Workforce Management: A Modern Approach to Training

“The application can be downloaded on an associate’s personal device or accessed on a shared device,” Murphy explains. “It’s training that takes a couple minutes a day. Our associates will complete training at the beginning of their shift, short, personalized training sessions that will help them build knowledge and confidence over time. There’s some really cool gamification aspects, other cool enhancements as well. We’re really focused on the things that matter most to our customers. So if we think about behaviors that support and drive our full, fresh and friendly customer experience, those are the things that we’re really focused on teaching our associates to ensure those are [the] outcomes that we see in our customer experience.”

Kroger leverages a variety of methods to communicate with associates in different ways, but the Axonify solution is another big boost in that area, especially when it comes to training workers to perform new tasks related to e-commerce.

“The nature of the work for our front-line associates is changing and challenging,” Murphy notes. “Getting information and training to them quickly and consistently is so important. It’s more important now than it ever has been. In the past, we’ve relied on various methods to deliver training and communication, and we just know that there is a need to do things differently, moving forward. So we’re really excited to find new ways to meet our associates where they’re at to deliver and provide an effective, real-time training and engagement experience for them.”

According to Murphy, the company is focused on properly and effectively upskilling and reskilling associates on best practices to ensure that they can support the customer experience, no matter the omnichannel platform.

“So, things like training through the application is a heavy focus for our e-commerce teams and departments,” she says, adding that the communication capability of the Axonify solution is a game-changer, especially during the pandemic, when everything, from safety protocols to out-of-stocks, is changing so fast.

“We’re actually able to communicate direct to our associates on items that are really important,” Murphy asserts. “Safety is incredibly important to our company and one of our core values. So, if we have any shifts in or any data that we need to share, whether it’s around vaccines or around math or … anything that’s really specific around safety, we have a modality now to connect in a very simple way. Everyone processes information … differently, but we do know that we’ve at least got some new avenues, methods, vehicles to better communicate the things that matter most to our associates, and safety is very much a driving priority for us.”

With continual learning performed in less than five minutes per shift, each associate’s training experience is tailored to their individual needs and knowledge gaps via Axonify’s app.

On the hiring front, Kroger recently held its first-ever virtual and in-person hiring event across the company, with a goal of hiring more than 10,000 associates. The jobs varied from supply chain to Kroger delivery to stores, pharmacies and manufacturing plants. Through that event, Kroger was able to offer more than 5,000 opportunities in a single day, which was a record for the company. Kroger’s average hourly wage has been $15 an hour since 2019. The grocer also offers benefits such as affordable health care, a 401(k) and a pension. “Honestly, those are many things that our competitors do not offer,” Murphy observes.

“I think the pandemic has definitely brought us new challenges,” she adds. “It has really challenged us to be more efficient, more effective, more streamlined. This is … just one great example of … the way that we’ll need to train in the future, [which will be] training in the flow of work, training on items that matter most to our customers, prioritizing training, utilizing technology to communicate and connect with our associates faster. I think the pandemic has just really accelerated our need to ensure that our methods to connect and engage are most effective.”

As far as what grocers need to be thinking about next when it comes to training and retention, Murphy says that upskilling and staying agile are the two things that Kroger is focused on.

“It’s incredibly important for leaders in the training and talent development space to stay close to the business and to really understand what’s coming in the business that’s new, innovative, compelling, exciting, and ensure that we have associates that are upskilled and ready to deliver against that future vision,” Murphy observes. “So, something that’s important for us is staying connected to our leaders at multiple levels around what is coming down the pike and ensuring that we are agile with our training, in our approach, in our methods.”