Freshly baked L&D at Greggs

We sat down with Emma Walton, People Director at Greggs as she reveals to myGrapevine magazine the various L&D programmes within the company, and why L&D can play an important role in helping the firm achieve its ambitious targets...

Words by Sophie Parrott

A good approach to learning and development (L&D) in the workplace can help employers to thrive. Creating the right environment for employees to learn and encouraging them to engage in professional development can be hugely beneficial for both staff and the business. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) – reported on by Shifte Learning – employers who offer comprehensive training programmes have 218% higher income per employee than firms without formalised training. Not only is this something that has the potential to generate higher income per staff member (which can have follow-on benefits for the business), it is something that is increasingly topping the employee wish list and could set employers apart in a crowded market.

In fact, 59% of Millennials claim that development opportunities are extremely important when deciding whether to apply for a position, according to Gallup’s 'How Millennials Want to Work and Live' report. 44% of Gen Xers and 41% of Baby Boomers said the same about these types of opportunities. But it is not just an employer’s ability to attract talent that can be swayed by learning and development. The prevalence of L&D in an organisation (or lack thereof) can also influence an employees’ desire to stay with a firm, with data from Totaljobs finding that 68% of employees have changed jobs due to a lack of L&D opportunities. With many employers challenged by talent shortages, skills gaps and retention woes due to the so-called ‘Great Resignation’, it appears that prioritising L&D in the workplace could help businesses in multiple ways.


Greggs’ L&D recipe

One firm that appears to recognise the benefits that good L&D can bring – and has a wealth of learning initiatives to support this – is the British bakery food on the go chain Greggs. The Newcastle Upon Tyne headquartered firm – which is popular for its sausage rolls and steak bakes – has an ambitious target to double turnover in the next five years to circa £2.4billion in 2026, according to Greggs' Q3 Trading Update and Capital Markets Day, published on the London Stock Exchange website. In a recent interview with myGrapevine magazine, Emma Walton, People Director at Greggs, talks about this ambitious target and the importance of having a ‘motivated, engaged and well-trained workforce’ to help achieve this. She says: “Greggs, as a business, we have been very public in [the fact] that we have got an ambitious target to double our turnover in the next five years. Our strategic direction remains consistent in that we are continuing to further grow our shop estate and supplement this with development of our new channels in the food-on-the-go market.”

Emma continues: “So, in order to meet these ambitions, to double turnover, to grow your shop estate, you have got to have a motivated, engaged and well-trained workforce and L&D plays a critical role in that.”


Emma Walton

People Director

In order to meet these ambitions, to double turnover, to grow your shop estate, you have got to have a motivated, engaged and well-trained workforce and L&D plays a critical role in that

The pastry pathway

So, what exactly does L&D at Greggs look like? Well, the firm’s People Director admits that “there are a number of strands to our L&D philosophy”. According to Emma, this ranges from learning sought to help new starters become acquainted with the business, to training designed to help staff climb the ranks. For employees at Greggs, this L&D journey starts the moment they join the firm.

New starters embark on a 12-week programme called ‘Your Greggs Welcome’ which strives to give employees a comprehensive induction into the business. She says: “If any of our colleagues join, we want to ensure that they have a positive, structured and engaging induction so that they get a really good introduction to the business… It’s simply to make sure that they understand the business, they understand our processes, they understand our culture, and how they need to operate as well.”

While the delivery of this training has changed slightly in the last 18 months in light of the pandemic, to enable retail colleagues to complete their first piece of online learning training at home (something which the firm is looking to roll out further), making learning accessible to new starters in the onboarding process makes business sense, as data has highlighted. Research from Brandon Hall Group has revealed that employers with a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82%. With this being the case, a good onboarding process – that gives staff a thorough introduction to the business – could help employees familiarise themselves with the way the business works and ensure that they are clued up on overarching goals and their role in achieving them. This is something that can have a positive impact on businesses.


Delivering training

After joining Greggs, another strand of L&D at the business is operational training that is delivered throughout the year, with much of this training being mandatory. Emma explains: “A lot of that is around compliance training, be that around things like PCI, credit card terminals, a big piece is around allergens training that we have to do, that’s a core part.” Again, this training could help employees refresh their knowledge, and perform their jobs to a higher standard which could have follow-on benefits for the business.

Aside from some of the mandatory training mechanics, it appears that there are plenty of opportunities for employees to develop themselves. One of these includes the ‘Career Pathways Programmes’ – something which Greggs’ site explains high-potential colleagues are invited to join, and it can provide them with support to prepare them for management roles. This set of programmes includes ‘Aspiring Leaders’ for support teams which Emma says is for “people who are not in a management role now but exactly what it says aspire to be there and have the potential to be graded managers and eventually run teams”, as well as a ‘Developing Leaders Programme’ for those who are managers or who are ready to take the next step and be managers of managers. “Both of those are very popular programmes, we have great numbers, [with] people putting their hands up and wanting to get involved,” Emma adds. In a more general sense, it appears that the appetite for L&D is growing among workforces. For example, Totaljobs data found that nine in ten employees want their employer to offer more training courses to develop new skills. Therefore, having a range of programmes on offer could help Greggs attract and retain the best possible talent to help execute future business targets and goals.

Emma’s top tips for rolling out L&D

A stake in senior development

Greggs also has a variety of development opportunities for those in senior positions, too. For example, the bakery food on the go chain has, among others, a programme called ‘Masterclasses’ which is said to be for top leaders in the organisation, and also the ‘Women’s Development Programme’. With the ‘Women’s Development Programme’, high-potential, high-performing female colleagues are nominated. Emma explains: “Running alongside all of our L&D programmes is a robust succession planning process that identifies individuals who are ready for next-level roles, more responsibility, ready to move into more senior roles, be it a ‘head of’ or ‘director’ role, and then they are put forward and attend these ‘Influential Leaders’, ‘Masterclasses’ or ‘Women’s Development’ [programmes].” Developing existing talent and having these internal routes into more senior roles could help Greggs get the talent and skills that it needs for the future. Not only that, Talexes data – reported on by My Shortlister – found that almost all employers (94%) said that having a succession plan positively impacts their employees’ engagement levels – something which could help employers reach their goals more comfortably.


What is Greggs’ ‘Your Opinion Matters’?

To keep staff happy and engaged, organisations usually look to run engagement surveys to help them gauge how staff are feeling and what can be improved.

Emma explains that, at Greggs, they have ‘Your Opinion Matters’ which is essentially an annual colleague engagement survey which can measure a raft of different things around how employees are feeling.

This, according to the People Director, could be to find out how workers are feeling around their job, what it’s like being at work, or even to gauge their thoughts on the current L&D initiatives on offer.

When asked by myGrapevine magazine what this aims to do and how this enables Greggs to find out the learning needs of staff, Emma explains: “What it does do from an L&D perspective however is exactly what you said is [that] there are certain questions that we ask in there that have an L&D lens.”

She continues: “It really helps us to understand are we doing things right, are we going in the right direction, is there anything we need to particularly... look at.”


‘Brilliant’ L&D ingredients

Another strand of Greggs’ L&D philosophy is around what are referred to as their ‘Brilliant Programmes’ which Emma explains are focused on helping people become better managers. Within this, the programmes that are in place include ‘Brilliant Area Manager’, ‘Brilliant Shop Manager’ and the ‘Brilliant Supervisor Programme’ which are a series of modules, with a lot of training being around core management skills and competencies. She continues: “A lot of it is around just core management skills and core competencies that people need to deliver in their role but we’ve expanded some of these out in our retail area this year.” The role that line managers can play in an organisation is huge, with data suggesting that it can influence employees’ decisions to stick or twist. In fact, data published in DDI’s Frontline Leader Project found that 57% of employees have left a job due to their manager, highlighting the importance of well-trained people leaders.

While the above are just a few examples of some of the learning opportunities available at Greggs, having a wide range of L&D initiatives at the bakery chain could bring about several benefits as separate data sets have shown. One of these is around engaging top talent. This dovetails with 2016 data from Udemy’s Workplace Boredom Study which found that 80% of employees said L&D opportunities would help them to feel more engaged at work. As well as keeping employees happy and engaged within their roles, L&D has been known to have additional positive effects on staff retention too. For example, LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of employees said that they would stay at a firm longer if it invested in their career development. But this is not all.

We did a lot of training this year around D&I and that’s gone out to all of our colleagues across the business about being inclusive

'Proving' the benefits of L&D

Additionally, Emma alluded that offering L&D can also help staff to feel valued. She explains: “It’s about people feeling valued and actually we are investing time in [staff] to complete [it], be it operational training, be it a learning and development session that they are attending, we do a whole raft of training. We did a lot of training [last] year around D&I and that’s gone out to all of our colleagues across the business about being inclusive. What it does is it helps you as a business grow, look after your people and ensure that people are engaged, they are retained and that they have the skills to do the role which ultimately will help us with our ambitions to grow the business.” The knock-on benefit of this is that engaged teams have lower turnover, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity and ten per cent higher customer ratings than disengaged teams, according to Gallup data, reported on by Forbes. With this in mind, investing in L&D and having a wide range of L&D initiatives on offer could help Greggs work towards their ambitious targets.


It appears that the well-known chain has lots of learning initiatives on offer, many of which could help provide the business with the needed skills to work towards their ambitious targets, as well as provide a wealth of HR-related benefits as data has shown. When asked what L&D plans Greggs has in the pipeline for the future, Emma explains: “We have gone out with what our growth plans are, so we want to continue to build on our current successes. We know we have got some programmes that work so we just want to continue with those and enhance on those. There is nothing particularly revolutionary this year, just build on what we have got and try and encourage our colleagues as we grow as a business to get involved in the L&D that is out there,” Emma explains. As she says at the beginning of the interview: “We’ve always said that it’s our people that make our business successful. We aim to provide them with a great place to work and part of that demonstration of that is our commitment to their learning and development as well."

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