Lessons Learned from Explorer Training Part of Daily Life at Paulig: “It was an investment in people rather than an expense.”

According to former interim CEO Tina Andersson, the leadership program provided plenty of new methods for daily operations.

Photo: Paulig

Paula Salovaara, 19.02.2018

Lue suomeksi.

The 18-month program was planned in collaboration with Aalto EE.

“The best part was that you didn’t leave the program with a folder stuffed with useless papers.”

With an air of satisfaction, Tina Andersson, former interim CEO of Paulig, mentions another perk of the leadership program designed together with Aalto EE. Instead of a folder that ends up shoved in a cupboard, the Explorer program arranged in collaboration with Aalto EE resulted in a huge amount of new knowledge, inspiration, a unique team spirit between supervisors, and eight concrete projects that ended in production.

We meet up with Andersson at Paulig’s headquarters in the Vuosaari district of Helsinki, with the aroma of coffee lingering in the air. The glass wall in the office space provides views of Presidentti coffee packets in swift motion along the production line. In addition to coffee, spices and pulled oat resulting from an acquisition a year ago crisscross on Paulig’s production lines. Advancements in the food industry result in a demand for new experiences, flavors, and thinking.

Without the Explorer program, we would have never had the courage to take on large-scale changes."

Andersson explains that thanks to the training program, traditional operations, coffee ranges, and the roastery are now accompanied with a new venture called Innovation Incubator – a small unit dedicated to experimenting with change ideas that may seem totally out of the box. “Without the Explorer program, we would have never had the courage to take on large-scale changes,” Andersson points out. 

Let’s return to the summer of 2016. Andersson had just joined the firm, right in time to take part in the pilot phase of the leadership program. Aalto EE had tailored a program for Paulig, which involved 190 supervisors learning leadership skills for a growth company. Andersson dived straight into the deep end, and the program proved to be the best possible workplace induction.

At Paulig, the main architect of the program was former HR Director Niklas Lindholm. He explains which starting points and needs were the basis for designing the Explorer program: Paulig s slogan is Exploring Great Taste, a thought written in Paulig s DNA from word go. We wanted to continue the story that founder Gustav Paulig began in 1876.  

According to Lindholm, a notion of constant curiosity needs to penetrate the entire organization: “Micromanagement leads nowhere, everyone needs to be involved.”

When the program was designed with Aalto EE, a decision was made against bringing in some guru to give a talk followed by a casual dinner. The program was designed to be packed and intense. Participants were divided into small groups, which worked on assignments, pitched ideas, and refined concepts together with program leaders under strict time pressure. Lindholm believes the tight timeframe and high expectations led to each group during the two-day program refining usable, concrete ideas. “We have smart people and lots of ideas”, Lindholm adds. “The program taught us how to manage ideas.”

Tina Andersson summarizes lessons learned as follows:

“Most importantly, we received tools to improve management work, which benefits the entire company even if all 2,000 employees cannot take part in the program.”

Now it is clear in day-to-day operations that any new plans need to involve people from all departments. All differing views are needed to create a new culture of growth. 

At the end of the two-day face-to-face program, each participant had to make a management promise. Andersson made a new promise with almost each group. “During the first segment, I promised to be a rebel in management work. Not in an anarchistic way, but so I question thoughts.”

Niklas Lindholm mentions that the program made him see how even major issues can be advanced quickly as long as the process is clear and well thought out. “By default, Outlook marks meetings in the calendar to be an hour long. That’s something that can be questioned in future.”

Participants have told me they use the lessons learned on a daily basis.”

The program was headed by Hans Henrik Lund, Danish CEO and Senior Advisor at Aalto EE, whose character and competence brought both depth and quality to the teaching, according to Lindholm. Lindholm and Andersson are in line with other participants from Paulig in giving the program a high score. Andersson feels the tailored package was just right for Paulig. “It was an investment in people rather than an expense.”

18 months and eight segments later, Tina Andersson rejoices in the results. “Participants have told me they use the lessons learned on a daily basis”, which, according to Andersson, is a rare occurrence, as usually everyday, old routines take hold and the folder from a training program ends up forgotten on a shelf. “I’m so proud of these people and their ability to learn new things!”.

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