Colruyt Becomes StreetwiZe

Posted on 25-02-2015

‘Create sustainable value together through driven craftsmanship in retail’. A mouthful, this slogan of Colruyt Group, but one that vigorously describes what this retailer is all about!
This is also reflected in internal processes and the human resource policy, which stands out because of its thorough attention to diversity and focus on training and development at every level of the organization. In this context, Colruyt pursued a potent StreetwiZe-intervention. About 3000 logistical employees will attend the ‘Be the change’ training. First, the supervisors went through a ‘StreetwiZe-immersion’ and recently the sessions with the logistics teams started. StreetwiZe facilitators Dorien De Vidts and Veerle Pappaert will lead the majority of the sessions. They will be giving a full day to bilingual groups of about 30 employees and their team leader.
The diversity is striking! In the whole logistics organization there are about 70 nationalities. A team with less than 5 nationalities is rare.

A human being prefers stability and security.

This session at Colruyt is mainly about change and how to cope with it, as an individual and as a group. The Colruyt Group has grown a lot over the last years and is in continuous movement. This movement translates into both small and important changes, which have impact on employees and teams. For example, the opening of a new distribution centre resulted in Colruyt asking some employees to make the move as well. The home-work distance changed, their role and team changed, the machines they used to work with changed ... Very often, the initial attitude towards such a big change is reluctance or negativity, or even anger or fear. Which is normal, as the human being prefers stability and security, unless the change is a personal choice.

People actually want to change but don’t want to be changed.

A first step is recognizing that this reaction is perfectly human. And also that different people react differently, or are in a different phase of processing the change. To know and to recognize this helps both in avoiding certain misunderstandings and in people helping each other more easily when needed.
The next step is working with the things we have learned from children and adults living in the streets, facing uncertainty and change every single day. Some of these people actually find success, satisfaction and happiness in the streets! Positive focus is one of the aspects that they teach us. It’s about seeing and consciously looking for positive aspects in a certain situation. Positive focus is a muscle in the brain that very often stays underdeveloped even though we often see and even magnify risks and negative aspects without effort. For people in the streets however it is a bare necessity to survive. Films from the streets illustrate this in a very poignant way. After these images, the teams start working with 4 concrete change situations they are confronted with. Very soon things seem more balanced; besides the more negative aspects, the participants easily list potentially positive aspects and opportunities! After that, we discuss giving positive feedback. The Colruyt logistics team consists mainly of men and this aspect of team management somehow recedes into the background.

A small and slim man stares at his notes with a big smile and says “I will hang this on the wall above my bed”. His much bigger colleague just wrote down “small in stature, but huge in friendliness and helpfulness”. The small man just became as tall as his colleague ... They seem like details but they have a huge impact. Culture within a team is the sum of all individual attitudes. If each day, every individual looks for the positive a bit more consciously, the effect will show surprisingly fast.
The importance of communication and finally the identity and values of the team are discussed in an accessible and original way. The anxiety of the start of the day quickly turns into enthusiasm, working together in a fun way, talking and sharing. Some stories provoke tears, others laughter or applause.
He arrived in difficult circumstances, learned the language, stayed positive and found his way around. He even found a job.

After the seminar we chat with two participants. The first one, an Italian, has worked for Colruyt for ten years and processes together with his team 200.000 bottles and 20.000 crates a day. He is very satisfied with the StreetwiZe seminar. Relevant, because he wishes to change jobs and go into sales. He particularly appreciates the external opinion on Colruyt and the different point of view. Moreover he identified a personal interest and found extra inspiration to operate the change. To end our conversation, he adds that this is the third team seminar that he has attended, and it’s the most inspiring one.
The second person we spoke with is from Iran. Five years ago he followed his Belgian partner to Belgium. He arrived in an unknown environment, without any knowledge of local languages. Despite this, Colruyt offered him a job. The job is not easy and incomparable with the AutoCAD design job he had before in a family owned company, but he is happy. His current job is not ideal but he’s confident that the situation will evolve positively. Besides that, he recognizes his own story in the StreetwiZe story. He arrived in difficult circumstances, learned the language, stayed positive and found his way around, even a job. To see that reflected in a professional training also is a form of recognition to him.

The conversation slowly comes to an end. Two colleagues wait for him to go home. He adds, loud enough so they will hear him, that those were the two guys welcoming and supporting him three years ago. Their relationship has evolved from professional to friendship. A very positive ending to an inspiring day.