Expert Advice of the Month: How Orgill is focusing on training managers better


Laura Freeman is executive vice-president of human resources and chief human resources officer for Orgill Inc., the Memphis-based hardware distributor that serves independent hardware and building supply dealers worldwide, including hundreds in Canada.

The value of taking care of employees can’t simply be addressed with attitudes or platitudes. Your managers need the skills to push awareness and sensitivity down to the shop level. For Laura Freeman, who heads up HR for Orgill Inc., that means a dedicated program of training the trainers.

“How do we help train and educate our managers? It’s interesting at Orgill, because historically someone who’s a really great employee gets to be the manager,” she says. But the sales skills or engineering skills that get those individuals to the next level don’t necessarily prepare them with the people skills to round out that new role.

“We’re doing a pretty large effort around helping train our managers and our supervisors who have day-to-day contact with our employees.”

Freeman says a new initiative to train supervisors and managers being rolled out at Orgill’s distribution centres. Curriculum in the new program spans a range of different competencies that are important for leading their teams effectively and “helping them be successful with the workforce.” That includes an extra full day for new hires during the onboarding process that puts the manager in a shadow role on the shop floor. The result, says Freeman, is a better connection with new hires—and increased retention.

And the program is not a one-time thing. “You have to go back and reinforce it,” she stresses. Yes, it takes some additional time, but it doesn’t really add costs and the return on that investment of spending a bit more time with those hires over the first 90 days has increased retention.