Training APEX Awards Best Practice: Ferguson Enterprises’ HVAC Leadership Concentration

The live-online instructor-led, seven-week learning experience incorporates content that addresses skills related to Emotional Intelligence, coaching and developing others, change leadership, business acumen, and accelerating strategy.

APEX Awards

In 2021, wholesaler/distributor Ferguson Enterprises identified an opportunity to position its HVAC business for evolving market dynamics by closing skill gaps with its next-generation HVAC leaders. In consultation with both HVAC executive leadership and the HR director for HVAC, the company uncovered the leadership skills it has today and the ones it will need for HVAC to be successful in the coming years.

To support HVAC leaders, Ferguson Enterprises designed the HVAC Leadership Concentration, which addresses the specific challenges the HVAC customer group faces and mapped skill gaps to course topics that evolved into objectives for the program.

Program Details

All participants first take part in a pre-requisite core leadership development experience (Leadership Foundation Experience or Advanced Leadership Experience) to ensure a common leadership language and proficiency. The follow-up Concentration Program includes objectives, topics, format, delivery, and reinforcement that are tailored to target the participant group’s business, culture, and experience level.

The live-online instructor-led, seven-week learning experience incorporates content that addresses each skill gap/program objective. This includes topics on:

  • Emotional Intelligence: Increasing self-awareness, enhancing the capability to control emotions, and listening with empathy
  • Coaching and Developing Others: Mastering the art of navigating challenging coaching situations and enhancing associate performance
  • Change Leadership: Managing resistance and retaining talent during change
  • Building Business Acumen: Understanding both the mechanics of how Ferguson makes money, as well as the story its financials tell and how they contribute to the bottom line
  • Accelerating Strategy: Exploring practical ideas for turning strategic plans into action and garnering the support and resources needed to achieve key goals

Additionally, associates participate in two executive leadership roundtable sessions that feature vice presidents and corporate directors who offer perspective in a panel discussion addressing topics relevant to the program.

Thirty days post-program completion, participants are assigned a current strategic business challenge to work in teams. After two months, the groups present their findings and proposal to a mock board of directors. Participant groups are provided feedback on their strategic proposals, as well as delivery of the presentations.


Since its inception in 2021, 63 leaders from the HVAC customer group have completed the program across two fiscal years, which represents approximately 21 percent of the total HVAC manager-and-above population. High-performing leaders on succession plans were directly targeted to ensure development across current and future senior-leader levels of the HVAC customer group. Across the cohorts, female representation is 16 percent, more than 7 percent higher than the percentage of women in the targeted population.

Some 89 percent of managers reported an improvement in their direct reports’ behavior post-training, with an improved focus on team development being the top reason. Some 76 percent of managers reported a positive impact on their business goals as a result of their direct report attending the program, with increased sales and/or margin being the top reason.

Additionally, 14 participants (21 percent) received a promotion or shifted to a role with new or expanded responsibilities since participating in the program. And Ferguson’s HVAC customer group’s total revenue grew 22 percent last fiscal year.

Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.