UniFirst's Giant LEAP to Training and Retaining Managerial Talent

January 27, 2022

2022 UniFirst LEAP Program Graduates for Management Training.
LEAP Cohort 3, along with Program Managers Rob Keiser and Adam Hayford, tours UniFirst's 360,000 square-foot, state-of-the art Owensboro Distribution Center, located in Owensboro, KY, one of the area's largest employers.

 

UniFirst, a North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniforms, workwear, and facility service products, is now recruiting for the LEAP leadership, education, and performance program, an award-winning career development initiative that prepares high-potential individuals for managerial roles in UniFirst’s Service, Production, and Sales departments throughout the U.S. and Canada. To see UniFirst’s wide range of career opportunities, please visit jobs.unifirst.com.

In today’s challenging business environment, good leaders are needed more than ever to help teams pull together and perform at their full potential. And UniFirst has taken a proactive approach to recruit and retain talented employees for the long-term with its LEAP (Leadership, Education And Performance) Program, a multi-award-winning, 18-month leadership development program designed to groom high-potential individuals for successful managerial careers.

The program, currently in its fourth year, has served as an effective tool for attracting top talent in an especially challenging recruiting environment, an environment that has developed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and now the “Great Resignation.”

A record 4.4 million workers left their jobs in September 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many workers are leaving their places of work to seek greener pastures in hopes of progressing their careers. Many studies have shown that corporate management training, like LEAP, go a long way in both recruiting and retaining employees. Today, one in three employees leave their jobs within the first year (as reported by Gallup), with many citing a lack of career development potential as a driving force for their departure. As a result, the value of corporate management development programs cannot be understated. They not only prepare employees for future managerial roles, they also keep them engaged and focused. According to Axonify, 93% of employees say a training program has a positive impact on their level of work engagement. Meanwhile, a staggering 94% of workers said they’d stick with their current companies if executives invested in their development, per LinkedIn.

“What drew me to UniFirst and the LEAP Program was the fact that the company executives were so hands-on and invested in our development,” said Niya Carroll, a current LEAP Associate. “That’s something none of us take for granted."

One of LEAP’s unique features is that the program is focused on recruiting recent college graduates who demonstrate high potential and placing them on a managerial path for career advancement, all while cultivating their professional development every step of the way. Participants immerse themselves in all the intricacies of the uniform and facility services industry, including exposure to leadership education, operational knowledge, and hands-on business opportunities. By the end of the program, LEAP Associates have full clarity on which career path within the company (Service, Production, or Sales) is best for them. To help ensure participants’ long-term success, the LEAP Program provides continuous mentoring, support, and regular check ins.

Several managers who are currently in the LEAP Program, including Breonna Bejaran, a LEAP Associate in Stockton, CA, came to UniFirst specifically to kick start their careers.

“Like many people, I worked odd jobs early in my career,” said Bejaran. “Now, I understand what’s important to me. I want to get the experience to grow in a specific company as quickly as possible, and I want to grow within that company at a pretty rapid pace.

“UniFirst was one of the only organizations to offer this kind of opportunity. Plus, considering the company’s long-lasting success, annual growth, and employee-focused culture, you’d be hard pressed to find a better choice.”

Since UniFirst’s founding in 1936, the company has always placed an emphasis on developing new employees and preparing them for the rigors of their careers. This is especially true with the LEAP Program, where 2022 LEAP Associates won’t only be receiving on-the-job training; they’ll also be getting a holistic view of the company to help drive successful business outcomes across the organization.

At LEAP’s core, participants are involved in virtual and in-person classes consisting of interactive self-studies, readings, blogs, and Ted Talks. UniFirst also reinforces leadership techniques that apply to real-world situations, including critical-thinking skills, business management practices, and team-building strategies. And, while other companies may have executives who sit behind closed doors, LEAP offers individuals open-door access and face time with all UniFirst leaders, including members of the most senior leadership team.

According to past graduates, the LEAP model works and has successfully groomed them for managerial roles. Take Cody Moore, for instance. Cody transitioned from a LEAP Associate to a handful of managerial roles, culminating in him earning the Market Service Manager position in only a few years’ time. His rapid rise through UniFirst also incentivized him to get his MBA through UniFirst’s generous tuition reimbursement program.

“I accredit [my success] wholly to the LEAP Program,” Moore said. “The training, the different perspectives of management, the cycling through all the department, and the experience was invaluable.”

Current LEAP Associates understand the significance of the LEAP Program, especially within the context of the aforementioned “Great Resignation.”

“It’s been a rewarding experience,” added current LEAP participant Aaron Gareau. “You gain respect for all of the various roles, and you learn so much about the business in the process. I understand that employees are leaving companies in droves, but you just don’t see that with UniFirst. I think part of the reason is the company’s commitment to their employees and our respective careers. That naturally includes all of us in the LEAP Program.”

Are you looking to progress your career and grow with a company that puts you first? UniFirst is now accepting applications for the 2022 LEAP Program. For more information or to apply, please visit Jobs.UniFirst.com/LEAP.

1 comment

  • Brian Garnick: January 27, 2022

    Great job Rob, Adam and the entire team!

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