Tobias Frohm

Leadership at Systembolaget and the power of a shared mission

Systembolaget has for several years in a row placed at the absolute top when the Swedish people rate their best customer experiences. Not too shabby for an organisation that in the early 2000s was a disputed monopoly. Today, it is a service company cherished by customers and employees alike. How did this happen?

–There is tremendous power in getting 5,000 people to agree on a shared mission and then make sure that everyone who works here receives the right prerequisites to do the job, says Tobias Frohm, director of e-commerce and former HR director of Systembolaget.

The transformation of Systembolaget began in 2009 when Magdalena Gerger became CEO. That’s when the goal was set for Systembolaget to become the forerunner of customer interaction.

A clear mission

– We have a very clear mission for our employees, which is to impress the customer. “Do you have the right prerequisites to impress the customer?” is a question that we ask all employees.
Tobias Frohm

This promise to the customer is important for Systembolaget, says Tobias Frohm.

– A satisfied and impressed customer provides us with a robust framework from which we can fulfil our mission from the owner – to sell alcoholic drinks with a great social responsibility and good service. If we had not been appreciated for our work in this role, then I do not think we would have continued to exist.

Systembolaget’s effort to offer Sweden’s best customer interaction has been fruitful. For several years in a row, they have placed at the absolute top in consumer satisfaction surveys. The transformation has taken place through a very conscious effort where the organisation’s managers have acted as the fuel.

– We want the dialogue between the manager and employees to have meaning and be about where the business is heading based on a common target, says Tobias Frohm.

Tobias Frohm, Director E-commerce

At Systembolaget, dialogue, reflection and feedback are the most important tools for a manager.

– That’s why we look for these qualities when hiring new managers. It is also something that we focus a lot on in our leadership trainings. The fact that we find eight out of ten new managers within the organisation shows that this mentality has become natural at Systembolaget.

Creating the right prerequisites

– Our leadership is very much based on a coaching approach where dialogue is important, says Tobias Frohm. Here at Systembolaget, leadership is about creating the right prerequisites for our employees. That is why Agerus, with its focus on the assignment, prerequisites and dialogue, is well-suited as support to our leaders.

 

About Systembolaget:

Systembolaget, with about 5 000 employees, is a state-owned chain of shops that have exclusive rights to sell alcohol beverages

– Our leadership is very much based on a coaching approach where dialogue is important, says Tobias Frohm. Here at Systembolaget, leadership is about creating the right prerequisites for our employees. That is why Agerus, with its focus on the assignment, prerequisites and dialogue, is well-suited as support to our leaders.

But great leadership is never perfected, says Tobias Frohm.

– As leaders, we constantly need to work to close the gap for those employees who feel that they do not have the right prerequisites to do their job in the best way.

Systembolaget, like many other Agerus customers, can see that it is in the mandate (“what am I allowed to do/what I may do”) where there is most potential for improvement. But attacking the issue is not that straightforward, says Tobias Frohm.

– Most people who work at Systembolaget work according to a set schedule with job tasks that are repeated, such as picking up and shelving the goods in stores. But we can see a clear difference in the result with regard to "allowed to/may" when the manager starts to involve the employees in scheduling and in planning different aspects of the work.

Tobias Frohm, Director E-commerce

Learning from each other

An important ingredient in the leadership philosophy at Systembolaget is the idea of helping one another to be successful, which also characterises their development efforts.

– We rarely compare across different units. They all have unique prerequisites. Of course, we have a clear idea from our level and can support where support is needed. But much of the development work is done directly between the shops where employees look and learn from each other. This is very good because there is much more power when we learn and are inspired by each other than when we hear something from someone higher up in the chain.
Learning from each other is also something that has characterised the relationship with Agerus, says Tobias Frohm.

– When we have seen development potential and adaptation needs, Agerus has been easy and constructive to work with.

Focusing on the situation

At Systembolaget you can see how the dialogue about assignments and prerequisites also forms an excellent foundation for employee performance reviews.

– The conversation will be a much better one when the focus is on the situation rather than the person, says Tobias Frohm. The tension and concern that come with being judged on the basis of one’s personality disappear as both parties focus on what needs to be done and how to get it done in the best way.

So, what role did Agerus play in the transformation of Systembolaget?

– The Agerus method is a very important piece of the puzzle in everything we do, and an absolute contributor to the fact that we can present such nice CSI figures year after year. We are happy that it is also showing in the figures for whether or not employees would recommend us as employers to their friends. We have reached a very high level in that aspect, which gives us high hope that we can continue to recruit talented employees and develop the business in a positive way.