Best Buy’s Training Evolution

Training technology and innovation have been game-changers for Best Buy as it implements its multi-year growth and customer experience strategy.

Laser-focused on growth and innovation, Best Buy is well on the way to fulfilling its multi-year vision called Best Buy 2020 – Building the New Blue. Training continues to play a crucial role in helping the retailer achieve this vision and was instrumental in moving the needle on Best Buy’s three main corporate strategic goals for 2018:

  1. Evolve How We Sell
  2. Expand What We Sell
  3. Continue to Reduce Costs and Drive Efficiencies

“Within these goals, we are focused on the customer experience and our stated purpose: to help customers enrich their lives through technology,” explains David Beck-O’Sullivan, director of Learning & Development Operations at Best Buy.

Best Buy CEO and Chairman Hubert Joly has repeatedly shared the importance of training to form the customer relationships at the heart of the Best Buy 2020 growth strategy. “The retail landscape is ever-changing, and it is no longer acceptable to have a mediocre or even good customer experience,” he notes. “You have to be excellent at serving the customer when, where, and how they want and with the level of expertise they expect. To make this possible, world-class training is required. I am proud of the fact that our Training, Learning and Development function is more than up to the challenge, and the work they have done to help us elevate our retail selling skills has been game-changing as we transform Best Buy.”

Evolve How We Sell

Sales training at Best Buy continues to receive strong financial support because of its direct connection to driving sales and a better customer experience, says Alistair Dobbie, senior director of Enterprise Learning & Development at Best Buy. “Due to the substantial impact it has on company performance, executive leaders willingly participate in sales training strategy, planning, and content creation.”

Sales and Solutions Essentials (SSE) is a four-day training class that equips all new sales employees with skills and behaviors to successfully deliver a differentiated experience to every customer. Last year, Dobbie says, “we took an innovative new approach to the class by dividing it into four separate classes with the purpose of increasing speed to competency and building sales experts in our main store product categories: Computing, Home Theater, Appliances, and Mobile.”

Dobbie says SSE gives employees a specific sales-focused skill set that has contributed to the company’s growth in both revenue and profit during the first three quarters of this fiscal year. “Our Net Promoter Score (Customer Satisfaction Score), which includes a key factor of Associate Knowledge, also continues to increase since the class launched,” he says.

Expand What We Sell

To achieve the goal of expanding what Best Buy sells, a corporate Strategic Growth Team was formed to research, run trials/ pilots, and prove or disprove the likelihood of long-term success for new business avenues for Best Buy. Since its launch, the Strategic Growth Office Training Team has played a key role in the success of health technology trials, the formation of new business-to-business partnerships, and the national rollout of Best Buy’s in-home professional sales team—In-Home Advisors (IHAs) who can sell anything and everything in the Best Buy assortment from the comfort of the customer’s home.

Onboarding for an IHA consists of a blended learning plan that lasts five weeks. More than 375 employees completed the training that includes job shadows with in-store product experts (2,900-plus total hours); more than 15,000 e-learning completions; and hundreds of ride-alongs with Geek Squad installers and written essays. IHAs cap off training with a certification exercise—a simulation in a space made to look like a customer’s home through projections of room images onto the walls.

The training program also includes development for leaders of the new IHAs who prepared for their role via blended learning, including spending one to two days with a peer in a successful pilot market. Best Buy also developed learning materials for:

  • Retail associates: IHA success relies on store employees successfully recommending the IHA program and submitting appointment requests. Based on industry research, the Training Team developed bite-sized learning easily consumable in the fast-paced retail environment, which drove more than 167,000 course completions.
  • Call center agents: Thanks to agile design, the Training Team repurposed the bite-sized retail courses for call center agents, developing training in a quarter of the usual time.

Continue to Reduce Costs and Drive Efficiencies

Best Buy Enterprise Customer Care (ECC) is the customer support call center all Best Buy customers speak with when contacting the company via phone, chat, or e-mail. This year, ECC launched a training optimization program focused on cost reduction and the growth of the ECC employee knowledge base. “The implementation of a knowledge management solution and a discovery-based learning environment led to a reduction in traditional instructor-led training classes,” Beck-O’Sullivan says. “This training optimization program accomplished its goals by cutting classroom time by 25 percent and saving more than $1 million in training costs. ECC employees’ speed to proficiency also improved by more than 25 percent, which led to an increased ability to resolve the reason for a customer’s phone call/chat/e-mail at the first point of contact.”

Increased Investment and Innovation

Although cost reduction continues to be a focus, Best Buy actually increased its investment in training last year through significant technology enhancements to its learning management system (LMS) and Learning Network.

With Best Buy Certified, Dobbie says, the company leveraged the flexibility of its LMS structure to take what was once a disjointed new hire and ongoing training experience, and transformed it into a learning journey that leads all U.S. retail employees (80,000) through their lifetime with Best Buy. “We launched rapid-authoring tools that are built directly into the LMS, built quizzing functionality that reinforced prior learning, unlocked the next level of training, and enhanced LMS reports to improve leader validation of learning completion and provide change management support,” Dobbie explains.

Prior to Best Buy Certified:

  • On average, 80 percent of retail employees had completed their onboarding training. Since Best Buy Certified launched, more than 94 percent have completed onboarding certification.
  • Required ongoing trainings had an 88.7 percent completion rate. Since Best Buy Certified launched, this has increased to 93.8 percent.

In addition, since the launch of Best Buy Certified, the company’s overall employee engagement score increased by 30 basis points, with a 110-basis point increase specifically in the area of training, learning, and development provided by the company. Furthermore, turnover has decreased, while Best Buy’s company-wide Customer Satisfaction Scores (Net Promotor Score or NPS) increased.

Best Buy also added gamification to its LMS—users earn experience points (XP) for taking training and interacting with the LMS (e.g., commenting on or recommending training, taking elective courses, exploring new areas of the site). “This encourages social learning through the healthy competitive spirit that runs throughout much of the Best Buy enterprise,” Beck-O’Sullivan says. “In turn, this created competition among retail teams to earn the most points and ultimately returned the benefit of driving increased training activity. In the first month of awarding XP, total course completions on the LMS increased by more than 300 percent, and we’ve seen a 70 percent increase in Learning Network usage.”

With Best Buy’s main population of learners being hourly employees in a retail environment, they do not have the luxury of devoting uninterrupted, long periods of time to training, Dobbie notes. “This creates an ongoing need for bitesized training that can be consumed in a few minutes or less. Last year, for example, we incorporated a bite-sized design and bookmarking into our Code of Business Ethics required e-learning. The outcome was 98 percent company-wide completion in the first month after launch compared to an average of 80 percent in the six months prior. Also, our policy team reported a significant year-over-year decrease in discrimination claims after the e-learning had been launched.”

Best Buy’s mobile product learning app, Gravity, provides retail employees quick access to 90-second product videos. In 2018, Gravity was utilized more than 5.6 million times—an increase of 65 percent over the previous year, Beck-O’Sullivan says.

Multi-Unit Retail Leader Integration

Best Buy’s training innovation continues with its Multi-Unit Leadership Integration and Role Training program, a personalized, concierge-style training that integrates newly hired or newly promoted leaders at the senior director, director, or senior manager level. The program focuses on leadership foundations, role-specific duties, and multi-unit management. “Each integration plan is personalized and unique to not only the needs of the individual leader, but also the needs of the territory, market, or district he or she supports,” Beck-O’Sullivan says. “The new leader also receives one-on-one dedicated support from a senior manager of Integration, who creates and manages all activities of the program.”

Over the course of 12 to 18 weeks, new leaders attend facilitated trainings, receive hands-on experiential training in the store and in the field, complete a series of leadership activities, and attend a corporate multi-unit training to meet their corporate partners. They end their integration training with a proof of proficiency week with their new leader to ensure they are prepared for their new role.

A crucial segment of the integration plan is mentorship and peer training, Dobbie points out. “The leader will have multiple opportunities to learn from other successful leaders in the company and within his or her area of work,” he explains. “Peers and mentors are selected based on leadership skills, performance, specific needs of the new leader, as well as a similar demographic of the new territory, market, or district. Mentoring comes to life by experiencing a weekly rhythm, addressing day-to-day needs of the role, and having an ongoing conversation so the new leader begins to fully understand what success in his or her role looks like.”

For Best Buy’s four-part corporate Leadership Foundations, the Learning and Development Team built an escape room with the objective of driving behavior change in leadership skills and abilities through experiential learning. The team captured feedback from leaders across the enterprise to define the escape room’s three objectives of improving ability to:

  • Collaborate and ask for help
  • Think creatively in ambiguous situations
  • Bounce back from challenges and mistakes

More than 900 learners participated in just eight months with the following results:

  • 87 percent confirmed the escape experience was a valuable team development experience.
  • 84 percent stated it helped them to see their team members’ strengths.
  • 69 percent made a specific behavioral commitment following the escape room experience focused on how they could enhance their leadership practice.

The Future of Learning

Best Buy’s vision for 2020 is clear, but what does the future hold for learning in the next 10 years? “We see the future of learning moving from a rigid, prescriptive experience to a high-performing culture of learning that provides guided learning solutions, encourages continuous learning, and provides a highly personalized learning environment that supports what employees want and need to learn, where and when learning is needed,” Dobbie predicts.

Ultimately, “our guiding behaviors of ‘be human, make it real, and think about tomorrow’ transcend every interaction with our customers and each other,” says Chief Human Resources Officer Kamy Scarlett. “Our Learning and Development Team is fiercely committed to providing our people with the learning they need to be the best they can be. Best Buy’s passion for continued development is surpassed only by our commitment to it.”

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.