Performance tracking keeps Market District on course
Successful training is all about communication. “I visit the stores twice a week, which shows respect and helps everyone understand that we are all focused on the same thing,” says Sean Snoznik, bakery merchandising manager for the two-unit Market District based in Pittsburgh. Market District is a subdivision of the much larger Giant Eagle Inc., and its small size allows store-level personnel to be involved in the decision making process as the bakeries try to implement as much scratch baking as possible.
The training structure depends on the position, but it is a six-month process, reduced from an 18-month model that proved too arduous. Most importantly, everyone is trained in customer service, from the bakers and decorators to the counter staff. Once they are trained in customer service, they move on to training specific to their job. The new hires are paired with the trainer to job shadow. Trainers for each job class are not only chosen for their ability to perform their job well, but also for their ability to communicate and articulate what the proper practices are.
Trainees are scored on a weekly checklist to ensure they are meeting goals and are in the right position for their skill set. As the training period progresses, the job shadowing lessens. The first week is 100 percent shadowing, the second week drops down to 90 percent shadowing and so on until the trainee is working on his/her own at about three months into training, Snoznik says. Of course, the remaining three months of training still include performance tracking and reviews to ensure the trainee stays on target.
To make sure employees are performing up to Market District standards, Snoznik uses production segment sheets that detail how much time it should take to complete each task the employee is assigned for the day. The times are determined by engineered standards from Snoznik's previous life in training and development, and are based on how a “C” or average employee should perform. “The spread sheets tell them how much time it should take to do everything, so they know exactly what they have to get done,” Snoznik says. “So, someone who is an ‘A’ employee can knock it out and have adequate time to do other things.”
If the employee is not performing up to standards, they are given remedial training to help brush up on the required skills. If, for whatever reason, the employee isn't grasping the skills needed, they are reassigned to a job that more closely matches their talents.
Market District's training program not only details product knowledge and quality, but also includes documentation on what the finished product should look like with pictures of what is acceptable and examples of what is not. Counter staff also is trained in how the products should appear. “Quality control is one of the biggest challenges we face, and at the end of the day, it's the counter staff providing service to the customers who are last line of defense,” Snoznik says.
Employees also are cross-trained. Bakers, who are at the top of the food chain, can do everything in the department, such as decorate cakes and help customers. Decorators can decorate and also work the counter.
The bakery tries to launch new products every month, and those new products come with procedural documentation. A specialist will work with production employees on how to execute the new product. Quarterly meetings also are conducted with the leads in each store to help develop new products and understand what the in-store needs to be focusing on.
“We want to show our team members that hard work is rewarded, so we try to promote from within,” Snoznik says. “Everyone has an opportunity to change job grades or improve themselves within the company.”
Hometown IGA dispels fear of failure
Well-trained bakers are not always easy to find, unless a bakery is willing to train them. Houchens Industries' Hometown IGA in-store bakeries are undertaking the task as the company converts its 61 stores with 32 in-store bakeries to the Hometown IGA banner, which for in-stores, focuses on supplying customers with unique, Hometown IGA-branded bakery products. “We firmly believe in proactive training and efforts to continually train,” says Christian Lucas, director of deli, bakery and foodservice for the Bowling Green, Ky.-based chain.
Hometown IGA has two different types of scheduled training objectives, biannual global meetings and quarterly regional meetings. The global meetings, with about 60 to 70 bakery/deli mangers, district managers, store managers and assistant store mangers in attendance, focus on classroom-style workshops. “We incorporate some hands-on, but with a group that size, it's more aimed at sharing knowledge,” Lucas says. These mandatory meetings help get all the managers on the same page, and give them a sense of the company's obstacles and opportunities.
The store-level regional meetings feature more hands-on training. Staff from several bakeries of similar size gathers at one store to learn new production techniques and experiment with new products. The topics are pulled from best practices among the in-stores, and bakery managers demonstrates what works in their bakery and why. “It allows that person to feel more involved in the overall big picture, and it's not me or my staff coming in and telling them how to do it; it's their own peers showing them,” he adds.
Hometown IGA uses suppliers' expertise to help the bakery manager train new hires. Lucas relies heavily on suppliers' tech staff to help train bakery employees when a new product is rolled out or a new production method is being introduced. Lucas also is in the process of developing the IGA Bakery College, which will be a traveling training module that encompasses all the basic programs and will go to the stores as needed.
No matter how much training you offer, if employees don't remain motivated, your operation will fall apart quickly. A pat on the back can go a long way, Lucas says, and he tries not to neglect saying congratulations on a job well done, no matter how small the task. Focusing on the positive while still correcting the wrongs can create a ripple effect of good feelings throughout the department, he adds.
He tries to instill the company's motto — innovation and action without fear of failure — within every employee. “If you can get everyone on that page, you've won a huge battle,” he says. “Through our training, we have really enhanced our bakery department over the past five years, and I'm just proud to be a part of it.”
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