How Wincanton’s New Approach To Training Has Boosted Staff Retention.

By Adam Hyland, Wincanton National Training Manager,.

Delivery teams are an essential part of the logistics industry, playing a vital role in overall customer experience. Because of this, making sure they get the right training is an important part of what we do at Wincanton. As part of our commitment to our people, over the last year we’ve overhauled our two-person delivery team induction process, which has resulted in an 80% improvement in new starter retention. National Training Manager, Adam Hyland, explains the changes that have been so effective.

The two-person delivery service Wincanton operates for high-end retailers is something we believe sets us apart in terms of service and expertise. Our delivery teams, made up of two Delivery Technicians (a Driver and Porter), are often the only representatives from a retailer that customers will directly interact with, so the impression they make and the work they do is all the more important. They are ambassadors for the brands they represent, as well as Wincanton.

To better equip our people with the skills to perform in this demanding role, we remodelled our induction process for new staff last year. Although improving our level of service and making a positive impact on the experiences of those joining our teams were the main goals, we also noticed a significant drop in ‘new starter leavers’ – members of staff that leave within their first three months of employment.

We expected a positive impact on this, but the change in the overall figure – 80% lower in 2018/19 than it was in the previous financial year – really has exceeded expectations.

To put this into context, I’ve worked in training for 20 years, with 12 of those specialising in logistics and home delivery, and have never before witnessed a staff retention rate change this dramatically. That statement really sums up the progress we’ve made at our Sheffield site since April 2018.

The programme started as a trial in Sheffield, where we serve a major high street retailer and high-end furniture retailers with dedicated two-person home delivery teams to deliver large items of furniture to customers. After a great deal of initial success, it was launched fully within six months, and its continued achievements led to us rolling it out to other Wincanton sites across the country. The programme has also received industry recognition through being named as a finalist for ‘Innovative Training Programme’ at the 2019 Talent in Logistics Awards.

Changing the way we do things

Our approach hasn’t been radical, instead it’s been built around the needs of new recruits. Every new full-time Delivery Technician at Sheffield has a five-week induction period that takes into account all areas of the job.

Day one is an overview of Wincanton, its values, health and safety requirements, and customer and company expectations, which is universal for all of our colleagues. During this, new starters learn more about the importance of the high-quality white glove service we offer. Afterwards, Delivery Technicians receive a bespoke, intensive one-day session around their role, which is followed by five-weeks working ‘on the road’ with a dedicated Training Mentor.

It’s the activity and engagement during this period that we think makes the real difference. Our two Training Mentors at Sheffield are experienced in the industry and have come from doing the job first-hand. They were promoted internally through demonstrating their ability and know-how, which they can pass on in their dedicated, specialist full-time role. Each Mentor is assigned to two Delivery Technicians, making a three-person team. They then work with the new starters, showing them the everyday requirements of the job, as well as acting as a source of expert advice in real situations. As the weeks pass, they gradually reduce their role within the team until the new starters are leading on jobs with minimal input from the Mentor.

In this period there are classroom days too. These allow new starters to learn essential skills such as advanced techniques for assembling furniture, customer returns and product protection procedures. Classroom days are also an environment for collaborative learning, with the separate groups coming together to share experiences and learn from each other by exploring common problems and situations experienced on the road.

The proof is in the numbers

We think that the numbers speak for themselves. As mentioned, the new starter leaver rate for the 2018/19 year is 80% lower than the previous financial year, which is a remarkable drop. The three-month period this covers is typically the most intense in terms of input from the company, meaning exits in this time represent a significant loss of time and resource. On top of this, it greater helps to provide a more consistent level of service for our customers.

The Training Mentors’ extensive knowledge of the job has been key in the improvements we’ve noted. One came into the role with ten years’ experience of working for Wincanton as part of a delivery team, while the other had only been with us for two months after joining from another respected high street retailer, where they had worked in a similar role.

They both offer different areas of expertise which allows them each to learn new skills from the other. This ensures new starters get all-round advice and help to get them ready for the job.

Their roles extend beyond training new staff too. When not in an induction phase, Training Mentors support existing staff, helping them to maintain their high standards in health and safety, customer service and product assembly.

These existing crews have also shown their appreciation for the changes we’ve made. With greater guidance and better trained new starters, their workload is kept manageable. We’ve noticed a significant drop in leaver rates for existing Delivery Technicians which, alongside anecdotal evidence, shows the benefits reach beyond new starters.

With greater retention rates across our delivery teams – both new starters and experienced members of staff – we can provide a more consistent level of service. Because of this, the brands we work with have the security of knowing their products are being delivered to the high standards their own customers expect.

The future

Because of our work at Sheffield, the programme has now expanded. Our Sheffield Training Mentors cover sites across the north of the country, while two more have been appointed to do the same work in the south. Full national coverage means that all two-man delivery staff receive the same training and support that’s been so successful in Sheffield.

We’re also looking to adapt what we’ve learnt to build a new training process for warehouse staff. There will be different challenges to overcome, but with knowledge of what does and does not work, we are confident of getting similar results.

It’s certainly going to be an exciting 2019 for us.

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