Cargill’s development programs foster the leadership potential of its workers, helping them grow in the workplace.
“If we had not had an active training program, we would not have been able to expand the way we did,” said Cargill’s then-CEO Erwin Kelm in 1977, reflecting on the company’s growth during previous decades. Kelm was one of many who had completed Cargill’s management training at the start of his career.
Cargill began emphasizing management development in the early 1930s. The company was on the verge of big changes and needed more managers and executives to lead the expansion. To attract talent with long-term promise, Cargill hired recent college graduates and trained them on all aspects of the company. The goal was to equip workers for their current positions, and to prepare them for future leadership roles, creating a solid foundation for Cargill’s growth.
The first graduate training programs were led by Dr. Julius Hendel, head of Cargill’s grain division. Gathered in groups known as “Hendel’s Kindergarten,” new hires took intensive courses in formal economics, which could be applied to commodity businesses like grain, and non-technical subjects like business ethics. The training proved successful, as many of its graduates, including a young Kelm, went on to hold executive management positions within the company.
The program eventually expanded to include all employees, and in the 1960s, Cargill updated its development approach using one of its most influential training methods to date, GENCO®. Developed by a management-consulting firm, courses applied analytical methods to help employees navigate management challenges. Cargill executives were the first to undertake the intensive, week-long course. It then spread to other divisions of the company, teaching Cargill employees worldwide the same decision-making standards and a common language for communicating results.
The company’s current leadership development program, Cargill’s High Performance Leadership Academy, carries the same objectives as earlier versions: building advanced leadership skills and supporting experienced managers as they grow in the company. Cargill continues to place a high priority on personal development, recognizing that its future success depends on hiring good people and giving them the skills and common language they need to become great leaders of tomorrow.