How Walmart and other companies improved learning to continuously invest in people

In Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report release in 2017, the research organization found 80% of executives feel staff experience as being important or very important.  That said, however, only 22% feel their respective companies are good at building a unique experience for everyone.  Worse still, nearly 60% say their companies aren’t ready to address the challenge.

How does a company start to change these perceptions?  One sector to focus on would be learning.  In fact, companies should focus their respective learning strategies on training and support, manager development, and self-directed and dynamic learning.

Training and Support

The nature of work continues to change, and it’s happening at a pace that makes it rather difficult for HR professionals to keep up.  Take job descriptions for instance.  They are evolving into living documents meaning they are always changing with necessity of the working universe.  They evolve into new roles, tasks, and responsibilities.  And if the change doesn’t happen, the job may seem to be less relevant.

As a result, employees want and need continuous training and support.  This allows them to feel constantly equipped to do their jobs and do them well.

eLearning, and advancements in that space such as microlearning and on-demand training, allows the employee the ability to access the information whenever they need it.  This makes learning personal and convenient to the employees.

Using mobile phone. Close up of people hands using mobile phone

Courtesy:  Stock Photo Secrets

Walmart has one of the largest distribution networks in the world.  It makes millions of products globally.  That brings up some hefty safety challenges.  To put this in perspective, just a 5% decrease in incidents would translate to millions of dollars in savings.  To help make this a reality, Walmart created a microlearning program that not only kept safety on top of employees’ minds, but also improved employee knowledge and retention regarding safety practices.

Walmart’s program took the form of a game.  It was made available to 150+ distribution centers and more than 75,000 employees had access to it.  At any time during a work shift, an employee could log on to the platform and spend 3-5 minutes playing a game that involves answering safety questions.  The system tracks their answers and gives them feedback.  As such, it gives employees the knowledge of where they need improvement and reinforces the knowledge they’ve already mastered.

Walmart saw a voluntary participation rate averaging about 91% and success as a result.  The company saw a 54% reduction in safety incidents and a 15% increase in employee safety knowledge.

Manager Development

It’s been said the number one reason employees leave a company is because of poor relationships with managers.

Managers are pivotal when it comes to the employee experience.  To be more precise, a manager’s style and their decisions have a significant impact.  It’s for this reason that developing managers to understand how to engage and inspire employees is important.

By investing in managers through flexible, self-driven, and on-demand training programs, these individuals will learn how to manage employees and invest in them.

Look no further than Pandora as an example.  The HR department at the company closely tracks two key employee metrics that measure the strength of employee-manager relationships:

  1. My manager really cares about me as a person.
  2. I would recommend my manager to others.

Based on this data, Pandora teaches manages how to coach, support, and manage their people.  The company creates all of its own content and training tools for managers… all geared toward promoting Pandora’s values and culture.  The courses are required and are all available online and on-demand.  Each session takes less than 15 minutes to complete.

University Federal Credit Union also utilizes its managers to help engage with employees in this way.  Jaclyn Courage is the Organizational Development Specialist for the company.

“The biggest challenge that I see is from a manager point of view; helping our managers to see, that given even their current level of busyness that we're not actually asking them to do anything in addition to things that they are already doing,” Courage said.  “It’s not separate or different from the ongoing conversations that they're already having.   It's just a more focused conversation.”

Courage further explained managers are developed by and have access to “practical, simple tools they can easily apply.”

Self-directed and Dynamic Learning

It’s been stated numerous times that we live and work in a digital world.  Why not learn in it too?  

Learning management systems can help develop and curate accessible and relevant content employees can use to direct their own learning and personal experience.  This is a far more agile, convenient, dynamic, and relatable tool for employees who are already functioning in a digital world.

Businessman using mobile. Young businessman sitting on pile of books

Courtesy:  Stock Photo Secrets

Thomson Reuters is a company made up of 60,000 employees in 100 different countries.  With so many employees located in different countries and time zones and each having different training needs, the company has an extremely complex training challenge to overcome.

The news organization turned to a learning management system that allowed them to customize the content in different languages.  Thomson Reuters also made sure that employees could access learning materials through a variety of mobile devices.

The Power of Learning

As demonstrated previously in this article, continuously investing in people through learning strategies yields considerable results.  It allows a company to engage with employees on workers’ terms and not the other way around.  The employee, however, isn’t the only person gaining from this strategy.  Employers are getting better, more productive employees, but they’re also learning more about those individuals.  That information can drive other strategies within the workplace such as the identification of high potential employees, potential successors, and areas where the company can grow.