UniFirst’s LEAP To The Future

🕑 3 minutes read | Oct 23 2020 | By Becky Gendron

I think leadership is never singular. In a good organization, it’s plural.” – Mike Krzyzewski

Leadership development is becoming a huge priority for many organizations. Attracting, retaining, and growing great leaders is a key ingredient in the recipe of success in any industry. For this reason, many organizations are beginning to turn their focus to investing in their current and future leaders.

TTA recently joined forces with our valued partner, UniFirst on a leadership development initiative. UniFirst is a successful leader in their industry in the areas of service, recruiting, selling sustainability, and diversity. UniFirst services 2 million uniform wearers each day and is a publicly traded company with close to $2 billion in revenue. However, they began to notice flaws within the internal leadership structure of the organization.

To catapult the changes at UniFirst, in May of 2017, tragedy struck with the passing of former CEO and the son of the founder of UniFirst, Ron Croatti. Ron was a true leader and was characterized by the producers of the show ‘Undercover Boss’ as quite the sensational Boss. Earlier in the year of 2017, he was also awarded the Operator Lifetime Achievement Award by the Textile Rental Services Association. It’s important to note that the devastating passing of Ron Croatti was a key turning point for UniFirst as an organization. This created an opportunity for the senior management team to look inside the organization as a whole.

What came from this period of internal exploration was the realization that there were clear gaps in UniFirst’s leadership development strategy.  Throughout the self-reflection process, it became evident that somewhere along the line, the emphasis shifted away from growing and developing UniFirst employees to increasing and maximizing sales. The leadership team at UniFirst discovered that there was no formal strategy for developing the organization’s leaders and it was determined that it was time for a change. There were two primary leaders at the organization who truly led to the success of the shift to Human Resources and Talent Development: Newly selected CEO Steve Sintros and Cindy Croatti.

It was at this point that UniFirst partnered with TTA on the implementation of the LEAP (Leadership, Education And Performance) program. The LEAP program is an 18-month rotational Leadership Development program that focuses on leadership education, operational knowledge, and business skills. The LEAP program utilized a blended approach, incorporating eLearning, Instructor-led training, and on-the-job-training. TTA’s role in the project included providing content development resources, facilitator resources, and talent sourcing support. Due to the capacity of the training and the immense developmental needs, UniFirst turned to TTA to design and develop the eLearning for the LEAP program. Utilizing one of TTA’s highly experienced Instructional Designers, TTA and UniFirst developed over 26 separate eLearning modules. The LEAP program has been an overall success and has greatly impacted the leadership development at UniFirst.

At the 2019 Training Industry Conference and Expo, Fred Budd, Senior Manager of Learning and Development at UniFirst, presented on their collaboration with TTA on their leadership program. He shared UniFirst’s inspirational story on how they came to implement the LEAP program. Fred did a phenomenal job sharing UniFirst’s story and provided insight that is valuable and applicable to many different organizations. Thank you Fred!  UniFirst is a great example of an organization that saw an opportunity for improvement and capitalized on it. UniFirst did not remain stagnant; they were proactive in their approach and this shines through in the success of the organization.

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