It’s no secret that working in the retail industry, you have challenges thrown at you every day. I think how you handle those situations says a lot about the kind of leader you are and what kind of team you have. In 2019, while I was leading our HR department’s Talent Development, I saw an area of opportunity when it came to in-store training. As one of the nation’s largest discount grocery chains with over 1,000 stores across the US and $4B in annual sales, we needed to reimagine how we cross-train teams, empower employees on the sales floor, and how we make them more efficient and effective through smart mobile strategies.

We wanted to build a new micro-learning strategy that mirrors Save A Lot’s core initiatives to improve operations, achieve cross-functional alignment, and drive modernization that would ultimately lead to improvements in KPIs across sales, shrink, margin, labor, and expense. Knowing we could make an impact, it was my responsibility to get executive leadership support along with the funding I needed.

Critical aspects of the new program include keeping the content length down to five-minute “micro-bursts” or “learning bites,” using minimal questions to affirm knowledge attainment to evaluate learning transfer, and keeping one to two training sessions per month.

In the past, frontline training consisted of 30-minute modules delivered on aging computers placed in shared break room areas. This method took the team member off the sales floor and placed them in an environment insufficient and non-conducive for learning. This did not work with our lean operating model, which schedules two to four employees per shift. We needed to find a way to put learning opportunities and modules into their hands and even their fingertips and stay on the shop floor to meet the business demands or customer needs.

When building our strategy, we identified the highest priorities for the business and devised a plan to launch a new approach to learning. The framework was built around the strategies of creating content around topics of what could help us with our bottom line, deploying short and engaging content in video form, relevant to our frontline generation of workers. In every piece of training we develop, we also communicate ‘what this means to you,’ whether it’s labor savings or a metric that will impact a bonus. Explaining the “why” behind this only deepens engagement and helps our teams expand their business acumen and foster a sense of shared fate.

Critical aspects of the new program include keeping the content length down to five-minute “micro-bursts” or “learning bites,” using minimal questions to affirm knowledge attainment to evaluate learning transfer

As we piloted some topics and videos, it was clear that real-time score carding to gauge training effectiveness at the individual and store level was necessary. We worked with our partners at GoSpotCheck to create a real-time scorecard that each team member receives after completing a mission. They can see how they scored, which questions they got wrong, and which option was the correct answer. This way, we could ensure content was delivered efficiently and effectively for the business.

Once the new program was launched, we saw an 80 percent decrease in training course completion time. We saved 29 hours developing GoSpotCheck missions instead of standard e-learning courses through our Learning Management System, and we don’t expect to stop there. As technology continues to evolve, so shall we. We look to continue our partnership with GoSpotCheck and create new ways to be competitive in our industry. So be on the lookout for how Save A Lot will continue to break barriers and be a leader in the ever-evolving world of grocery retail!

About Mark

Mark Lacey serves as vice president of human resources for Save A Lot Food Stores, where he uses his extensive leadership and organization development skills to create and define strategies to meet business needs. Mark is passionate about setting change management direction in relation to talent while offering deep subject matter expertise to increase organizations’ performance and capacity to deliver results. Mark’s fervent drive for success has led him to hold roles as a visionary HR leader for multiple transformational companies, including Topaz Energy Ltd (now Circle K), Lidl Ireland, Lidl US, and Vodafone. Since joining Save-A-Lot in 2017, Mark has promptly built a community of leaders while building a talent pipeline that aligns with hiring needs and business objectives.

Mark was the creator of many frontline transformative leadership development programs and initiatives for Lidl that were later recognized nationally. Lidl Ireland was awarded three awards by the Irish Institute of Training & Development at their annual National Training Awards, including an award for ‘Best L&D Initiative for a Large Organization’ and ‘Best Learning & Development Organization in Ireland’. At a national level, these awards not only showed the caliber of the learning initiatives that were created by Mark Lacey but also propelled Lidl’s reputation as an employer of choice who invested in their people.

Mark was also recognized as the US Retail HR Leader of the Year in 2019. Mark has proven himself as an international HR Leader by his ability to overhaul the HR organization at Save A Lot in an 18-month time frame, clearly link people to the overall business performance strategy, and make considerable advances in the HR metrics for his organization.