Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Look Into How Corporate America Trains their Employees

I have gotten some great reports in the last few days that touch on the subject of on the job training for both new and old employees. The articles that I have gotten deal with corporate America and the “big bad corporations,” but I’m sure most training is done similar and has the same problems.

The three companies that I am going to highlight are Saks Fifth Avenue, Best Buy and the Home Depot. First some numbers! Saks hives over 3,000 new employees each year for their 110 stores nationwide. The Home Depot employs more than 300,000 employees who range in age form 18-70. Best Buy maintains over 100,000 tech savvy employees at any giver time.

What do these numbers mean in terms of training?

It means that there is not much one-on-one! What I gathered is that a lot of early job training is done online or is interactive. One of the biggest challenges facing these companies and their training is that new products keep hitting the marketplace and consumers want answers about them.

Saks employees have to keep up with fashion trends and generally see new products every season. Senior merchandising executives participate in an online simulation to test their knowledge of analyzing profitability of business plans and finances. The problem with this is that most of their older executives are not as internet savvy as their new, younger sales floor personnel. Director of E-Learning, Jon Tincher says, "I think the hourly employees are more apt to grab onto e-learning, whereas the executive staff tends to lean more toward instructor-led [training]," he explains. "The hourly population tends to be a little younger, and the things we're teaching them are more technical as opposed to how to make management decisions."

For Best Buy employees it is not only new and frequent products popping up in their stores, it’s upgrades to existing products and never before used technology that has management on their toes when it comes to training.

John Congemi (senior manager, retail training & development) says, “We need to strike a balance between training on product knowledge and training on soft skills to ensure our associates are empowered to build relationships with our customers and connect with them in personal and meaningful ways.”

Best Buy opts for a balanced and blended learning approach. "We launched a new learning management system last year and maintain a large library of interactive electronic-based courses. Because of our retail associates' comfort with technology, we're also empowered to co-create material with them. They are given the opportunity to share their best practices and expertise with other associates countrywide."

Home Depot has the task of having to put their products to the test with home owners, builders and weekend warriors who want and need results. They do this through a series of training that costs the company around $600 million every year!

The Home Depot combines e-learning, one-on-one training, regional “road shows,” and product demonstrations by the product vendors themselves to help employees understand what it is they are selling. To speed up the process they are using a series of 15 minute “Rapid Web-Based Training Courses” where a lesson is taught with three simultaneously running screens, one video, one power point and one text based. It is face paced and can be completed quickly before or after an employee’s shift.

As you can clearly see by now, it is no easy feat to get every employee at a major corporation properly trained and ready to get the numbers moving up the ladder. Most business have now gone to some form of online or computer based training for portions (if not all) of their initial training.

Are you ready for this type of training? I hope so. It doesn’t look like online tools are going away anytime soon.

Happy job hunting Orlando!

-Greg Rollett


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