Magazine Article | August 20, 2007

Training's Operational Impact

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Thoroughly trained employees improve operational efficiency and reduce shrink.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, September 2007

I recall a feature story we published a few years back that focused on exception reporting at the POS. It was a memorable story both because it featured a huge retailer and because it almost never made it to print. In the 11th hour, this retailer's hypersensitive public relations departments tried to convince us to stop the presses. At issue were a few lines that alluded to a bad apple or two among the organization's 40,000-plus store-level associates. The PR department there would chalk up any reference to poor employee performance as a loss — regardless if the story's audience were the retailer's peers, not its consumers.

We stood fast on principle, came to terms with the retailer, and ran the story. No organization of any considerable size should live in a self-deceiving state of denial when it comes to associate performance — that does neither the retailer or our industry any good. Instead, retailers — their PR departments included — should embrace their failings and work collectively on solutions to improve employee performance.

Technology As A Training Enabler
Integrated Solutions For Retailers covers the impact and benefit of technology integration, and increasingly, we cover the impact and benefit of disciplinary integration, too. Training is but one juncture of disciplinary and technology integration. Employee performance problems are underscored across retail disciplines — sales throughput, promotion execution, and shrink are three that come to mind immediately. Note some of the narrative in researcher Caroline Cardone's interviews with shoplifters in this month's LP (loss prevention)/Security Research Supplement. In their own words, some of her subjects blatantly state that some store-level associates are no deterrent whatsoever to their decision to steal. Many store associates, they say, simply don't care. Take a look at market projections for store and promotion execution management solutions in retail. Double-digit growth for providers of those solutions is predicated on market need, and market need is based on poor store-level execution.

Integration comes into play when the convergence of technologies like EBR (exception-based reporting) software and DVRs (digital video recorders) enable what risk consultancy Protiviti calls behavioral monitoring. According to a recent white paper from Protiviti The Shift To Behavioral Monitoring: A New Paradigm for Exception-Based Reporting, the goal of retailers' exception-based reporting systems is to reduce losses, but that goal involves more than identifying people who are committing fraud. "Reducing losses is accomplished by changing behavior that might lead to losses and by implementing policies that reduce opportunities for fraud," the paper states. Technology (specifically EBR software and DVRs), is a wonderful enabler for targeted associate training. Well-trained associates are empowered associates, and empowered associates can both make you, and save you, more than they cost.