Lorcan McCann - Aldi Graduate Area Management Programme

I joined Aldi in July 2018 as part of the Graduate Area Manager Programme. I studied Commerce in UCD. I always had an interest in business, politics and current affairs from a young age and knew from early on that I wanted to complete a general business degree.

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When did you join the Aldi Graduate Area Manager Programme and what is your degree background?

I joined Aldi in July 2018 as part of the Graduate Area Manager Programme. I studied Commerce in UCD. I always had an interest in business, politics and current affairs from a young age and knew from early on that I wanted to complete a general business degree.

What attracted me to the Commerce degree programme in UCD was the opportunity to complete an internship as part of the degree. This is traditionally a three year degree, with the option to extend this to four years for students who wish to complete an internship. I chose to apply for the Aldi Retail Management Internship Programme and thankfully I was successful in my application. The Internship Programme splits your time between working in stores and in the Regional Head office. The programme was a great experience; not only did it give me a great insight into the operations of a global discount retailer, it also confirmed to me that working in Aldi was a career that I wanted to pursue and it sparked my interest in the Graduate Area Manager Programme.

What do you think it takes to succeed at Aldi?

Aldi is full of hard working, motivated and committed people; each of whom are the driving force behind the success of the business. For me, the most important quality to succeed at Aldi, and particularly as an Area Manager, is to be driven and passionate about your role. As an Area Manager I have a lot of responsibility; I am running a multi-million euro business with up to 100 direct/indirect reports. There is the scope for a lot to go wrong and there are many challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome. The past 18 months have been a challenging period within the business as we navigated through Brexit and continue to deal with Covid-19 and the impact that this has upon our operations. It is up to an Area Manager to lead their team through these challenges.

In addition, as an Area Manager, there are a number of challenging financial KPIs that we work towards delivering on. The performance of my area can have a big impact upon the performance of the entire business. Once KPIs and targets are agreed at the start of each year, it is then the responsibility of my teams and myself to deliver results. The challenging nature of the role is one of the best parts of working at Aldi. It means that every day is different and I am constantly learning and developing.

Describe what a typical working week looks like for you?

One of the great things about the Area Manager role is the variety it offers. The responsibilities of the Area Manager role are quite broad, and cover everything from sales, recruitment, training, people development, project management and the maintenance of our stores.

I like my working week to be as structured as possible and I start every week by having a meeting with each of my Store Managers where we discuss KPIs and any challenges within the store that we might be facing. I spend the middle part of my week auditing each of my stores. This consists of time spent on the shop floor auditing store standards as well as time spent in the office ensuring the efficient operation of the back office. I typically finish my week with recruitment activities, which can include group interviews, individual interviews, contract signings and promotions.

How has your role progressed since finishing the Graduate Area Manager Programme?

When I finished my year of training as part of the Graduate Area Manager Programme, I took responsibility for two stores in Dublin. That is when the real learning starts as the level of responsibility changes overnight. However, the 12 month training programme involves spending quality time training with and shadowing colleagues which allowed me to be as prepared as possible for when I was handed the keys to my own stores.

Looking forward, I see my long term career at Aldi. The company provides Area Managers with the opportunity to take part in secondments abroad and within other departments. There can also be progression routes available to Directorship within the business. These opportunities are very exciting and part of what motivates me every day.

Has your perception of the retail industry changed since you joined Aldi? If so, why?

The fact that I had previously completed the Retail Management Internship Programme was a great advantage and meant that I had a relatively good idea of what to expect when I started the Graduate Area Manager Programme. I had knowledge of the culture of the business, people within the business, the operations of our stores and the general structure of the business, all of which allowed me to hit the ground running on day one.

Since joining Aldi, my biggest learning regarding the retail industry is that it is extremely competitive. There is no scope to rest on our laurels. Instead, in Aldi we are constantly innovating and looking for ways to continuously improve. The competitive nature of the industry is reflected throughout the entire business. Each year we set ourselves more challenging KPIs and everyone is working hard to improve and stay ahead of the competition.

What piece of advice would you give to graduates looking to break into your sector?

As with any decision regarding your career, the best piece of advice anyone can give is to do as much research as possible and make an informed decision. For me, that consisted of visiting stores and speaking with Store Assistants, Store Managers and Area Managers to get an idea of what Aldi was like as an employer and also to get as much insight into the sector as possible. The Aldi recruitment website also contains an abundance of information regarding the Graduate Area Manager Programme and the application process.

Discount retail is not for everyone; it is fast paced, involves lots of challenges and has an element of unsocial hours (weekends and evenings) and some of our busiest periods are during seasonal events such as Christmas and Easter. However, if you have done all of your research and feel that a career in retail is what interests you most, my advice would be to go for it and apply for the Graduate Area Manager Programme. During the recruitment process, be yourself and let your personality come through. You will not regret it and you will have taken the first step on the ladder to a very long and rewarding career with Aldi.

To find out more about the Aldi Graduate Area Manager programme, visit their careers hub on gradireland.

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