About GenTech Seeds
GenTech Seeds Pty Ltd was formed in 2016, after DuPont Pioneer announced an agreement for Philip Yates Family Holdings Limited to acquire its Pioneer Australia Seeds business. A newly formed business of PYFH, GenTech Seeds Pty Ltd is now the exclusive producer and distributor of Pioneer® brand products in Australia. They have extensive research facilities in Queensland and in various locations across southern Australia. GenTech Seeds also has a manufacturing plant in Narromine (Central NSW), where seeds are cleaned, treated, sized, and bagged.
GenTech Seeds had a rapidly expanding team, spurred on by the growth the business was experiencing. They were keen to support this growth by investing in the management skills of their leaders, situated in different locations across the country.
The firm was looking to launch a talent development program. “One aspect of this program was to further develop the leadership skills of our new and emerging leaders,” says Melanie McGrath, National HR & HSE Manager, GenTech Seeds. “We wanted to give them insights and self-awareness of their current leadership skills, tools for developing themselves as leaders, as well as frameworks for leading and managing others.”
Given the logistics and the expense of gathering its geographically scattered team into one location, McGrath determined the course had to have a healthy ROI and be transferable to the workplace. “The course needed to be highly relevant and practical, but also have specific and measurable activities that would embed the learning back in the workplace.”
IML ANZ learning specialists worked with Gentech Seeds to develop a custom Foundations Program that could be adapted to suit GenTech’s timing requirements and the geographical spread of its employees.
The 12-week leadership development program used a blended methodology of face-to-face days, coaching, mentoring and online learning to train their emerging leaders. McGrath said the ability to customise the Foundations Program was a significant appeal. “We didn’t have to join a public group, and IML ANZ came to us in Toowoomba, and our interstate staff flew in from all over Australia to attend a couple of days onsite. We completed the training in three sessions over three months.”
Aside from leadership development, McGrath said the IML ANZ program enabled participants to have the self-awareness of their skillset and to hone their emotional intelligence. “Our participants undertook surveys to determine how their colleagues saw them in relation to their own skillset, which gave us a starting point for the training.”
McGrath continues, “From a senior management perspective, we wanted to equip our future managers with the tools where they could say to themselves, ‘I could use a team agreement and mission statement to enhance team efficiency and direction’. The skills needed to be relevant and transferable.”
The SCARF Model
For example, several Agronomists who were new to management were presented with the SCARF Model through the Foundations Program training. The Agronomists are responsible for seed production.
McGrath says, “These Agronomists are technical experts but had little people management exposure. Once they completed the training and went back to their jobs, one of the most useful learnings they took with them was the relevance of the SCARF model,” says McGrath.
These managers gathered their production teams together. They ran information sessions with the teams about the neuroscience model, what it can help them achieve, and how it can assist contacts with farmers and growers. The SCARF model encouraged the Agronomists to pause before contacting a grower to consider what they were trying to achieve and how their message would be received.
McGrath explains, “The Agronomist might say, ‘I’m encouraging a farmer to grow several hundred hectares of seed for us.’ At this point, I must consider what’s the motivation for them? Why would they want to help us? And then how do I communicate to their needs as opposed to us trying to pitch to them based on what we want?
“This is how our new Agronomist managers benefited from the IML ANZ program. It gave them tools to upscale themselves and their teams.”
Fostering idea sharing, collaboration and communication
As well as having a direct impact on business processes and thoughtful ways of engaging client needs, bringing all GenTech’s future leaders together enabled them to foster the blending of ideas across business units. McGrath explains, “We thought it best to pull our leaders together. Gathering our leaders into one room enables us to ensure they are all using a common language, and to start removing any silos within the business.
“Our staff are pretty good at working across functions, but one of the outcomes of the Foundations Program was for more collaboration between people from distribution, production, sales, finance, IT and research.
“Hardly any of the team who participated in the program, work together on a daily basis. More cross-pollination was an outcome we were looking for, and the program has achieved this goal.”
Awareness of the challenges faced by other business units improved very quickly, according to McGrath, who started measuring the impact of the Foundations Program in February 2020. Anecdotally, McGrath has also identified more communication across the teams since the completion of the training in October. “Now there’s a better appreciation across the teams that [they think] ‘Oh, I didn’t realise you had to do all of that just to get the seed in the bag’.”
Peter Kleinhanss, Director and CEO, GenTech Seeds adds, “Ever since the training started, I have heard that the team gels so well together and has continued to evolve.”
“It is a special thing to have happen for a group of like-minded, positive and creative people across different parts of the business to have that type of relationship. I have no doubt that the Leadership class of 2019 will have a long legacy in the business.”
Since the completion of the Foundations Program, all participants are either leading a project at GenTech or are part of cross-functional project teams aiming to deliver business improvements. “For example, a salesperson might be working with someone in production to work out the capacity of our grain storage and how we improve it,” says McGrath.
“Others are now working on projects addressing how we will meet future targets. For instance, if our business grows by 20%, do we have the infrastructure, people, and technology to be able to support that growth?”
By the end of the program, on average there was an increase in all management and leadership competencies for all program participants by 6.4%. For an increase to be recorded it means the majority of all line managers have observed an increased frequency of the competency being demonstrated in the workplace.
Across these competencies, the highest results were in:
Cultivate Business Acumen competency – was up by 11.6%
Manage Personal and Professional Development – up by 8.9%
Develop Decision and Problem Solving – up by 8.2%
The program overall was rated 9.4/10.
Moreover, in 2021, two of the program participants have were promoted to senior positions in the business, as the GenTech leadership team could see how they have continued to put what they learnt into practice.