Henderson Group – The Workforce Developer

Henderson Group – The Workforce Developer


The Workforce Developer

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Between 2020 – 2022, 320 employees completed internal career pathways, securing promotions, with another 72 joining pathways between January – June 2023.

Henderson Group, members of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are the National Winners of the Workforce Developer award at the Chamber Business Awards 2023.  

They were founded by John Henderson in 1897 as a butter, cheese and egg retailer in Belfast. Over 120 years later they are still in the retail grocery business but have expanded and diversified significantly and now own household name brands such as Spar and Vivo. 

Learning and development is at the heart of their people strategy, which includes four people-centred themes: 

  • Keep me Well; 
  • Keep me Engaged; 
  • Keep me Involved; and 
  • Keep me Inspired. 

Under the theme of ‘Keep me Inspired’, Henderson Group includes objectives around Personal & Leadership Development. Learning is implemented through its learning team, The Academy, which focuses on the company’s core values of ambition, teamwork, customer first and integrity.  

They have a multi-faceted approach to learning:  

  • They conduct learning needs analysis, identifying learning and skills gaps; 
  • They implement Tier 1 of a Learning Management System (LMS) to drive transformative learning: ‘Just-enough, just-in-time and just-for-me’; 
  • They design learning and development solutions to address learning needs and preferences, and to facilitate collaboration; 
  • They deliver their learning and development by using appropriate channels in person, as well as online, blended and agile learning;  
  • They run tailored leadership development programmes to develop skills and enable succession planning;  
  • They conduct evaluation and impact assessments, using metrics and feedback mechanisms;  
  • They evolve their learning strategy based on the changing needs of the team and seek feedback to ensure it is aligned with their business priorities;  
  • And finally, they champion equality, diversity and inclusion through tailored learning and employability schemes. 

There is a focus on career development. Between 2020 – 2022, 320 employees completed internal career pathways, securing promotions, with another 72 joining pathways between January – June 2023.  Additionally, workforce growth and talent attraction has seen a 23% growth since 2020. The group’s approach helps it to attract talent in a tight labour market. 

The business will sustain the learning and development of its team through:  

  • Internal mentoring/networking to share learnings and best practice; 
  • Collaboration and peer-to-peer learning via the ‘connect’ module of the LMS; 
  • Review/’check-in’ for the application of learning, building a culture of continuous learning and development to secure personal growth and organisational development; 
  • Leveraging technology to deliver agile learning at the point of need; 
  • Using innovative methodologies and interactivity to develop bespoke learning. 

This business is a proven workforce developer – careers are made at Henderson Group. The group facilitates lifelong learning and career pathways, and continually evolves its approach to stay relevant, in the context of new technologies and its diverse workforce. 

Their approach has enhanced their business performance by increasing their sales from £1.05bn in 2021 to a forecasted £1.36bn in 2023, and increasing their profit from £59m in 2021 to a forecasted £66m in 2023. 

They have also enjoyed significant industry recognition, including: 

  • IIP Gold Accreditation; 
  • Grocer Gold Awards 2022 Winner: Independent Retail Chain of the Year; 
  • Business Eye Family Business Awards 2022 Winner: Family Business of the Year; 
  • Irish News Awards 2022: Winner – CSR Award; 
  • CIPD NI Awards 2022: Highly Commended, Best Diversity & Inclusion Initiative; 
  • Sam Davidson, HR Director at Henderson Group: Winner – ‘Outstanding contribution in the field of people’; 
  • People Metrics: Employee ‘Net Promoter Score’ as measured by engagement surveys – improved by 20 points since 2019; 
  • At this company, there are no barriers to succeeding to your full potential’: 84% Agree/ Strongly Agree (11% neutral); 
  • My manager inspires me to achieve my best’: 76% Strongly Agree/ Agree (17% neutral); 
  • Labour turnover was reduced by 2.63%, between April 2022 and April 2023. 
Workforce developer logo (pop up)


Company Growth

On the back of the success of the brewery site and events, Dal then set his sights on expanding both the range of products on offer and the footprint of the business. In December 2021, Dal agreed a 20-year lease on Christchurch Spire in Coventry city centre. The unique venue serves Dhillon’s beers and ales on tap, as well as offering hot drinks and food, to create a family friendly environment.

Dhillon’s next venture was the Sky Blue Tavern, a brand-new sports bar in the city centre, in partnership with Coventry City Football Club. The Tavern is a hub for Sky Blues fans to meet and enjoy a drink, whether on matchdays or non-matchdays, and helps to generate revenue and support for the club. As one of the only dedicated sports bars in Coventry, football and sports fans can watch the latest action on big screens and in individual booths.

Dhillon’s Brewery have now also secured several catering contracts, including with Historic Coventry Trust, where they provide food and beverage operations at the historic Drapers’ Hall, as well as at other Trust locations.

The company’s vision and long-term growth plan continues to be focused on its close association with Coventry whilst securing further locations and contracts, to build a sustainable, profitable business model whilst continuing Dal’s original passion for brewing beautifully crafted beer.

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