Twenty years ago, if you walked into a grocery store and asked for the store trainer, the manager would probably give you a confused look. After all, how hard could it be to train a cashier to check groceries?
Today, things aren’t that simple. Training is necessary to keep organizations operating successfully and collectively. Training affects all areas, especially retail.
A few years ago, we started looking at how we could improve training at store level. With more than 150 stores operating in three different states, we had to question if it was sustainable to continue to send our new hires off-site, sometimes many miles away, for the onboarding process. When we investigated this issue further, we realized that, in order to have a successful store that truly backs corporate initiatives and can successfully support projects, we needed a position at store level dedicated to onboarding and training.
We also realized that our assistant managers were taking on many of the training responsibilities, but with little direction. As they transferred to other stores or became promoted, the training responsibilities would often be lost within the mix, and supervisors had little knowledge of exactly what training aspects that person was handling.
After much research and discussion, we decided to create the role of a store trainer. Our vision was for the store trainer to not only oversee onboarding, but to help streamline information from our corporate training and development team to retail. The store trainer would also be a person with high energy who could serve as a change agent as we implemented new projects that often have the possibility to affect multiple roles. Store trainers introduce new employees to the entire company, not just one specific role. They become the point person for all new hires, which has allowed us to train our new employees consistently. The store trainer essentially owns training at store level, which is vital when you think about all the different initiatives and programs are being implemented.
Our training and development team served as the backbone as far as the research, creation and development of the store trainer position. During pilot stages, store leaders met bi-weekly with our T&D team to see what worked and to determine any challenges. T&D also was largely involved in the interview process for the new position, ensuring the right person was in the role. We were able to rollout the position a year ahead of schedule because we began seeing its effectiveness right from the start.
Today, all of our stores are staffed with store trainers, who receive weekly focus points from T&D, instructing them on what training points are important for that week. Focus points cover issues such as proper bagging techniques, customer service, compliance, continuous improvement, food safety, various corporate initiatives and more.
We continue to look at other ways to improve training, such as a learning management system where we can interactively offer more classes and educational opportunities to our employees. We have opportunities to improve, but we know that training isn’t going away anytime soon, and our store trainers are just the beginning.