Anthony Henry, Customer Program Manager
Luis Rojas-Romero, Industrial Engineer
Luz Hernandez, Industrial Engineering Analyst
In our prior blog post, we discussed basic and practical ways to develop stocking methods that will improve productivity on the sales floor. Designing the method is just the first part of the challenge. The next hurdles are rolling the methods out and making them stick. In this post we discuss what you must do to transition the idea from the drawing board to implementation to lasting practice, because an unsuccessful rollout can damage your business in several ways. These include loss of trainer and team member time, loss of investment in equipment that isn’t used or is used incorrectly, lower employee morale, and less willingness to buy into future initiatives.
There are numerous challenges when rolling out a new method. In the case of a new stocking method, these include:
- Breaking old habits that may be ingrained in team members
- Developing a consistent coaching strategy between managers
- Differing store layout and offering conditions
How you take these factors into consideration when designing your strategy to communicate organizational best practices will determine their success or failure. Retailers often use one or a combination of implementation pathways to teach, coach and train their associates on best-practice changes. However, before any training begins, the first step is providing the right communication.
Communicate the “why”
Most retailers can explain what they are doing and how they plan to implement their best methods. However most either skip or struggle with “WHY” the method improvement matters. Because organizations do not change—people do—explaining the why needs to be personalized.
Associates don’t resist change, but they do resist being changed. Retailers must involve their associates in defining the why behind the method change. This requires a lot of communication. It makes the difference between associates supporting the best methods because they feel they have to, versus associates supporting the best methods because they want to. This distinction is the critical make-or-break factor in the success of best methods implementation initiatives.
Associates who feel that they have to do something usually feel like victims and will invest the minimum amount of effort and energy to deliver new results.
However associates who understand and emotionally connect with the rationale for the best method adoption—why it’s important to the organization and to them—feel inspired rather than manipulated, and will do all they can to creatively support, adopt and learn the required implementation change.
On-the-job implementation training
In this type of implementation, a new or less experienced associate is given instruction or advice from a more experienced associate who may be a supervisor or special instructor. How well the associate learns depends on how well the experienced associate teaches them. Most of the implementation includes hands-on training with a skilled or semi-skilled associate observing and helping them along the way with the use of guides like the following:
Visual Method Sheets (VMS) are minimal written instructions in sequential steps that describe work to be done with electronic images to show or demonstrate how work is to be carried out. Electronic images are combined with written instruction in a consistent format for easy and rapid comprehension.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations.
Visual Aids (VAs) are items of illustrative matter that associates are shown, such as pictures, film or maps, to help them understand or remember information on how to execute a best method more easily.
Quick Reference Guides (QRG) known as “cheat sheets” are a tool for the associate who needs to know just enough to get a job done without having to read an entire manual or textbook.
This one-on-one implementation coaching style with guides builds a relationship between associates and mentor that carries far beyond method adoption. It also allows the associate to ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking in a group setting.
The advantage of this type of implementation is that the best practice is learned by the associates in actual conditions using the best methods and in the physical environment as opposed to learning the job in an artificial environment.
eLearning relies on online videos, tests and courses to deliver the associate the best method training. Associates can do their group training at a company’s designated computer or training facility. It is one of the easiest types of associate implementation training program large companies use to reach their larger workforce, especially for those associates who are remote or have high turnover rates. However, there are pros and cons to this type of best method implementation.
Flexibility. The eLearning content can be done in sections, to fit around the associates’ schedules. Unlike traditional eLearning approach, associates do not have to follow a structured schedule that dictates when they can access the eLearning content. This type of implementation gives associates flexibility to accomplish their method implementation training, on their own time.
Lower cost. Since there are no costs associated with using a trainer’s time and/or equipment, online implementation becomes a much more affordable option. This in turn reduces overhead cost to an organization, giving them more headroom to invest in facility upgrades and better strategic planning campaigns.
Message consistency. All associates receive a consistent message versus varying delivery on how to execute the best methods across the organization.
Computer proficiency. Some associates may not be comfortable using computers. Even if the software is user friendly, it may be a daunting task for them. These associates may struggle and would probably be more successful in a traditional on-the-job implementation type setting.
Lack of structure. Sometimes associates with low motivation can quickly fall behind with this type of method adoption. With no fixed schedule or routine, eLearning implementation can become difficult for associates to meet coursework goals which leads to poor method adoption.
Maintaining and sustaining
Best method adherence begins with effective training, but it doesn’t end there. Good managers coach best methods and help their associates understand why the method is the right method considering customer safety, associate safety and proper handling of the product being stocked. Without ongoing coaching, there can be very different methods in place on the sales floor versus the one in the training documentation. Managers need best methods training too, especially in how to observe and coach their associates to reinforce the company’s best methods. Developing managers’ abilities to observe and coach seems easy; however many managers rise to their position by being the most productive associate and not based on their managerial or communication skills.
Providing recognition to the associates throughout the process of implementation will aid in sustaining the best practices. Recognition can be as simple as verbal or a small reward such as a gift card.
In the next part of the series, we’ll explore how a system-based approach to conducting observations and proactively creating a positive and reinforcing culture to support best methods can produce lasting benefits. These include improved productivity and mitigating risk factors such as costly worker compensation claims due to injuries.