When looking to improve business results in categories such as loss prevention, risk management and safety, retailers need to make a concerted effort to educate their employees on how to handle difficult in-store situations. However, many training programs aren’t structured to encourage participation or information retention.
The lack of an effective employee learning program can create a disconnect between management and store employees, ruin consistency among stores and even decrease motivation and employee morale.
In this Q&A, Chad McIntosh, VP of Loss Prevention and Risk Management at Bloomingdale’s, shared insights into how the retailer leveraged an employee learning program from Axonify to properly educate employees on loss prevention and store safety, and also to measure the effectiveness of its efforts. Upon implementing the Axonify platform, Bloomingdales used gamification to decrease unsafe incidents, boost employee confidence and make the learning process more enjoyable overall.
Retail TouchPoints (RTP): How did the Axonify platform positively affect the Bloomingdales team?
McIntosh: It’s really about taking a business approach to problem solving. When we first looked at Axonify and gamification, I really had no way of measuring whether or not the associates received or understood our message about shrinkage and safety. I’ve always wanted a way to determine if in fact they were getting this message and whether we were changing behaviors in the store accordingly. Axonify has enabled us to do that, quite frankly. We’ve been able to save millions of dollars in workers’ comp and general liability claims in our organization, because we have changed behaviors.
My first approach was always to go from a safety standpoint, because we could measure it month-to-month, unlike shrinkage, which is more of an annual process for a retailer today. We could determine that we were changing behaviors and improving the profitability of the company.
RTP: What processes did the Bloomingdale’s team implement, in working with the Axonify platform, to bolster the employee learning process?
McIntosh: You’re more willing to learn and grasp knowledge when there’s an element of fun in the process. I don’t know that there’s anybody today that uses “safety” and “fun” in the same sentence, so we’ve been able to make it fun throughout our organization and see a real knowledge lift from it.
Stores that participate on a regular basis have seen a 9% knowledge lift, so that’s great in developing the understanding of our associates and how we want them to conduct their business safely.
RTP: Why were these processes implemented in the first place? Were there any pain points that you noticed the company needed to improve on through loss prevention?
McIntosh: It was primarily about awareness. My awareness campaigns had always been a series of posters that hang at the employee entrance door so that associates and managers walk right by it when they come to work. Beyond the first day on the job, many employees don’t really look at the posters. I wanted to be sure that we could determine, down to the associate level, if they were getting the message and if they understood it.
It’s been a great tool to determine how our training program works. The program is a cascade process that’s developed in central HQ, then given to someone in management in-store to share with the associates. In our organization, you have 40 different slants on the training information that may or may not be exactly what you’re trying to impart to the associates. With Axonify, we’ve been able to be much more consistent with our training.
RTP: Were there any challenges associated with adjusting to the new employee training system?
McIntosh: We did a great job training our loss prevention and operational teams compared to what our expectations were, but we found that you needed an in-store owner of the program that could talk about the results, talk to people that weren’t participating, and demonstrate the program to the store family. If you had a store owner that could do these things, the stores could move participation level and results at quicker rates. I don’t think we initially anticipated that well enough.
RTP: When do meetings take place to discuss store results?
McIntosh: It varies by location. Sometimes the message is delivered at a weekly store rally, while sometimes the message is mentioned on a daily basis from a loss prevention or store ops manager. We take every opportunity to not only talk about participation rates, but to celebrate those people that have demonstrated an expert level of knowledge in the stores.
RTP: How long did the Axonify implementation take?
McIntosh: It took about a month to get it off of the ground and into our pilot stores. We started with seven pilot stores, and after three months of measuring the pilot stores, we rolled it out to the entire organization. It took about four months from start to finish to get it fully implemented.
RTP: How is the associate morale throughout the company now that they have easier access to a lot of this safety and compliance information?
McIntosh: When a couple of senior executives at Bloomingdale’s were visiting a store, they walked into the cosmetics department and found some broken glass on the floor. As the two executives started to clean it up, one of the associates nearby came over and said “I know how to do this the right way on Axonify,” and cleaned it up properly. At that point, it really crystallized the value of this training approach for them, and the changing behavior of our associates in-store.
It was certainly a defining moment for those two executives. One of them was my boss; he always thought that the process had some merit to it, but he just wasn’t sure what we were on to in our approach to the training program.
RTP: What further goals does Bloomingdale’s have with the Axonify program in the future?
McIntosh: We want to broaden the use of the platform to other parts of the business. If we add another element such as sales and service, or inventory shrinkage, to it, we can move the participation beyond where we’re at today. We’re really looking to expand beyond safety and compliance training.
With the flexibility we have with this platform and the partnership we have with Axonify, I don’t know that I would ever go to another method to train associates today. It’s intuitive, easy to use and fun, and we have a large percentage of our stores that have greater than 95% participation, even though it’s a voluntary program. I’m not sure there’s another program in my organization today that can speak to that level of participation.
Click here to access an on-demand webinar featuring Chad McIntosh.