3 Ways Bloomingdale’s Prepares Its Associates for the Worst

Retail associates aren’t just dealing with customers anymore. Active shooter and terrorist threats are becoming more common. And apprehensions are becoming more dangerous, as suspects often resist and are frequently armed.

At Bloomingdale’s, we take the safety of our people very seriously. The threat landscape in our industry is becoming more dangerous. To keep up, we needed an aggressive strategy. Our goal was to train our associates to deal with these threats confidently on the job, while also keeping them safe in their personal lives.

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Here are three proven strategies to ensure associates have the ability to detect and address security threats, while retaining information and staying engaged throughout training.

1. Best-in-Class Strategy and Content
First, we created a Bloomingdale’s playbook for responding to threats. Then we launched a drill at our headquarters in NYC and had it vetted by the FBI and NYPD. We also used information provided by EHS and the Department of Homeland Security to build our content. The content included ‘run, hide, and fight’ tactics, as well tips on how to always stay aware of exits and entrances.

2. Social Media Monitoring
Social media websites are a crucial tool for monitoring security threats. People post videos and photos in real time about what’s happening around them. We use this to our advantage for early warning of threats. We also hired a third-party company to monitor social media for specific keywords and phrases. We aligned our training content to these potential threats, so associates were updated immediately and knew how to react.

3. Continuous Training and Reinforcement
We deliver ongoing associate training on our employee knowledge platform, provided by Axonify. Unlike a traditional learning management system, we are able to continually deliver learning and assess the level of knowledge and confidence of our associates, which is key to ensuring their safety. This continuous and fluid way of training helps us ensure they don’t forget anything. We also train our detectives on apprehension and de-escalation techniques.

This micro-learning approach—delivering small, bite-sized chunks of learning—has fostered a knowledgeable, informed, and confident staff. And because the small information chunks are manageable, frequent, and readily available, we boast 90 percent voluntary participation. The platform has saved us about $10 million over the last few years.

In the face of certain threats, speed is critical. Using the platform, we can push out information immediately. In the wake of ISIS attacks on Paris, threats were made against NYC targets, including Times Square. We were able to deliver active shooter refresher training immediately to all of our associates on duty near Times Square, calming their fears by providing critical advice on how to respond if need be.

It’s difficult as an organization to provide the right level of training and information, and the right reinforcement of that information. With this approach, I know when I go home at the end of the day, we’ve done our best to prepare our associates.

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