Written by Marte Semb Aasmundsen

As the leading fitness center chain in the Nordic region, SATS wants to play an important role in its members' health and quality of life. Covid-19 therefore hit them hard in 2020 with great unpredictability and many closed centers. Nevertheless, they have invested in leadership training through the new everyday life. The feedback from the participants is good, as are the results. SATS is now launching ten new groups of managers who will challenge and improve their knowledge of leadership in practice together with FRONT Leadership.

Systematic leadership training

SATS has not previously invested in systematic leadership training across the Nordic countries, but the need for a plan and leadership training over time was needed in the organization and therefore high on the agenda. In addition, it was desirable to have a program that could be implemented in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark to further align the countries around defined leadership principles. FRONT Leadership's digital leadership training was therefore a good model that also differed from the other alternatives and provided the opportunity for practice along the way.

- We began our journey by designing leadership principles that build on our values in collaboration with FRONT Leadership. This allowed us to give our leaders a common foundation to guide their work across the organization. The start of the pilot that has now been run came just before COVID-19 hit, so there was no option to interrupt the process. 2020 was a turbulent year for us at SATS with a lot of unpredictability, yet the feedback from the managers on the program is very good. Many other things were put on hold, but building competence among our managers is a priority for us. They have also been able to use the lessons learned from the program and benefit from them when supporting and motivating employees in a new workday," says Anniken Mørch Fischer, Nordic People Development Manager at SATS.


Anniken Mørch Fischer, Nordic People Development Manager at SATS.

Good timing

Feedback from participants included that the timing was good and provided a useful refresher during a challenging year. At the same time, awareness of communication has increased, and managers have become more dynamic and willing to change. In addition, the managers themselves feel that they have gained greater weight in their leadership role, which contributes to better thought-out decisions and increased trust in employees. Stine Melfald is a leadership coach at FRONT Leadership and has been responsible for planning the program and conducting the digital sessions with SATS.

- We see that it is during challenging periods that there is the greatest need to work on developing leadership skills. Unfortunately, it is often during these periods that the development of leaders is put on hold and given lower priority. In that sense, SATS has hit the mark with its leadership training. A strong leadership role makes for a more confident leader. The whole organization benefits from this, especially in turbulent times like COVID-19 in 2020. "When we have met once a month, there has been room to discuss difficult issues with others and to share experiences, and the feedback shows that this is useful for everyone. That's also my own experience," says Melfald.

She also explains that the way the program is structured, with collaboration between participants, provides a lot of room for sparring and exchange of experience. There is continuous feedback from employees on the measures the participants implement in their everyday lives so that they have the opportunity to adjust. Each participant is also given a training partner with whom they can discuss and thus be challenged in their own leadership.

- It was desirable for SATS to focus on how to use feedback as a practical tool to increase performance. My angle on this is that you use feedback in a very concrete way to maintain performance in the team and develop people by working on giving clear and specific feedback that creates results. When it comes to communication, it's about being aware of how you reach people with your own form of communication. You have to be sure to reach everyone, which is especially important in such an operational industry as SATS is part of," Melfald explains.


Kick-off leadership development SATS Norway 2020

A holistic perspective on leadership training

After a successful pilot with leadership training through FRONT Leadership, SATS is now continuing with ten new groups that will go through the same program. Thus, all the Nordic countries represented in the company are included in a systematized program that focuses on important aspects of being a good leader based on the company's own values.

- Our goal in taking leadership training to a Nordic level is that all managers should have the same foundation. At the end of the pilot, it was noticeable that the participants had developed as leaders and that they had a common language for talking about leadership. The managers have also gained a larger network of management colleagues to draw on when they face challenges in the future. "I look forward to all SATS managers benefiting from this, which I believe is beneficial for the individual manager as well as for the company as a whole," concludes Fischer.

Read more about how we conduct and integrate leadership training into everyday work life.