Guest Column | January 11, 2017

Engaging Associates & Improving Profits Through Asset Protection Mobile Orientation


By Mike Limauro, VP AP, Risk and Safety, Alchemy Systems

Break The Cycle

While evaluating company culture, I realized that to significantly impact loss and improve profits, we needed to do a better job of engaging associates from day one. After all, it’s not Human Resources’ job to convey the mission of Asset Protection to the entire organization. I also realized that I needed to move our focus from reacting to scenarios that caused loss to preventing them altogether. As Asset Protection leaders, we think of ourselves as being proactive but often limit our efforts to a process, equipment, or policies and procedures that relate directly to our own department. However, very few of us start by making a significant investment in on-boarding and a commitment to training that is directed towards all associates.

Data shows that most associates want to do a good job; however, retail culture often falls short of providing them the tools they need to get there. Sixty-one percent of food service associates stated most of their learning came from fellow employees rather than an official training or onboarding program, while fewer than 15% of associates successfully applied what they had learned. We also know that as an associate’s confidence builds and their knowledge is elevated, engagement improves.

Drive Associate Engagement

Associate engagement is not defined by how happy your associates are, nor by how much they enjoy their job. It is measured by an associate’s willingness and ability to do their best and their desire to exemplify the company culture and mission. It is also demonstrated in their aptitude to understand and execute programs.

Engaged associates lead to higher levels of execution, improved customer satisfaction, and increased market share. This means less shrink, fewer accidents, and more profits. However, if you think having a pizza party on its own is going to positively impact your associate engagement score, you need to think again. Associate engagement is about how you treat people every day. It’s also about helping them achieve their goals and leading them to success. Nothing can replace the power of investing in associates who have invested in your program, department, or company.

Innovation And Technology Meets Learning Science

So how — and more importantly when — should your department engage associates? Quite simply, when they are being on-boarded and going through their orientation.  This is the moment when you can have the most impact on shaping desired behaviors.

But boring lectures and stacks of papers to sign weren’t going to have the impact I was looking for with today’s millennials, or any generation for that matter. We needed a new approach to connect with our associates and that was the basis for Mobile Orientation. The software was designed to give every associate the tools required to start their new job with the confidence and knowledge needed to be successful. But this isn’t your typical passive orientation module — this is a literal adventure through the store where the new associate actually becomes part of the training.

Like a tablet-guided museum tour, the experience kicks off with an animated host who gives the new hire an overview of the company, its history, and a detailed explanation of the Asset Protection mission. After getting acquainted, the associate begins their journey by selecting the path they would like to take. Similar to a gaming experience, every time a learning mission is completed, new pathways are offered to the associate.

Learning and confidence building is done by presenting augmented reality (think Pokemon Go) scenarios at checkpoints throughout the adventure. It’s a way to bring real life events right into the workplace so that the associate has an opportunity to immerse themselves into a situation that they may have to face one day in the future.

Scenarios pertaining to safety, food safety, and loss prevention all come to life through this technology. In one scenario, the new hire is asked to place their mobile device camera on a specific freezer case. This triggers animation that appears as if water is gushing out from the base of the freezer. Then a giant octopus arm emerges from the water and pulls a shopper into the puddle. At this time, the animation scenario stops and the new hire is presented with questions about floor safety. If they are answered correctly, the shopper climbs out of the puddle and the water dries up in front of the freezer. This is also a great way to test for comprehension after each training scenario has been presented.

An automated remediation process is then layered into the experience so that new hires who are not confident or do not understand the mission can be led in a different direction to revisit what they have missed.

During a scavenger hunt scenario, the new hire must find and assemble equipment, take pictures of executed processes, and even audit a few items. But best of all, they are prompted to meet each department manager in their store. To check this item off the list, they are required to interview the department head by asking them a few preprogrammed questions about why asset protection is important to their department. After the interview is completed, they are directed to take a selfie with the manager with whom they’ve become acquainted.

Once the orientation process has been completed, the associate has journeyed through the entire store. They have met key team members in other departments and they’ve demonstrated their understanding of important programs and protocol.

Realize that the journey doesn’t end here. Mobile-device orientation tools are simply the beginning of an investment into every associate. To stay the course and keep associates engaged, it will require continued training, frequent awareness messaging, and constant remediation. So, the next time you want to significantly change outcomes, ask yourself if you’re truly connecting and engaging with every associate in a way that encourages and enables them to play a productive role in your asset protection culture.