makes a lot of sense. I'm going to go to an internal training session, virtually or in the classroom, within Turkey Hill, and that could potentially lead to a promotion or a pay raise."
Between having incredible customer service, and then making sure that we have tangible results, we don't have to do as much. We do marketing on dates and times and things like that, but our reputation precedes us over time, that if you come to one of our learning sessions, you're going to love it.
Luke: That's great. Obviously, you're seeing the individuals taking advantage of the offerings, plus getting the respect and rewards out of that and really becoming more empowered. So then, how does that lead to a business impact on the company?
Grayce: Sure. That's a tricky one, empowering employees. We talk about this as an organization, about how it is a mix between allowing people to make decisions, and also coaching them through that because if you let go too soon then people feel lost. If you don't let go soon enough then people feel micromanaged, and it's a balance between the two. We have within our leadership training program for our managers, for our supervisors, we talk about the balance between those things, and our retention of our skilled associates. That's a major impact, I talked about that business impact already.
Those manufacturing hourly positions, people are sticking around, and even on an off-shift, and that's a huge impact. Other business impacts it's harder to put numbers on, but we're seeing ideas that we wouldn't have otherwise identified. One example, I love working with our distribution leadership team, so this is our fleet, we've got 150 truck drivers, and several team leads and supervisors within that structure. Our team leads or supervisors have all been promoted from within. They all used to drive a truck, I love that, but they created a process. There are times where we may get a new customer or we decide to move around routes because of construction.
There's a lot of different reasons why we might move a driver route, so a driver may have five stops within a day, for example, and we need to move those around. Every time they consider a new route, they invite the driver who drives that route into the office and then they work through that together, and the drivers bring up issues that the supervisors might not even consider. You would think, "The supervisors are still certified to drive a truck. They know how to drive a truck, why can't they do that? They know the job." But do they really know, that at this one particular store on Wednesdays, the store manager always comes in half-an-hour early, and their car is parked on the right side of the parking lot where we typically park, whereas Thursdays, they're not parked there?
The truck drivers know these tiny little details that make their day easier and isn't that really what learning is about? Is how do I make life easier and more enjoyable? If I can get some more knowledge or some more skills, or adjust my behaviors, then can I make life more enjoyable or easier for myself or for others?
Those are some of the business impacts that our distribution team-- They decided to do that on their own. We talked about empowerment with them, and then they identified a method in which they can apply it to their business and said, "Oh, why don't we bring them in?" I never would have thought of that.
First off, our leadership team, we're empowering them to make more decisions, and then our leadership team is empowering then our truck drivers to make those suggestions. Plenty of other examples like that. These are ideas that we would not have otherwise requested or would not have been identified, but now they're bubbling up to the surface.
Luke: Yes, understood, that's great. When you talk about leadership within the whole organization, I would imagine that talent development and retention are part of the overarching business strategy. What are the mechanics of how you align business strategy in what you're doing in your area?
Grayce: Aligning business strategy and us in the area, first, of course, it's looking at the overall strategy of the company. Like any company, we have main goals, and one of those is tied directly to human resources, and it's becoming a more high-performing organization, that's one of our pillars. Then, from that, we absolutely have to make sure that we're not a passive player. So, what I'm not going to do as the L&D expert within the organization, is wait for my CEO to say, "Hey, you should have this as a key focus for the next year," or, "That is a key focus." I look at the business goals, and I say, "Oh, here's how we can contribute to that."
As soon as we see the organizational focus for the next year, I'm sitting down with my team, and I'm saying, "Look, team, here's what our CEO has given us. This is the big business goals of the next year. How can we help supplement that? How can we help support and make this easier for the whole team?" And then, we're going to come up with a list of things to do. We just finished this actually for next year.
Luke: What initiatives do you have coming up for next year, anything?
Grayce: Oh my goodness. It's going to be an exciting year for our team. We pulled talent acquisition into our group, and it was previously not there. We're working to connect that candidate experience with the onboarding experience in totally different ways. We're looking at workforce planning using a workforce planning tool that connects recruiting with individual development plans and succession planning. Those are really cool things individually, but if you can get them all to play together, holy moly. Again, this is something that you see more often with industries that have similar roles across the organization.
Can it be done with multiple functions across your organization? Absolutely, because I'm looking ultimately-- In the past, we had a finance manager, for example. Awesome, awesome, awesome leader, who, she showed an interest in being a warehouse manager, and we said, "You know what? Absolutely, because you're a great people leader, and having a finance background could be really cool in warehouse." We, on the acquisition side and on the development side, have to not pigeonhole people into a specific silo. We're leveraging our social media in the next year to both attract candidates and to engage our current workforce, like using employee spotlights.
During our intern season, we highlighted Alex, who's one of our employees who started with us as an intern and now works at our IT Support Center. That's connecting our current intern class that we had in the summer at the time, attracts our next intern class, engages Alex, engages his whole team, we post it on LinkedIn, and then they start giving him kudos on the same post. Then, potential candidates see that. They want to work for us, and they say, "How do I develop?" By the way, here's your individual development plan, and by the way, here's the classes that support that.
Susan: It's really smart to tie that all together.
Luke: Yes, it sounds like that's a really good way for any L&D leader to engage both their current team members and then also their prospective ones. Do you have any advice for someone else who's a learning and development leader, and how to create that learning culture?
Grayce: Yes, absolutely. Again, most people feel the same way about learning, but different roles within a company have vastly different challenges. While I don't think that any one person has to know every job to be effective, I do think it's a great use of time to partner and build relationships with those functions to understand that department's challenges. When is their busy season? What's their biggest complaint? What are they most proud of? Because I can sit back, and I think I know their struggles but do I really know their struggles?
If I'm connecting with my truck drivers-- I keep going to my truck drivers. They're a great group though. I wouldn't say, "Oh, you're spending hours and hours alone in your truck." In fact, it depends on which department they're in. In the DTR side, they go directly to one or two locations but my DSD truck drivers, Direct Store Delivery, they interact with the public quite a bit. They love customer interaction, and they have several stops along the way. They actually spend more time with other people than they do in their truck by themselves.
Susan: DTR, is that Direct To Retail or…?
Grayce: Oh my goodness, there is a legend behind how DTR was selected as the initials for those truck drivers. What it means is they go directly to one location, but there is controversy over what those letters actually mean. It depends on who you ask.
Susan: Top secret.
Grayce: At the end of the day if you ask them, they will say just go with it, so that's what we go with. They go to one location. It's really I think understanding what are their challenges, what are they proud of, what do they enjoy doing, what do they hate doing? If I'm building out classroom training, then I'm going to choose a conference room that's closest to that group. If I need to start training at 2:00 AM because that's when those people are most alert then it's going to be at 2:00 AM. I'm not going to start training for the office until after 9:00 AM, otherwise, I'm going to get some moans and groans.
It's a lot to balance but understanding that they're balancing a lot too. It's being incredibly customer-focused instead of getting everyone to understand my function. I don't need other people to understand Adult Learning Theory or Kolb's model. I really need to adjust to them, so building relationships, real relationships, and insisting on that genuine connection above learning objectives, above the lesson plan, and even above what other people think they want to learn. I think it's aggressively seeking connection within each one of those functions so that you can make it personal and then people are open to learning something. It's how do we get them open to learn and once they're open to learn, oh man, people just love learning. Creating that personal connection allows people to be ready to learn.
Luke: That's great, Grayce. I think you did a tremendous job of really tying it all together there. Really showing the connection between the team members, the love of learning, the motivation to develop, and to be empowered, and then to have an impact on the business. It's really, really well done.
Grayce: Thanks so much.
Susan: You can tell that you know your individual learners, you respect their learning journey and that has to translate into a really positive work experience and totally supports retaining those wonderful employees that you have, so you can tell the impact that your department has on doing that, Grayce.
Grayce: Yes, thanks for that.
Susan: Thank you very much for taking time to talk with us today, Grayce.
Grayce: Thanks so much.
Luke: Yes, best of luck.
Susan: Luke, it's always so great to talk with Grayce. She's got such energy and passion for learning and development. What were some of the key takeaways that you got from the conversation today?
Luke: I think there were some really good ones. First, they really look at their employees wanting to learn. No matter what position they're in, they open up their curriculum, there's no restrictions to anybody taking any course, they're just interested in it, which leads to that learning culture.
She also talked about that when learning is mandated, there's less enthusiasm for it, but when you open up things people are more inspired to actually take the classes. She also said that it's factored into their promotion opportunities, so having that learning path leads to opportunities to progress in their careers. She talked about how they do assessment and evaluation in the case of, she mentions a person learning meeting facilitation skills, and that they actually observed that person facilitate a meeting as their final evaluation for that learning.
She talked about how the learning function and the talent development function within Turkey Hill has led to higher retention rates than appears that they have in the area. She also talked about how a lot of their leaders and supervisors come from the ranks so that the learning and development are really having an impact when it comes to the promotion of team members into those higher ranks.
Lastly when she was really looking at the future and how they're tying recruitment into on-boarding, into talent development, and even into succession planning and really looking at that employee development, talent development experience holistically and really using her role and her team to support that all the way through.
Susan: Really looking at that life cycle of that team member, very important.
Luke: Yes, and very different.
Susan: Thanks Luke, great talking with you and with Grayce and we appreciate everyone listening. If you have any questions about what we talked about today, you can reach out to us on d'Vinci Social Channels, through our website dvinci.com or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Announcer 2: Powered by learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.