Finding Narwhals

There is a lot going on behind the the scenes when it comes to getting served that perfect Starbucks Unicorn or Mermaid Frappuccino. Starbucks is working hard to revamp training and to continue keeping employees well-latte.jpegtrained and motivated. Recently, its new mobile order & pay app created unexpected congestion and a slowdown in sales due to inability to handle the sheer volume of customers using the app. In response, Starbucks launched “North Star,” a new training agenda to “refocus the company’s approach to customer service” and equip employees to better handle the influx of customers on the app. A heavy focus on better training and employee satisfaction is not new to Starbucks, which currently has the “lowest employee turnover among quick service restaurants.” But, training initiatives like “North Star” are aimed to address new challenges, and ensure that employees are prepared and motivated to improve operations and drive sales. The company recognizes that as new technology accelerates volume and sales, “motivated employees better trained for the new services will be one of its greatest assets.”

Warm Fuzzies

It’s no secret that most employees  — 68%, to be exact — are disengaged in the workplace. But, how do you really know when employees are engaged? A recent article in Quartz indicates that “an employee’s engagement level is candles.jpeggauged by the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” More specifically, employee engagement is strongly connected to customer satisfaction, as engaged employees are “more inclined to put in the effort that translates into buzzing productivity levels, a happier sales force, a more credible product pitch, and ultimately, increased revenue.” According to Gallup’s employee engagement assessment, employees with higher levels of engagement also have significantly higher workplace success, better customer ratings, productivity, and profitability than those with low levels. So how do managers encourage and foster engagement? “Rewarding and recognizing high performers, ensuring employees have a clear understanding of how their role contributes to the overall business model, and clear communication from senior leadership” can help, and defining metrics and analytics to measure this success and to drive sustainable engagement strategies.

Listen: Middle Earth

“There’s feedback and there’s guidance; there’s praise and there’s criticism. All of it is important to do better work, dandelion.jpgbut to develop a better and more productive workplace and relationships — the way we give and receive feedback really matters.” We’ve written about “radical candor” — giving feedback that both challenges people directly and shows you care personally, in the past. In this a16z podcast, Radical Candor founder Kim Scott and a16z’s Sonal Chakshi take a deep dive into the best way to give feedback that is neither “obnoxiously aggressive” or “ruinously empathetic,” how managers can use radical candor to develop their employees, how it can impact millennials, creatives, and underrepresented groups, and more.

The Underdogs

Facing the decline of the retail industry, the change in the way customers shop, and stiff competition from open-sign.jpegjuggernauts like Amazon, Walmart has been taking strides over the past few years to best equip itself to stay in the game. Rather than focusing on store expansion, Walmart has heavily invested in providing better training for employees. Walmart launched its training program, Walmart Academy, with the goals of improving customer service, “infusing consistency across its massive retail landscape,” “building a stronger pipeline of talent in stores,” and creating clearer career paths. By the end of this year, 25,000 employees will have attended a Walmart Academy. Walmart is also continuing its 90-day onboarding program called “Pathways”: once new hires complete their training, they receive a small increase in their starting pay as motivation. Executives at the company will be monitoring how Walmart Academy impacts employee motivation and retention as academies grow from 100 to 200 this year, with the aim of reaching its goal of having 140,000 associates go through training every year.

People First

“Today we live in a world that is increasingly shaped by exponentially improving digital technologies that are accelerating change, increasing uncertainty, and driving performance pressure on a global scale.” A recent Harvard Business Review article discusses the decline of scalable efficiency, which was once considered the “key driver” ofdewdrop.jpeg growth within organizations. Instead, scalable learning, which is centered around creating new knowledge rather than “sharing existing knowledge,” has become the new driver of growth and innovation necessary for organizations to meet the needs of the evolving workplace. Scalable learning happens on the job, and “harnesses tech to augment capabilities of people” instead of automating processes that eliminate people, particularly with the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace. Going forward, the most innovative organizations will recognize that “institutions driven by scalable efficiency, it is the responsibility of the individual to fit into the assigned tasks and roles required by the institution. In institutions driven by scalable learning, the institutions must find ways to evolve and adapt to the needs of the individuals within their organization.”