How Aldi Australia managing director Bronwyn Post motivates her team of more than 1000 employees
Wednesday, March 8, 2017/
Bronwyn Post has worked for Aldi since the German discounter first arrived on Australian shores, first as an area manager in Victoria and currently as Aldi’s managing director for the Brendale region. Post is responsible for close to 50 Aldi stores in Queensland and more than 1000 employees, and she’s playing a key role in the supermarket’s chain ongoing expansion across the Sunshine State.
As a member of the Aldi Australia leadership team, Post has been involved in all aspects of the Aldi business, from managing multiple stores and the buying department, to helping redesign Aldi’s storefronts and driving the strategy behind the chain’s famed “Special Buys” ranges. She’s seen first-hand what it takes to find and motivate staff in a rapidly growing business, and says the company’s approach to flexibility and diversity has opened the door to her when it comes to new professional opportunities.
SmartCompany asked Post how she gets the best out of her team, and the leadership lessons she’s learnt from 15 years at Aldi.
When did you join Aldi and what were you doing previously?
I’ve been with Aldi since its early days in Australia. I was first hired as an area manager in Victoria and was sent to Sydney for six months training. When I returned to Victoria it was to help open Aldi’s first stores in the state.
At university, I studied international business, majoring in economics and marketing. I always wanted to work for an international company because of the great opportunities on offer, so Aldi ticked all the boxes for me. I’d also completed a graduate program with another retailer so I knew the sector well and was really excited about the opportunities.
You joined Aldi in an executive-level position and worked your way up into the senior management team. Can you describe that journey and what it’s taught you?
I first joined Aldi as an area manager at the end of 2002. After about a year I was promoted to buying director, where I managed a range of products, including homewares, chocolates and confectionery. After working as a buying director for six years, I was promoted to group buying director where I managed a team of up to seven people. The buying department is a fascinating area of the Aldi business, and it was really exciting to be involved in introducing new products to the Australian retail scene.
I’ve also been involved in additional projects like helping to drive Aldi’s “Special Buys” strategy and the redesign of the Australian store format, which is currently being rolled out nationally.
In all the roles I have held, the area manager role is one of my favourites in the Aldi business. It’s a really great entry point into retail and gives you solid people management skills that set you up for career success. Aldi really invests in its employees and the area manager training program is one of the best, if not the best, in the country in developing leaders. While you’re thrown in the deep end to some extent, you’re also provided with all the training and guidance you need to succeed.
Looking back, is there something you know now that you wished you knew then?
Enjoy what you do and the journey you’re on. If you focus on succeeding in your current role, your career will progress in a positive way.
What does your day-to-day role look like?
In my role, I’m responsible for almost 50 Aldi stores across Queensland, from Brisbane all the way to Bundaberg. We opened our first store in Gladstone on Tuesday and have plans to be in Rockhampton in the future. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth as we continue to open new stores across the region, making a huge difference to people’s grocery budgets and lifestyles. After almost 15 years with the business, I still get excited when new people discover Aldi and what we can offer them.
A big part of my role is supporting my team. I’m really fortunate to work with such inspiring people and I’m really proud of what we’ve built. At the moment, seven directors report to me, and they work across logistics, store operations, property and purchasing. I’m glad to say three out of the seven directors are female.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m quite a collaborative leader. I believe we work better as a team than as individuals. I work really hard to bring my team together because in my opinion, it’s not about the solo run. To use a football analogy, you don’t win the game with a few star players. You need a strong team that is working together.
Have you had mentors throughout your career? If so, how do you apply what they’ve taught you to your current role?
Rather than being focused on specific mentors, I have gone out of my way to learn from everyone I have worked with, regardless of their position. I’ve been surprised by the perspectives people bring to a situation but I’ve always appreciated gaining new insights or a fresh approach.
What’s your best piece of advice for motivating the people you manage?
I work really hard to bring my team together because if one part of the business is facing challenges, all parts of the business are impacted. I make clear to everyone at Aldi that while your own KPIs are important, the priority is to drive the wider business forward. I try to encourage collaboration and teamwork across the region to show that success is the result of our team effort and of everyone’s hard work.
The best part of my job is working with people and seeing them succeed. That’s what inspires and motivates me every day. It’s important to recognise and celebrate these wins, no matter how small, to keep your team motivated.
How important is diversity for an organisation like Aldi Australia?
I really feel that at Aldi, it makes no difference whether you’re male or female — everyone is equal. In my career, I’ve never felt disadvantaged because I’m a woman.
As a new mum, I feel very supported across all areas of my working life. Many of my team members have children too so they know what it takes to juggle work commitments with small children. Sometimes I’ve come to the office with an accidental layer of peanut butter on my face, courtesy of my son, and it’s great that my colleagues and I can have a good laugh about it.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a new mum is getting used to being away from my son. But if you love your job, you will make it work and Aldi has supported me all the way. My work hours are flexible so my family life fits in easily with my career.
How does this influence the company’s approach to hiring new staff members and promoting those already in the business?
I believe that Aldi is a very supportive and inclusive employer, and I’ve actually got a very relevant example from my working life. When I was promoted to managing director, I was pregnant but hadn’t announced the news yet. Fortunately, Aldi supported me throughout my journey of expecting a child while transitioning into a new role.
When I came back from maternity leave, I was able to start in my new role well-rested and with fresh eyes. The first year was pretty exciting and somewhat tumultuous at times, so it was nice to have a break before diving into the position.
Aldi Australia has been growing rapidly, establishing operations in new states and regions. As a manager, what has this process taught you?
When you work for a fast growing business like Aldi, you always need to be thinking about what’s next for your team. You need to be constantly mentoring and developing your people so that they are ready to move up and into new roles as the business expands.
Aldi’s growth over the years has given me a great chance to take on new roles within the business and really broaden my experience and skill set. The great thing about this business is that they prioritise promoting internally and giving people the chance to try something new. The opportunities are endless, but at the same time, as a manager you need to be able to identify talents and really understand the interests and passions of your staff.
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