I’ve been reading some articles about Walmart training and it’s interesting to find out how the retailer has been training new entry level employees. Computer-based modules and virtual reality technology provide learning to new hires on topics including customer service, basic business and technology skills. For some, this is a great step forward. Not all retailers are enthusiastic about training employees.
While the training may have great potential, there still is a concern about the overall expectations from this training. According to an article from CNBC, Walmart is looking for changes in behavior from employees and that could be a challenge with technology style training. Part of the training, too, is done on the floor and that can have a greater impact than computer-based modules or virtual reality scenarios. It’s the interaction with supervisors, other workers and the entire work culture that can determine an employee’s behavior.
It takes being treated with respect and dignity. While it is true, employees need to understand showing up on time and having good attendance is important, it also can be a time for employees to learn about expectations and the culture. How does the supervisor interact with and support the employee? Does the supervisor talk and ask about expectations? It can be a two-way street – both the supervisor’s and the employee’s. Does that supervisor using coaching skills or an authoritarian approach? What type of feedback does the supervisor provide? Is there positive feedback to let the new employee know when something was done correctly? Does the supervisor recognize mistakes will happen especially when someone is learning? If so, how does he or she help new hires overcome the mistakes through constructive feedback so they will learn? In one article, a Walmart Foundation executive expressed concerns that cashiers may not have the necessary skills for new technology or help with self-checkout lines. That may be true but it’s also important managers not to be condescending.
Listening to employees and asking for their opinions can go a long way in having a positive outcome on employee behavior. Technology based training either on a computer or through headsets doesn’t provide the interaction between co-workers or supervisors that can help to develop relationships. New employees probably know quite a bit about customer service since they’ve probably been customers a few times in their lives. They know what makes them go back to a certain vendor and what type of behavior is wrong.
In the article with the Foundation executive, she says it’s important to train employees on problem solving but are employees involved in problem solving efforts? In one training scenario for supervisors, it asks what you as a supervisor would do if a supervisor from another department was complaining to their employees about the quality in your department. There was never an answer in the set of multiple choice answers that said to bring employees together and solve the problem together as a department. One of the answers was talk with the supervisor to find out what the quality issues were and solve the problems together.
Walmart has been slowly raising wages and increasing benefits but it’s still not enough to help employees pay their bills and the worries that go along with it. The same is true with scheduling issues. Yes, employees need to check schedules, show up when they are scheduled and let schedulers know if they need a certain day off but supervisors or schedulers have a responsibility, too, in posting schedules in advance so employees can plan their lives along with their families’ lives. Not many retailers provide health insurance but Walmart does. The only problem is there’s a cost to it for the employee and they may not be able to afford it particularly if they only work part-time. All of these issues can impact employee behavior.
Finally, everybody has a different way of learning. Some learn from reading such as from the computer based or virtual reality training programs. Some learn from actual doing. Hopefully the virtual reality training may help with that but nothing is like actually doing with someone to guide and help, be available to ask questions or provide support. The first few days of a new job can be extremely stressful for anyone learning a new job. Having someone to lead and support can go along in helping with employee behavior. Timing can also be an issue and employees need to practice during slower periods until they feel comfortable with their abilities.
Training is a continuous process. Doing a one-time stint is not enough. Developing ongoing training at different levels also can help with employee behavior. What would be even better is to have employees be a part of working on a training plan. Who else but those who do the job know what is needed!
Just as employees need to watch their work ethic i.e. coming to work on time, watching absenteeism, showing respect, so do supervisors and managers. Respect doesn’t go one way. It’s a two-way behavior. Managers and supervisors have a responsibility, too, to go that extra mile to exemplify good behavior. If managers and supervisors provide a good example, it will help get more from employees. It’s true there are some employees that no matter how hard you try, the positive behavior may not happen but it’s the same going the other way with employees to managers or supervisors. As hard as an employee may try, some managers and supervisors don’t exhibit positive behavior either.