Training to support change
Designed by: First Friday, Lower Hollises, Rignall Road, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, HP16 9AJ
Telephone: 01494 867106
Fax: 01494 867108
In June 2002, electrical group Dixons Group plc launched its biggest ever change programme.
Known as the Branch Programme, it impacts more than 30,000 staff and 1,000 stores. It is supported throughout the entire group by an extensive training and communications programme designed by retail training specialists, First Friday.
The Branch Programme involves three areas of change: simplified processes in store, new touch-screen technology, and a new till and store management system, called ‘eclipse’. In addition to building the communications strategy, First Friday also helped develop the approach and methods for the staff training and branch management, both in store and in specially created training centres.
The training strategy will be fully implemented over the next four months as the Branch Programme completes its roll-out to Dixons, Dixons Tax Free and DSG Ireland.
Branch Programme implementation manager, Nick Maddison, felt that First Friday was the right company to develop a training strategy to support the roll-out because it had a lot of experience in working with the retail industry.
“The First Friday team was able to grasp our culture instantly and recognised our need for a flexible approach depending on both the brand and the size of branch within each of those brands,” he says.
“As a result, they were able to deliver proposals to suit the different scale of stores and meet our requirements exactly.”
Indeed, it was one of the rare occasions when Dixons took the step of looking outside for input to training that is generally facilitated by the in-house training team. However, the scale of the operation dictated the need for additional expertise.
Despite a lead time of only three weeks, First Friday quickly got to work with a team of Dixons personnel to develop a training programme that could work across the group, taking the different culture of each of the four brands into account.
The training strategy is being closely linked to the communications programme to ensure a seamless approach, which Maddison believes is crucial to the initiative’s success.
“The idea is that the communication information hits the store 12 weeks before going live, with training commencing four weeks prior to the launch,” he says.
A key challenge that faced the Dixons Group was training the store management teams to use the new in-store ‘eclipse’ system. First Friday recommended building a bespoke e-learning programme, using KSTutor from Knowledge Solutions.
KSTutor is an authoring tool that can be used by anyone – with no programming experience – to rapidly create e-learning simulations from scratch. It is designed to reduce the time and cost of developing the e-learning simulations. First Friday and Knowledge Solutions trained the team to use KSTutor and, after just two days, the group’s staff were able to develop the simulations for themselves.
Dixons Group has been working to an aggressive timetable, but true-to-life e-learning simulations meant the standard of training remained exceptionally high. The store managers could ‘try out’ the system, just as it would run when it went live.
“First Friday’s ability to integrate within the Dixons Group environment so quickly has been a huge advantage and has been a great contributor to the success of the roll-out,” says Maddison.
Verdict from Nick Maddison, Dixons Group
Headquartered in the UK, the Dixons Group employs 35,000 staff in 1,400 stores across 13 countries. Leading retail brands operated by the group include Dixons, Currys, The Link, and PC World. The group is also a leading provider of financial and after-sales
VERDICT: retail therapy
The driver for this project, says Branch Programme implementation manager Nick Maddison, was the introduction of a new intuitive in-store system to streamline processes and create greater operating efficiency, which would in turn offer Dixons’ customers a greater level of service.
“We needed to establish a training strategy for management teams and staff across multiple chains Dixons, PC World, Currys and The Link.
This needed to give all of our colleagues hands-on experience of the new system before they actually had to use it with customers in store – this was our core objective,” says Maddison.
“First Friday developed with us a programme tailored to suit the broad range of skills, needs and experience of our staff. We were extremely impressed with First Friday’s understanding of our business needs; they did not assume a ‘one approach for all’ format and successfully customised the programme to meet our varied requirements.
The programme is currently being implemented efficiently and quickly, and our management teams are benefiting significantly from this training approach,” he says.
Value for money: four stars
Ability to meet business needs: four stars
Impact: four stars
Implementation: four stars
Understanding the business: five stars
Key: one star =disappointing, five stars=excellent