Category Archives: Theory/Research

Training & Awareness Programs: New Year’s Resolutions

As we go into the new year, think about what you want to accomplish with your various training and awareness programs. Be realistic about the reasons you have them and what you hope to accomplish. If some of them are strictly for compliance purposes, so that you can say you have done it, be honest about it and that might determine how you deliver it. However, if you are trying to change workplace performance, consider the following resolutions.

  1. Focus, focus, focus. Too many organizations have trouble focusing on the handful of things that would really make a difference for their organization. Instead, they try to cover 15, 30, or more topics while impacting almost none. Think about it, if you could get every single employee across your enterprise to consistently execute on 3-5 things, wouldn’t that be a success? So, what are the 3-5 things that would make the most difference. Find that and focus on it and you’ll see results.
  2. Identify Desired Behaviors. Some companies spend lots of money on programs that are more akin to brand marketing campaigns than they are to workplace performance programs. “Customer service is the best deterrent to shoplifter” or “Do the right thing” are hard catch phrases to argue with but what do they tell your employees about what you want them to do? Too often we remain at the conceptual level and obfuscate the actual things we hope the target audience will do once they are on the job. Research shows that employees want to be told, in clear terms, what they need to do to be successful.
  3. Get Front-Line Management On-board. Yes, “tone at the top” and executive support are important. Yes, well-designed instruction and materials are important. Yes, knowledge and skill retention are important. But, none of those things matter if an employee’s front-line supervisor does not support the desired performance or change. The single most important influence on any employee is their supervisor. If they don’t support the training you are putting together and if they do not follow-up on performance, you chances of success are severely limited.
  4. Don’t Forget to Train Your Managers. In most organizations, there seems to be an assumption that once a person is promoted or hired into a management position and goes through their initial training, they never need any recurrent training or performance support again. I’ve talked to Store Managers who have been in position for over five years and could not recall a training program geared towards them since they received their initial training.
  5. Reach the People You Need to Reach. Who are the employees who most need to receive your message? Are these the ones that you are actually reaching? These seem like simple questions but the answers don’t often match up. Of course, you usually want everyone in your organization to receive your training message but who are the “at risk” employees. When it comes to theft, absenteeism, productivity, product knowledge, accidents, and various types of workplace deviance, the “at risk” employee is usually an employee with low tenure, part-time, and usually working at night or on the weekends. Is this who you are actually reaching?

If you can achieve these five resolutions in 2012, you can be certain you will see increased workplace performance.



Measuring the ROI of Training Programs

There is a good article over on about measuring the ROI on investments in training.  As I’ve written about before, there are some landmark research studies out there that show a correlation between a company’s investment in training and their stock performance.  Additionally, this article gives several anecdotal examples of strong correlations between training and ROI.  Now, that is not to say that all training has a positive ROI.  There are some absolutely awful training programs in corporate America that have no impact on results whatsoever.  But, there seems to be strong evidence that well-done training on key performance deliverables makes a difference.

However, to effectively measure these results, some effort has to be put in place and many companies simply aren’t willing to track the results.  In an upcoming video blog, I’ll explain how training programs can be evaluated for effectiveness and point out that most evaluation is done at a relatively simplistic level.

How Leaders Create and Use Networks

“Networking” is a term that gets abused, misused, and is often misunderstood.  But, networking, when done right and with purpose, can be a key business skill.  “How Leaders Create and Use Networks” is a good piece on this from Harvard Business Review.  In this article, three types of networking are identified – Operational, Personal, and Strategic.  There were a couple of lines in there that I really liked…first, in regards to personal networking:

“We observed that once aspring leaders..awaken to the dangers of of an excessively internal focus, they begin to seek kindred spirits outside their organizations.  Simultaneously, they become aware of the limitations of their social skills, such as a lack of knowledge about professional domains beyond their own, which makes it difficult for them to find common ground with people outside their usual circles.”

“Many of the managers we study question why they should spend precious time on an activity so indirectly related to the work at hand.  Why widen one’s circle of casual acquantances when there isn’t time even for urgent tasks?  The answer is that these contacts provide important referrals, information, and, often, development support such as coaching and mentoring.”

Second, in regards to the mindset of many managers:

“..we often hear, ‘That’s all well and good, but I already have a day job.’  Others..consider working through networks a way to rely on ‘whom you know’ rather than ‘what you know’ – a hypocritical, even unethical way to get things done.  Whatever the reason, when aspiring leaders do not believe that networking is one of the most important requirements of their new jobs, they will not allocate enough time and effort to see it pay off.”

How do you view networking?  Is it a “dirty word” or an essential business skill?

Is E-commerce Lowering Your Shrinkage?

An industry colleague recently asked me if, perhaps, retailers might be lowering shrinkage rates, in part, by the growth of their e-commerce business.  It is not really a question that had come to my mind, but I think it is an interesting topic for discussion.  I’ve outlined his thought process below and would be interested in hearing some responses from our readers.

Most retailers have now branched into e-commerce, some in a significant way and others are just testing the water, and e-commerce transactions represent about 4% of retail sales in the U.S. according to recent government figures.  While e-commerce certainly has to deal with fraud, most e-commerce business is set up in such a manner that there is very little, if any, shrinkage in a traditional sense.  Retail organizations typically account for fraud, such as credit card fraud, on a separate line in their P&L.

Therefore, if e-commerce sales are being including in total company sales and yet they contribute little, if any, shrinkage dollars, does that understate shrinkage – at least in terms of comparison to historical data?  Could this be part of the drop we are seeing in shrinkage in the National Retail Security Survey results of the past couple of years?

What are your thoughts?

EAS Study Published: Journal of Applied Security Research

This year’s first edition of the Journal of Applied Security Research contains a case study that Adrian Beck and I authored on one apparel chain’s experience with switching from hard tags to sewn-in, soft tags.  The article highlights the importance of visual clues and difficulty of removal in creating deterrence.  An abstract of the article can be found at this link “The Importance of Visual Situational Cues and Difficulty of Removal in Creating Deterrence: The Limitations of Electronic Article Surveillance Source Tagging in the Retail Environment.”

While this study was conducted in only one retail chain, hundreds of locations were involved in the test and the results were consistent across geography, internal hierarchy, etc.  Additionally, similar results were realized in another specialty retail chain around the same period of time.  Hopefully, this article will add to the body of knowledge in our industry relative to EAS.