For employees at leading Canadian courier company Purolator Inc., the last few years have seen unprecedented change. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a surge in demand for e-commerce delivery services, resulting in a shift away from a primarily business-to-business model and exponential growth for the company. Meanwhile, innovative technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and Internet of Things (IoT)-based tools are fundamentally changing ways of working.

To continue to adapt to a new business environment and compete and succeed in the market, Purolator knew it needed to focus on supporting and enabling its frontline personnel. Managers play a crucial role helping workers get accustomed to new technologies and deliver services that meet the high expectations of today’s consumers. However, mostly recruited for their operational, technical, and project management skills, many managers didn’t have the skills required to become transformational leaders and agents of change.

Filling Skills Gaps to Transform Managers into Leaders

To help managers lead workers successfully through a digital transformation and foster a more engaged workforce, the courier firm launched its “Evolve” program in 2018. This leadership development initiative involves multifunctional groups of over 20 managers who receive 10 days of on-site training over a five-month period. In between sessions, participants are able to apply learned skills and competencies in the workplace while skills are reinforced by online microlearning modules and coaching using the SAP SuccessFactors Learning solution.

Getting feedback from course participants to enable continuous improvement for the learning experience has been a key part of Purolator’s strategy. To achieve this, the company uses Experience Management solutions from SAP and Qualtrics to capture feedback before, during, and after the course. In this way, Purolator is able to learn about participant expectations and discover what is going right and how the training experience can be improved.

Supporting Employees as They Adapt to a Digital World

So far, more than 200 participants – most of them in frontline manager roles – have become leaders thanks to the Evolve program. These managers are supporting and guiding their teams through the company’s digital transformation and helping them learn how to use new technologies. This has enabled the company to change the way it does business without having to look outside its existing workforce for the necessary digital skills.

Continuous improvement projects initiated during the program have also yielded significant benefits for the company. In response to issues identified by the participants themselves, the projects involved the design and implementation of a solution using change management concepts learned during the course.

“Overall, the program has generated over CAD 21 million in saved revenue,” comments Tennyson Devoe, senior director of Safety and Organizational Excellence at Purolator. “Furthermore, we’ve seen a significant reduction in our injury frequency rate and improved union relations.”

Another important benefit is increased cross-functional collaboration with the program nurturing strong relationships between managers from different areas of the business.

“Even a few years after completing the program, participants still keep in touch using SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management Suite,” confirms Devoe. “This means they can share ideas and reach out for support when they need it.”

The Evolve program has won numerous national and international awards, including four gold awards at the 2020 Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Leadership Development Awards.

Navigating Uncertain Times through Strong Leadership

With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting a significant increase in business volume and the hiring of thousands of new drivers, the ability of Purolator’s employees to adapt to rapid change has been tested over the last two years. Despite these challenges, the lessons learned by the alumni of the Evolve program have helped the company navigate through uncertain times.

“We now have a frontline workforce that has successfully adapted to running digitalized processes,” concludes Devoe. “What’s more, thanks to the strong leadership of our managers, our employees now have the confidence to view change as an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Learn more about Purolator’s HR transformation.

Kristin Muellner is director of Customer Stories & Reference Engagement at SAP.