A closer look at companies executing leadership excellence
What would happen if we chose a diverse group of eight people in their late 20’s and early 30’s to live together in a condo for two months? That’s the question that launched MTV’s ‘The Real World’ series in 1992. It’s similar to the question that Jim Gilmore, author of The Experience Economy asked in 1998 when Whirlpool tasked him for help with flagging recruitment and high turnover in their sales department.
The result was Whirlpool’s Real Whirled house in Stevensville, Michigan. For two months, up to eight Whirlpool sales trainees live in a two-story, eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom condo with four kitchens and four laundry rooms equipped with Whirlpool appliances.
They spend their time cooking and cleaning with Whirlpool products and putting the appliances through rigorous tests. They smear white bags with mustard, relish and other stain-generating condiments, just to see if they can bleach them out. They test the power of a dishwasher by adding an entire carrot cake to a load of dishes – the cake entirely evaporates and the dishes come out sparkling clean!
While the approach may be unconventional, the results are impressive. Research shows that new employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company after three years if they experience a structured orientation program. From 2009 to 2015, Whirlpool has retained 80% of all Real Whirled participants. The program gives new employees a sense of camaraderie, a setting for experiential learning, and the opportunity to empathize with the daily household experiences of their customers.
Kudos to Whirlpool! The Real Whirled program excels in onboarding and retaining a sales team while developing a strong leadership bench for the future.