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CSA Exclusive: Kroger delivers targeted training – in small doses

Kroger is providing frontline associates with easily digested mobile training sessions during the course of their regular workday.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Senchal Murphy, senior director of training and onboarding at The Kroger Co., about how the grocery giant leverages solutions from microlearning technology provider Axonify to support workforce initiatives that include hiring 10,000 new associates, as well as engaging and motivating nearly 500,000 grocery associates in the ongoing face of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kroger is a large company with frontline associates in stores, distribution centers, and across the supply chain,” said Murphy. “There are challenges in delivering training effectively, which were compounded during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Seeking to maximize the efficiency and impact of training and onboarding activities, Kroger decided to replace manual, paper-based training with a web-based training procedure. The company sought to develop a digital approach that it could deliver across varying locations, such as supply chain, manufacturing and store sites, and then measure against the success of its customer experience. Ultimately, Kroger selected the microlearning platform from Axonify.

“Axonify allows us to provide purposeful, bite-sized training installments during the course of work,” explained Murphy. “It’s fun, easy to use and has a positive impact on customer experience. It also allows us to collect meaningful data on associate knowledge growth.”

Internally, Kroger brands its Axonify training solution as the “Fresh Start” employee app. Associates can download the app on their own mobile devices, or also gain access via shared corporate devices. Employees are encouraged to log in as soon as they start their shift.

“We call it ‘Clock in, app up,” commented Murphy. “Employees can engage in mobile training for three to five minutes per day. There are also gamification aspects.”

Gamification elements include a training leaderboard, as well as a popular virtual mini-golf putting game. Murphy advantages to having employees engage in training on-site during their shifts, include higher levels of retention as well as avoiding the disruption, time and expense of hosting formal, in-person events. 

So far, Murphy said Kroger has about 6,000 associates signed up for the app across different corporate banners. The retailer plans to continue rolling out its Axonify-based Fresh Start app across the balance of the company, and expects to have about 300,000 employees using it by October 2021.

In addition, Murphy said Kroger has been able to study shoppers in its stores to determine what training topics would have the most positive impact on customer experience. 

“We know that fresh produce is a major driver in where customers decide to shop,” said Murphy. “So we use the app to help train store associates on our ‘Fresh and Friendly fresh produce program.”

Fresh and Friendly is an in-store campaign that promotes Kroger’s assortment of fresh produce. Associates receive training to learn how to properly recognize fresh produce, as well as produce that is past its freshness date, and how to rotate produce on shelves and displays. 

Kroger is also using the Axonify platform to help deliver cultural training, such as educating employees about its corporate diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) efforts. For associates, the ultimate advantage offered by the Axonify platform is a simple but important one.

“Employees can opt in and have fun while working,” said Senchal.

Based in Cincinnati, Kroger operates 2,800 under a variety of banners across the U.S., including Kroger, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith's, King Soopers, Fry's, QFC, City Market, Owen's, Jay C, Pay Less, Baker's, Gerbes, Harris Teeter, Pick 'n Save, Metro Market, and Mariano's.

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