Shortlisted team for Award for Excellence in Training: Personnel Today Awards 2000
Focus Quality Services (FQS) is a client-focused company that helps companies and organisations achieve continuous improvement in performance.
As the UK’s largest assessment centre and with a team strategically spread across the UK, FQS has the knowledge, experience and flexibility to work with a diverse range of clients.
It provides pre-assessment preparation, advice and assessment to achieve the following quality standards: Investors in People, the UK’s only national quality standard for the effective development of human resources; Lexcel, a set of legal practice management standards which identify service competency; and EFQM Excellence Model, a self-assessment model which identifies comprehensive improvements to organisational effectiveness
Stores of Learning (SoL) is more a training concept than a specific training intervention. Traditionally, new store managers in Asda would train at a local store which had a strong department in their relevant discipline. This training would usually be dictated by the need to fill the vacancy rather than any specific needs of the individual. It also meant managers learned how their department ran in isolation from the rest of the business.
Asda realised that addressing this process could have beneficial effects in terms of reducing labour turnover during the first six months of a manager’s employment. Improvements here would have knock-on effects for building experienced management teams and would help to drive up operating standards experienced by the customer. At the same time, the company was keen to find a way of tapping into the potential of its workforce and to appoint more hourly paid employees to management roles.
The solution was to transform seven typical supermarkets into centres of excellence for the training of new management employees. These stores would implement best practice within both trade and cultural practice, thus giving trainees an opportunity to experience these processes in action across the entire operation rather than in isolation or simply in theory.
The supermarkets were selected by each of Asda’s seven divisions – one for each geographical area – plus one for the larger hypermarket stores. Each store selected has already demonstrated “best of breed” in both training and trading, but nevertheless a programme of re-training was introduced to ensure the operation would give trainee managers the experience they required. Between January and May last year each SoL passed a departmental “health check” verifying the store was ready to train.
Trainee managers take a generic four or eight week programme within the SoL which is tailored to address individual needs. On the job training is mixed with classroom based workshops, computer based training and open learning. Trainees must also visit the department for which they are training and complete a Swot analysis and “first 100 days” plan to demonstrate their ability to apply learning to their own situation.
The first intake of SoL trainees arrived in June last year and there has been a four-weekly intake ever since. Not only has the programme reduced the recruitment, training, resignation cycle among managers but it has also encouraged best practice to be dissipated throughout the organisation as the managers move on to their first posts.
Company fact file
Team Stores of Learning
Team Leader Paul Mckinley, project manager Number in HR team Four dedicated staff for Stores of Learning programme
Number of employees responsible for 1,400 stores managers trained per year; 4,000 colleagues employed at SoL delivering training. (100,000 total Asda staff in UK)
Main achievements SoL and the managers who graduate from them consistently out-perform the stores and managers outside the initiative. The proportion of hourly paid colleagues being appointed to management positions has risen and stands at 40 per cent of management recruitment. The number of managers leaving within the first six months of their employment with Asda has been significantly reduced
Priorities for next 12 months The team is working on how to reward colleagues who operate the SoL, given that they are providing training and running the store with no extra financial reward. It is also measuring the effect of the initiative on trainees six months after completion of the programme as well as looking to expand the capacity of the programme to develop other areas of the company
Judge’s Comment “The Stores of Learning embody all that is best about learning in the workplace. Not only does it represent and exemplify best practice in the retail field, but those practices are spreading from the SoL to other stores, lifting performance at these locations”