Prior to 2012, Bloomingdale’s was doing what most retail organizations do when it comes to retail loss prevention training and safety education—relying on a number of standard approaches like posters, classroom training, huddles, and pre-shift morning rallies. But these approaches just weren’t working.
As I contemplated this situation, I realized we weren’t focused on the right thing. We were concentrating on simply delivering training, when we should have been focused on building knowledge. Simply plastering posters on the wall or using all those other one-off approaches weren’t making our associates smarter or getting them to do the right things on the job. This dearth of knowledge was impacting our loss prevention and safety numbers.
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We sought out and eventually discovered an employee knowledge platform that aligned with the organizational vision. The platform’s methodology, which was rooted in brain science principles, and its use of gamification techniques to keep associates interested, succeeded in building employee expertise over time. Since implementing the platform, we’ve reduced safety claims by 41 percent and saved $2.2 million per year, which is a $10 million savings overall.
Here are four things I’ve learned over the course of transforming the way Bloomingdale’s approaches safety and retail loss prevention training:
1. Integrate training into the regular work day without taking associates off the floor.
Retail associates are constantly on their feet. The reality of their fast-paced work environment means it’s disruptive and expensive to take them off the floor. At Bloomingdale’s, associates use their downtime to take a few minutes of micro training every shift via a point-of-sale (POS) or mobile device. Not only does this keep valuable staff members on the floor, but it keeps LP and safety information top of mind.
2. Bite-size, personalize, and gamify.
Today’s retail workforce is tech savvy and accustomed to accessing small pieces of information instantly. Retailers can appeal to these preferences by delivering training in small bursts in a way that is entertaining, personalized, and gamified. Learning becomes more exciting and interactive and, by integrating friendly competitive aspects through leaderboards, points, and rewards, this further fuels motivation. At Bloomingdale’s, we often hit training participation rates above 95 percent on the platform.
3. Offer flexibility to meet the unique challenges in different departments and stores.
One of Bloomingdale’s challenges was to provide consistent training across stores, while giving stores the flexibility to meet specific needs. With a single training platform, we’re able to do this, plus empower each location or department to customize their associates’ learning experience. For example, in November 2015, ISIS followed up its attacks on Paris with a threat against New York City targets. As a result, we pushed out active shooter training as a top priority to our NY stores. Within minutes of starting their shifts, associates received refresher training, helping to calm fears and prepare for the worst. Fortunately, the threat didn’t materialize, but our front line was prepared.
4. Provide a way to measure associate knowledge and tie it back to business outcomes.
Seeing progress and tying it to results is critical for measuring impact. Instead of tracking the completion of training, we track knowledge growth on a topic-by-topic basis and can see the impact all the way through to employee behavior and results. We know exactly how teams and individual associates are advancing in their knowledge, which training content is posing some challenges, and which topics employees have mastered. This enables managers to provide coaching and creates a positive cycle of feedback that elevates training and performance continually across the organization.
This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated January 10, 2018.