Custom programs keep Johnsonville Sausage coming back for more

by Sheila Nero
May 12, 2017

Customers vote with their feet and satisfied customer Johnsonville Sausage has voted three times to retain the Center for Professional and Executive Development (CPED) for custom training programs. Starting with a 2012 program at the full-service Fluno Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Johnsonville followed up with two programs in Madison in 2015 and one in Sheboygan Falls, Wis.

Johnsonville’s Susan Dumke, Senior Research and Development (R&D) Project Manager, was the catalyst in arranging the CPED programs. Kevin Addesso, Director of R&D, was the sponsor of the 1.5-day programs that served 15 employees each, mostly managers in the R&D group.

Kevin Addesso, Director of R&D, Johnsonville Sausage
“Customizing our programs was a very interactive process, a dialogue. We stated what we wanted and needed to accomplish and they told us how we could do it,” Addesso explained. “Then we said, ‘This is what success would look like to us at the end of the session.’ [Executive Director] Steve King integrated material from different courses specifically for us.”

Johnsonville set the following goals:
  • Ensure that R&D’s mission and vision is in alignment with the enterprise-wide mission. Addesso said, “We took a hard look and asked, ‘Are we properly organized in our structure? What gaps might exist; what competencies do we need to strengthen?’ Steve guided us to focus on one or two crucial work processes that support the company.”
  • Clarify roles. R&D supports five business units across the enterprise. The RACI method, listing who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed, was brought out in the first session and used at Johnsonville right away to organize work.
  • Fine-tune decision-making across the five business units. A key question was: “Who decides which projects need to be active and in what priority?” Again, RACI was helpful.
  • Address “coaching up,” or managing, effectively. At Johnsonville, anyone at any level theoretically can coach anyone else, but the challenge is to be effective and to feel safe and comfortable doing it, Addesso said. “This goal involved dynamics. Steve assisted by diagnosing needs,” Addesso added.
  • Pinpoint ways to groom future managers. A “brag worry wonder bet” technique was gained for employee evaluations.

Dumke described the UW-Madison location for Johnsonville’s first session as “ultra-convenient.” She said, “We tapped into the expertise on campus. The Food Research Institute and others came in and offered world-class competencies. CPED was fine with that. Plus, we didn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get our employees to Madison.”

The 2012 program has become part of Johnsonville lore because – in a classic Wisconsin twist -- the employees found themselves safely snowed in at the staffed Fluno Center. “We watched the snow and it was a good way to keep everyone interacting. We did lots of team-building,” Addesso recalled.

Addesso and Dumke recommend the CPED instructors, Lisa Yaffe and King. Addesso said, “Someone was always making sure we were accomplishing our goals. The thought leadership is important. CPED instructors have long stints in the marketplace and they’ve lived it, so they share best practices and real-world examples.”