"We're building a confident organisation by investing in our people. Our Skillnet supports us with this."
Declan Ronayne, Chief Executive, Woodie's
The Challenge – Building employee confidence
Woodie’s is a 100% Irish-owned market leader in gardening and home improvement. Their 35+ branches nationwide offer an extensive range of products including paints, lighting, bathroom accessories, and fitted kitchens.
The company’s reputation as a comprehensive and value-for-money DIY retailer is long-standing. “If you asked anybody where they’re gonna buy garden furniture, they’re gonna say “well, I’m off to Woodie’s” aren’t they?”, said Woodie’s Chief Executive Declan Ronayne.
Speaking in relation to the importance of customer service excellence in the retail sector, Declan goes as far as to say: “It’s a show. When you open the doors in the morning, it’s theatre, and when a customer walks in the door, we’re on show for them”.
Woodie’s were faced with the challenge of boosting confidence within their organisation and the need to provide clearly defined career paths for their employees. Declan added: “Working with retail Ireland Skillnet has allowed us to tackle the training issues that we had”.
Retail Ireland Skillnet has an extensive history of helping the retail industry with upskilling and talent development. Thomas Burke, Retail Ireland Skillnet Network Promoter, explains: “Retail Ireland Skillnet was established in the year 2000 and it’s actually Ireland’s longest-standing Skillnet. The purpose and reason for being for Retail Ireland Skillnet is to support our member companies in the upskilling and training of their employees, the 285,000 people that get up every morning and go to work in the retail industry, and to offer them a clearly defined career path and progression within that, but it’s also to return a benefit to our member companies in terms of productivity and in terms of improving their opportunities to make profits, essentially”.
The Solution – Delivering structured career progression opportunities
Woodie’s and Retail Ireland Skillnet worked collaboratively to develop a programme to address the workforce development issues facing the company. Chief Executive Declan said: “What I like about working with Retail Ireland Skillnet is that we’ve co-branded a programme. So we call our programme Seeds to Success. Our very first year of this we started with 150 colleagues taking a level 5 module in customer service training.”
Declan describes the potential for upskilling to foster a spirit of growth and inspire confidence within the organisation: “We have a lot of people in our organisation who never had those educational opportunities and they’re participating in an accredited programme that gives them customer service skills. That hits to me the core area of skills training – which is confidence. I talk a lot in our organisation about building a confident organisation, and you build a confident organisation by investing in people and giving people the opportunity to make more of themselves than they otherwise thought they might have.”
Retail Ireland Skillnet helped Woodie’s to pave the way for enhanced mobility and career progression and increased diversity, equality and inclusion. “The Retail Ireland Skillnet programme has given us a perfect way of building that confidence and giving people this view that actually they can progress within the organisation regardless of their age, regardless of their gender, regardless of whatever status they actually have”, said Declan
The Outcome – Future-proofing the business by helping staff to realise their potential
The rewards reaped by Woodie’s during the Seeds to Success programme also helped to secure the future of the business as a whole. Network promoter Thomas Burke said: “We’ve been constantly looking at the types of courses available, what the future opportunities may be, but also the future threats to both the individual businesses themselves and also the industry as a whole. We are providing those companies with people that are future-proofed and we are giving the skills and the required skills to the people that work within our industry continuing to serve the customers that come into their stores, but also to continue to return a productivity dividend to their businesses. We’ve done that by providing courses at a variety of levels, everything from Level 5 to Level 9 QQI Accredited Programmes of the highest quality.”
Woodie’s Chief Executive Declan is hopeful that the positive momentum brought about by Skillnet through its people development and upskilling programme will continue into the future: “In any business, we need to think about “well, what’s the next change? How do we evolve from here?”. Our business thankfully has recovered quickly, is in strong financial condition, we’re growing well and we’re outperforming our competitors. The programmes that we’ve had we like, we love, we’re committed to them – so where do we go from here? Let’s never be satisfied with what we have and think about how we can make our people better again.”