Who is AmeriGas?
Founded in 1959, AmeriGas is one of the largest propane providers in the world. They help millions of Americans heat their homes and businesses with a nation-spanning network of service centers backed by automated fuel monitoring. One of their most important services is the training they offer to new propane users from industry experts. These experts help new customers and their staff use their propane devices safely.
To implement and maintain all of their operations across the country, AmeriGas has approximately 50 Area Directors (ADs), who each has a staff of 10 and 12 District Managers reporting to them. AmeriGas’ executive leadership recognized that the AD role was critical to the achievement of the company’s strategy. However, it was clear that there was a weak talent pool for the AD position. Moreover, many of the employees who were promoted to AD role were often unprepared, which impacted business performance.
Justine Staub, the Director of Workforce Development, knew that AmeriGas needed to have strong, high-performing leaders filling the AD position. So, she began searching for a way to improve the company’s succession management system for identifying and developing leaders. Mrs. Staub partnered with OnPoint to help better prepare future leaders for the Area Director role.
Created a Success Profile
The first thing that OnPoint did was to establish a set of behavioral characteristics and skills that ADs needed to perform well. This success profile was used to screen potential AD candidates and identify those with the potential to meet the challenges of the job. One of the key elements of the success profile was taking a future-focused look at the AD role to ensure the profile reflected what ADs would need to execute the company’s strategic direction.
Developed a Realistic Job Profile
In many cases, employees do not know what a specific job will entail—which can create problems later when the “promotion” doesn’t match their expectations. OnPoint worked with Justine to create a “Realistic Job Profile” that included a list of responsibilities, as well as a narrative of what a typical day in the life of an AD is like. This profile allowed AD candidates to see what the job would entail and determine whether or not it was a good fit for them. Many organizations promote people without really considering whether the employees want to take on new or additional responsibility, which can lead to a lack of engagement, poor performance, or even turnover.
Established an Accelerated Leadership Program
To quickly solve the need for AmeriGas to fill AD positions, OnPoint collaborated with Justine to develop an Accelerated Leadership Program (ALP) customized to the AD role. District Managers from across the company were invited to apply for the program if they were interested in the Area Director role.
In the initial year the ALP was launched, 300 people expressed an interest.
The earliest phase of the ALP consisted of a nomination process where candidates had to meet certain eligibility criteria. Successful candidates then completed a series of assessments, including a situational judgment test, leadership style self-assessments, an essay, and a Potential Inventory (PI) that was completed by the candidate’s direct supervisor. These assessments were used to vet each of the candidates for their potential to succeed in the role.
From these preliminary assessments, OnPoint narrowed the candidate pool from 300 down to 21, or 7% of the original applicant pool. By using multiple assessments, OnPoint was able to create a robust profile of each candidate, allowing AmeriGas to focus on the best candidates. This helped AmeriGas save time and resources that otherwise would have been wasted on candidates with low potential.
Successfully Completed the First ALP
Once the first cohort of 21 leaders was identified, OnPoint and AmeriGas launched the Accelerated Leadership Program. The ALP began with a battery of additional assessments and simulations based on the AD role. The results from this process were integrated into a comprehensive report for each individual and were used to drive the creation of an Individual Development Plan (IDP).
Over the next 12 months, the high-potential leaders in the ALP participated in three 2-3 day face-to-face meetings covering key leadership skills and business knowledge areas identified as necessary for success in the AD role as well as targeted areas for development in the IDPs. Leaders also worked on real business challenges in action learning teams and presented their recommendations to senior leaders at the conclusion of the work.
Online resources, such as videos, webinars, e-learning courses, relevant articles, and books were made available and used to reinforce lessons in between the face-to-face sessions.
Established a Stepping-Stone Position to Further Prepare AD Candidates
To better prepare future AD candidates for the role, OnPoint helped AmeriGas establish a stepping-stone position for the role of Area Director, the Assistant Area Director (AAD). This new position allows AD candidates to be mentored by existing Area Directors and benefit from their practical experience.
As candidates work under their AD mentors in the AAD role, they are able to gradually pick up more responsibilities, build competence, and demonstrate success until they are ready for the full responsibilities of the role.
Since employing the ALP, the success rate and retention that AmeriGas has seen from its ADs has improved dramatically.
As Justine Staub said, “Programs like these help people to feel a level of comfort with the fact that there is a clearly defined method of advancing within the company. We are a national company with hundreds of locations and without programs such as this, it is easy for talented people with career growth aspirations to get lost in the organization and even go someplace else to get noticed. It’s seen by employees as an investment that AmeriGas is making in our people, and in the future of our business.”
The improvement that AmeriGas experienced with the accelerated leadership program was so strong that the company now requires all employees who are interested in becoming an AD to first complete the ALP assessment and development program. The ALP was also expanded to other corporate roles because of the success it had in creating stronger, more capable leaders for the AD role.
To this day, the ALP continues to attract a steady stream of applicants who are interested in advancing their careers—including external applicants from other organizations who are interested in working for AmeriGas.
The accelerated leadership program is so effective for AmeriGas that it has become a selling point to potential recruits outside of the company.