Measuring Training Success When Opening New Locations

How do learning and development professionals know they’ve been successful after they’ve finished training a new staff and helped open a new location? With that question, I’m specifically talking about retail, restaurants, clinics, etc. with public-facing locations that interact with customers every day.

I’ve had the opportunity to open new retail locations for multiple employers throughout my career. While sizes and industries can vary, the same principles apply to any successful opening when considered from the training team’s perspective.

The goal of orientation for a new location’s staff is to take them from new hires to staff ready to serve customers. The first things companies look at as a location opens are sales and customer feedback. But it would be a mistake to assume that positive sales or high service marks prove new-hire orientation was successful. While they certainly can be strong indicators, they don’t tell the whole story, and stopping your analysis at those measurements would be a mistake.

Many things besides training affect the sales numbers of a new location. Was marketing properly executed? Were stock levels correct? Were displays and merchandising in place? Did the technology run correctly? Being off in any one of these areas can greatly affect sales outcomes.

What about service marks? A customer that rates service highly could just be happy because a staff member was nice to them. That’s a positive indicator that you hired well, but doesn’t necessarily correlate to successful training/onboarding.

Therefore, it’s important to consider additional measurements to accurately gauge how well the onboarding team prepared the new staff:

  • Surveys – After the onboarding is finished, the common action most trainers take is to survey the participants and see what they thought of the training. This is considered a Level 1 analysis on the Kirkpatrick scale. A better option is to escalate your analysis to a Level 3 or 4. These levels look at actual behavior and results, rather than opinions. Start with the end in mind – i.e. as you plan the onboarding curriculum, decide what you want to measure to ensure success, then train to that measurement.
  • Turnover – While there are many factors that affect turnover, it can still be a good measure of training success. A study by Experticity showed that 24% of employees leave their jobs because they didn’t feel they were trained or developed well. The key here is that HR needs to give and analyze exit interviews for those leaving to identify the root causes. Obviously, this isn’t a measurement that you’ll see much of (hopefully) in the first six months. If you do, that is an even stronger indicator of problems.
  • Conversion rate – If the organization is in retail (as opposed to a service industry) tracking conversion rate (customers coming in the door compared to customers that make a purchase) can be a good indicator of onboarding success. Just remember that a new location will naturally have a lower conversion rate than an established shop. Analyze conversion realistically based on the new staff’s tenure.
  • Sweat the small stuff –  Staff that doesn’t have complete training will often miss the small stuff. As Regional Managers visit new locations over time, it’s important that they look for the little things that would be indications of incomplete training. Maybe it’s the way cashiers put money in the drawers (it should all face the same direction), or the way staff answer the phone or greet customers as they come in. Anything can be an indicator when viewed as part of the overall picture of the location’s health.

Think outside of traditional boxes. Look for measures beyond the standard survey of how employees thought training went so you can get a deeper look at the new location’s health. Once you have that information, you can develop a plan to overcome shortfalls, and also learn from what went right. Failure is the best teacher if you are willing learn from it.


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