Reviewing Alltech's Solution to Business Growth

Reviewing Alltech's Solution to Business Growth

Do you need to develop talent to grow your business? Do you need to nurture the next generation of leaders in your business?

At Agribusiness Academy, we’ve been looking at some of the classic case studies that show the potential of looking within; developing talent through an internal education system that creates a culture of innovation, loyalty and decision-making that can drive businesses forward.

One such case study is Alltech, an American animal health company founded in 1980. Below we’ll take a look at some of the key inputs and outputs of their solution.

Fast established as one of the leading animal health companies in the world, Alltech stood apart from its competition with ‘natural nutritional solutions’. By 2010s, thirty years into its history, Alltech was marketing its solutions to 116 countries; a truly global reach and staff base.

With global reach came new challenges for developing leaders, particularly given Alltech’s commitment to their company culture and emphasis on ‘hands-on relationships’ with their customers.

As Aidan J. Connolly and Kate Phillips-Connolly document in their review for the International Food And Agribusiness Management Review (Vol.15, Special Issue A), Alltech had three viable options for developing talent that could fulfil their ambitions:

1. Headhunt successful agribusiness executives from other organizations;

2. Train key employees through existing university MBA and executive education programs in both a business and agribusiness focus;

3. Build an internal executive education program.

We can summarise the conclusions of these options as such:

  1. Headhunting: difficulty of acclimatisation to company culture, and an anticipated cost of $250,000.
  2. MBA Education: can be attractive to staff because of status and reputation, but a disconnection from work, difficulty in managing program requirements and a perceived lack of opportunity upon completion. Anticipated cost of $100,00 per employee.
    Executive Education: useful for addressing specific needs but not tailored to individual or company needs. Anticipated cost of $5,000-45,000 with few options in the agribusiness space.
  3. Internal program: can be developed to fit their exact needs, more cost efficient and less transferable knowledge to competitors.

Of course, developing an internal program is not a simple solution, but it is comfortably the most cost effective (particularly at scale) and the most targeted at the problem it aims to solve.

The Solution

Working with existing learning content and internally developed content, the initial solution was developed as a two-week module, but the speed of its impact and success of learners meant it quickly expanded into a program roughly half the length of an MBA.

There are several key components that we can deduce:

  1. A tailored curriuculum of market management, brand driven growth, management skills and thought leadership
  2. A blend of internal modules/knowledge and externally sourced learning material
  3. A critical feedback loop to continually improve the program design and its impact
  4. Minimal impact on time away from the office and flexibility to work around the company’s cycle

One particularly brilliant part of the program was a final presentation by participants demonstrating their analysis and recommendations. As Connolly and Phillips-Connolly write in their review:

“This high-profile exercise not only gives senior management the benefit of the ideas of their best and brightest up-and-coming managers, but it lets them see how the participants perform in a realistic pressure situation”

It gave the participant the opportunity to shine, get their opinion heard and get a true experience of the rigour of leadership and decision making.

Such was the success of this program - it developed 98 senior manager and a pipeline of 88 more inside 10 years - a further program was built for those not quite experience enough to take the newly developed Mini-MBA.

With an estimated cost was $2000 per employee for a five-day module, and 93% retention rate of the talent, the results really speak for themselves.

Connolly and Phillips-Connolly conclude:

"Alltech’s commitment to its customized executive education program is providing a series of positive outcomes including improving managers’ understanding of the corporate vision and strategy as well as of their industry; creating a cadre of the next generation of leaders, while deepening their loyalty; developing corporate competencies; and in the process, identifying new business strategies. Crucially, these results are being achieved in a very cost effective manner."

The Opportunity

Alltech’s solution is now celebrating 20 years of success. At Agribusiness Academy, we see the potential for businesses of all-sizes to develop a similar solution, alongside our extensive library of digital learning content and tailored learning solutions.

What’s more, advances in technology allow the sector to develop the solution in what we define as Education-as-a-Service model, meaning Agribusiness Academy can deliver:

  1. Flexibility; to allow professionals to participate from anywhere in the world, collaboratively, with the ability to adapt and scale at any point.
  2. Personalisation; to allow any degree of personalisation as required - from tailored programs to expert coaching
  3. Speed; to rapidly roll-out solutions so that the business growth can receive the full impact of the innovation and decision-making faster than ever before.
  4. Cost-effectiveness: The cost of delivering a 5-day blended module with the Agribusiness Academy EaaS model can be in the range of $750-$1500/professional depending on the level of customization and desired on-location component.

We roll-out solutions within this model with sector-specific knowledge for the Food, Agribusiness & Retail sector, but it is because of pioneering companies such as Alltech that solutions like that can be understood and developed like they are today.

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