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Case Study: Johnsonville: Developing Employees With a Taste for Leadership

In 1945, Ralph F. and Alice Stayer opened a butcher shop in the quaint town of Johnsonville, Wisconsin. Named after this town, the company became known as the producer of the sausage with “big taste” and its products quickly took over breakfast tables and backyard grills across the Midwest. You may have some of their products sitting in your refrigerator right now—Johnsonville Sausage.

After years of growth, in 2000, Johnsonville began a deliberate transition from a strong regional brand to a multinational brand. Today, it takes 1,600 members to manufacture, market, sell, and distribute their food across 40 countries. In particular, this growth required Johnsonville to develop leaders in manufacturing who could successfully scale up operations, lead teams, and exemplify Johnsonville’s corporate culture, which valued integrity, respect, and innovation.

Following the results of a survey that identified current manufacturing leaders’ skills gaps, the senior leader team recommended that the organizational development and learning (OD&L) team launch the Building Leaders and Superlative Talent (BLAST) program. Participants who completed the program would be equipped to lead manufacturing teams and the company successfully during its expansion. The program’s content focuses on self-understanding, understanding others, team knowledge, and using this awareness on the job. BLAST has not only thrived since 2000, but also evolved to meet changing learner needs

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