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Listening to Frontliners Through Business and Cultural Change: Acuity Brands John Brothers

by Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr | July 26th, 2023

We’re all humans, so the needs of workers are similar across the board. John Brothers has learned this from his time as VP of Talent at Acuity Brands. On today’s episode of Workplace Stories, John recounts his experience working through Acuity’s cultural and business mindset shift and how that has affected the frontline workforce and beyond.

John Brothers’ role at Acuity Brands

John Brothers is the VP of Talent and Organizational Effectiveness at Acuity Brands. He oversees talent acquisition, management, and development and helps to further the culture of his organization.

Acuity is not a household name, but as an industrial technology company and leader in industrial lighting, you have probably come into contact with their products. Acuity lies at the intersection of technology and sustainability.

With 20+ years of experience in the talent management space, John understands that the challenges organizations face are similar across industries.

The similarities and differences between frontline and white-collar workers

With 9,000 frontline workers and 4,000 white-collar workers, Acuity has discovered that there isn’t a stark difference in what all of its employees want. The needs of workers are the same no matter where they are or what they do–their skills may vary but their needs stay the same.

The difference between frontline and white collared workers is the way those needs are met. John has noticed that the main differences between frontliners and desked workers are how organizations engage, care for, and provide access and professional development between the two types of workers.

Acuity’s frontliners play a critical role in their value chain

At Acuity Brands, frontline workers play a critical role in the value chain of the organization. Their frontliners develop and assemble their products in their manufacturing plants. As an organization, they are beginning to understand that their frontliners have more choices in employers.

This is why Acuity has begun to listen to its employees in a more formal way. As a company, it is holding itself to higher standards and shifting its business and culture in profound ways.

What Acuity has noticed is that its employees are interested in more support both inside and outside the workplace. They are interested in more flexibility, benefits, and learning and development opportunities.

Acuity is finding new ways to harness this information and support and invest in its workforce. They are putting their listening to action. With only 9000 total development hours for frontline employees in 2021 they have more than tripled those hours in 2022.

Their listening coupled with a new focus on a growth mindset enables their workforce to focus on their curiosity to grow, allowing them to do their best work.

Listen to this interview with John Brothers to hear how Acuity is focusing on the frontline to change its culture and the way they run its business.



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