This report identifies the key challenges in Fairprice workforce that is affecting the ability to provide total customer satisfaction and enable the company to grow with the corporate strategy.
1.1 Key issues at Fairprice
The key issues at Fairprice can be summarised as following:
Lack of quality trainings, especially use of government initiatives
Poor supervisory skills especially dealing with absenteeism
High degree of absenteeism
Feeble customer care
Poor company appraisal schemes
As the company moves into more technology related business models such as internet, there are other challenges that can affect the company:
Lack of skills in IT and systems;
Lack of structure and framework for imparting consistent knowledge to employees joining the company;
Lack of mechanisms to measure and calculate benefits of trainings
1.2 Key factors in success of Fairprice
For a successful operation of Fairprice, customer satisfaction is the key. Human capital has become the most critical component of a company, especially in industries like retail. As Fairprice moves to new ways of doing business and increasingly use IT and internet to do business, it requires transformation of the workforce to keep pace with the advancement of the company. Further, for an enhanced customer satisfaction, it is necessary that employee performance is maintained across the organisation, not only with the customer interfacing department. All the employees is required to be motivated and trained to handle all the processes in the organisation.
For ensuring that the business and the process support the strategic direction of the company, all the key elements need to be focussed on by the company. With the current structure and the employee skill and competence it would be difficult for the organisation to continuously provide enhanced customer services, which is critical for the success of the company. The organisation requires changes in the supervisory skill level, effective management of its resources on a continuous basis.
The success of the company in future initiatives depends on how prepared the organisation and employees at each level is, to handle the challenges. This also requires that employee turnover and other parameters are limited to a limit that can be handled by the organisation structure.
2. Options for improving the poor level of supervisory skills
2.1 National Training Initiatives
The National Training Initiatives provides an excellent option to upgrade the skills of the employees. National/ Scottish Vocational Qualification (N/SVQ) initiatives are organised by bodies such as Retail Skills Network. It offers employees of independent shops in different areas to gain and NVQ in retail operations with minimum cost impact. It provides opportunity to develop the staff to develop the skills, improve customer services and enhance profitability. As the use of technology increases, especially in the areas of stock control, security and at the point-of- sale, it is necessary to upgrade the skills of the workforce. Studies have indicated that large retail firms have effectively used N/SVQ for enhancing staff development and training. (Sims et al, 1998)
In addition to the courses, NVQ program also encourages the firms and staff to get involved in projects that help to enhance the profitability. These provide practical application to the new learning during the program.
Some of the areas for which N/SVQ is available are: Retail operations, customer service, administration, telephone selling, management, warehousing and distribution. N/SVQ qualifications are available in three levels – Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.
Level 1 is designed to reflect the work of the staff members working in retail environment. It is appropriate for candidates operating at a basic level and who are new to the retail sector.
Level 2 is suitable for any staff members who are already competent in basic skills but require knowledge of a wider range of abilities with the retail sector.
Level 3 is aimed at those who are already competent in a significant range of varied activities and require wider range of abilities in the sector. The candidate is usually at a senior operative, team leader or supervisory role.
The key advantages of using N/SVQ are:
The qualifications can enhance the motivation and performance of the staff and hence directly enable Fairprice to improve the customer service and thereby helping to increase or maintain the market share.
The courses are available ate different levels of employees including junior employees;
Open to candidates of any age and gender and there are no entry barriers.
The qualifications are assessed in the workplace and hence the time away from the job is kept to a minimum;
The qualifications ensure that the qualifications are practically demonstrated at the workplace thereby ensuring that the knowledge is not theoretical;
Ensures that employees are conformant to the nationally recognised occupational standards; (TTC Training, 2007)
Improves the image of Fairprice in the market, helping to attract better talent to the organisation.
NFER studies show that the companies adopting N/SVQ have been able to reduce downtime, wastage, staff turnover and customer complaints. This can be very effective for Fairprice (Sims et al, 1998).
The key benefits of the qualifications to Fairprice are:
The training programs combine the best in the industry and relieves the organisation from designing and developing the content internally saving costs;
This can be used as additional source of information during recruitment process;
It can be used as a basis for rewarding employees. As it directly brings improvement to the working, it can be a source of data for deciding pay and other benefits.
Some of the courses are funded by the local governments, significantly reducing the costs of training.
N/SQVs consist of several qualifications and Fairprice can choose the ones suitable for the company. (Skillsmart Retail, 2004)
To obtain NVQ, a candidate must provide evidence that they consistently meet the qualification standards over time and across a wide range of circumstances. This ensures that the candidate is ready to meet changing demands. It also ensures that the candidates have sufficient understanding to enable them to carry out tasks competently. (Qualtech, 2007)
2.2 Active learning
Activ learning helps the company to solve complex development issues of the company. One good candidate for such a program for Fairprice is introduction of internet based business model (Conger et al, 2003). An active learning helps in the following ways:
Brings in sense of involvement for the participants, ensuring better performance in the current role
Aligns the strategy with the reality at the ground level
Prepares staff for the changes with their involvement, making the change management process easier for the business. Also the resistance to change is reduced as the key employees are involved in the process.
2.3 Supervisory roles
Prior data show that there is widespread absenteeism among the employees. This can be primarily attributed to the supervisory skills in the company. This can be solved using several different techniques. However given the characteristic of Fairprice employees, the following techniques can be prioritised.
Women supervisors – Women constituting the majority of the workforce in Fairprice, it could impact the management of the day to day operations. In a retail business environment, it is necessary that the supervisors are aware and sensitive to the concerns and issues faced by the employees. While there is little direct evidence of the impact of women supervisors, Fairprice adopt the following strategy for improving the supervisory skills:
Develop metrics on the performance of supervisory skills of all supervisors over time;
Adopt recruitment of women supervisors in limited manner and measure the performance;
Performance measurement should look into specific aspects that indicate whether gender is enabling women supervisors to perform better and show better results compared to the male counterparts, given equal conditions and opportunities. The metrics can include feedback from employees on the performance of the supervisors with sufficient weightage;
Develop a recruitment and development strategy based on the results of the study.
The approach provides the following advantages to Fairprice:
Enables to conduct the study of the performance without significant impact on the business;
Understand the importance of relationship in the workplace and how it impacts the performance of individuals in the organisation. Further it provides a basis for adopting measures to improve performance;
Enable Fairprice to adopt a strategy that is in line with the conditions in the company;
The approach could have the following limitations:
If the result of the study indicates that there is a gender specific relationship to the supervisory role, the availability of the resource according to the study result may not be available at a particular point of time depending on the market situations. Hence implementing a strategy may not be possible.
The implementation needs to be closely monitored to ensure that there is no negative gender bias in the process;
Supervisors with knowledge and skills in new technologies – As the retail industry progresses, there is increasing need to adopt technologies and systems. The supervisors need to be trained on these trends or new supervisors with such skills need to be recruited especially when new supervisors are needed when business expansion happens.
Continuous up gradation of skills of supervisors and employees especially who are facing the customers.
Coaching can be adopted as an important way of ensuring that the current employees are able to scale to the business requirements in future. This is necessary because of the changing environment, there could be employees who find it difficult to cope with pace of change. They could be resistant to change making it more difficult for the organisation to move fast. (HR, 2007)
1.3 Training and Development
Training and development play a very important role in ensuring that the employees are aligned to the company’s vision and strategy. Training involves the following key approaches:
Aligning the processes and investment to the organisational strategies
Using a different methods to evaluate the impact of learning
Feedback into the learning methodology to ensure continuous alignment with the company vision and strategy. (CIPD, 2006)
Managing learning curve of the organisation
Training and development needs need to be categorised into the following types –
Leadership trainings – This enables the organisation to prepare the organisation for the challenges and requirements.
Specialised job training – This is the domain specific training that enable the people to perform according to the written goals and targets of the organisation. These trainings enable the employees to do their daily activities and improve constantly.
New employee orientation – Any new employee being recruited into the organisation need to be oriented to the culture and expectations of the organisations. It is easier and cost-effective for the organisation to align the new employees instead of relying on the change management process at the later stage.
Continuous learning opportunities – Fairprice needs to provide continuous skill up gradation trainings and also enable the employees to adapt to the new trends in retail industry including internet based retailing. A continuous program helps quick adoption of new business requirements, making the organisation flexible.
The training and development provides the following benefits:
Ensure that the employees are equipped to perform the functions most effectively. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for the employees to enhance their personal skills.
Studies indicate that development of skills encourage and motivate them to work better for the company than look out for other organisations. It has been found that retention is higher in organisations where the employees get opportunity to expand their skills and employ their learning.
As the company moves forward with new strategies, it ensures that employees are ready to take up new technologies or systems.
Improve customer satisfaction and performance of the company continuously.
2.4 Effective management of supervisory skills
Fairprice talent management need to be focussed on fulfilling the objective of getting the right skills at the right time. This provides a long-term platform for ensuring that the company resources are aligned to the growth strategy of the company.
Succession Planning and Leadership Development
Succession planning and leadership development can be married to help employees to develop the skills required for leadership positions.. The leadership development trainings need to be a mix of classroom training with real-life exposure to a variety of jobs and people in leadership positions. Various techniques can be employed such as job rotation, special assignments such as launch of a new product and action learning that pulls in a group of high-potential employees to study and make recommendations on a pressing topic in the company.
Company-wide succession planning
To ensure continuity of business without affecting the quality of service, it is important to ensure that there is plan for continuity throughout the company. This requires identification of all key functions that are essential to the long-term health of the organisation. These functions are the ones that are difficult to fill, any individual-contributor positions, and are critical for the future. Also involved in the succession planning are employees seen as having the potential to move up in the organisation.
Companies have used succession planning effectively to fill positions that were vacant due to difficulty in finding talented people. These positions were a broad range of roles from officer level all the way down to the regional managers. The company conducted talent review sessions for the positions where the people who are currently in positions and their likely replacements are identified.
The matrix below shows a matrix that can be used for reviewing the talent pool. The vertical axis looks at the performance results against written goals and financial targets. The horizontal axis measures the leadership behaviours such as collaboration, coaching and the behaviours identified in the company wide competency model. The key talent boxes indicate employees who exceed expectations on at least on one of the dimensions of the matrix. These employees receive accelerated and high priority development attention. The top grading category employees can be placed on 60-to-90 day action plans. Those who meet or exceed performance expectations, but do not exhibit adequate leadership behaviours (leadership issues) should be given immediate coaching and improvement plans.
Fig 2. Employee profile matrix (Conger et al, 2003)
3 Evaluating Effectiveness
The evaluation of learning and training programs is based on the following objectives:
Learner’s reactions to learning experience
Learning achievements of the participants, both short term and long term
Changes in job behaviour after the learning
Return of Investment in terms of benefit of the learning with respect to the cost associated. (CIPD, 2006)
2.1 Evaluation Model
The evaluation model should be alighted to the strategy of the organisation. One of the model that can be adopted is the Kirkpatrick model. This model uses 4 different levels of evaluation:
Reactions and perceptions
Job performance and behaviours
Fig 3. Kirkpatrick evaluation model (CIPD, 2006)
As each level of evaluation has limitations, it is necessary to gather data at more than one level and from different sources to avoid bias in the result. The model provides data from various levels that provides more accuracy to the result.
Assessment at reactions and perception level establishes whether the learning process was effective. It assesses whether the training content in terms of level, relevance, timing and trainers effectiveness, training style were according to the objective. There could be unfavourable feedback when a high degree of learning has taken place and favourable feedback when low level of learning has taken place. Hence it cannot be used in isolation.
Learning level evaluation involves assessing how much learning has taken place as a result of the training. This is generally done by comparing participant’s role and comparing the levels of knowledge, skills before and after the training. Self assessments and questionnaires can be used to gather the data. It enables to make and initial assessment of the training.
Job performance and behaviour level assessment looks at how the performance has improved as a result of training. At this level, the pay-off of the learning activity can be measured. This can be conducted by a combination of self assessment and manager assessment.
Results level assessment seeks to establish the impact of the training on the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation and the impact on the how the business objectives are delivered. It provides information
whether the training worth doing again;
compare the costs between the costs and benefits;
comparison of cost of training and not doing the training;
whether the same result can be achieved with lesser cost;
The most effective method of data collection for this stage is cost/benefit analysis and control group studies. (CIPD, 2006)
Some of the evaluation techniques that can be used by Fairprice are:
Learning and Performance Scorecard – This technique can be used by the evaluator and can be conducted after learners have the opportunity to apply the learning. It can be done through different ways based on the following:
Application of learning
Questionnaire with specific questions on the learning outcome
Surveys for participants and supervisors
Customer surveys on specific implementations of the learning
The data can be be collected from various sources such as test results, reaction sheets, performance review data, 360/180 feedback data, learning agreements and plans, insight from key stakeholders, workplace assessors, facilitators, supervisors, team members and reports, clients and customers.
The evaluation mechanisms provides important information for other processes such as design of compensation systems, development of incentive systems, aligning balanced scorecards and implementation of performance management processes.
A continuous assessment of the training programs and talent management mechanisms enable Fairprice to keep information of how many employees are ready for the key positions identified. It provides assurance that candidate pool for the company is always thick.
3 Recommendations – strategies for training and development
The learning and development strategy of Fairprice can be summarised as following
The vision and the strategy of the business drives the requirements of the future in terms of the talent required to grow. This provides the basis for all development and learning needs for the employees and also provides focussed training for ensuring leadership.
For Fairprice to excel with the current changes and to provide superior customer service, it is necessary for the employees and the supervisors to adopt new process-oriented working methodologies. Continuing on the current processes can adversely affect the performance of Fairprice and severely affect its ability to grow. Continuous training and skill up gradation of supervisors is required.
A training and learning framework is required to continuously train and equip the employees for the changes in the business and use new technologies. One of the primary technologies to be evaluated is adoption of internet for business.
Use of N/SVQ can help in addressing the training needs in a cost effective manner and without any impact on the day-to-day business. It helps in enhanced customer experience as well as a good path for career development in line with the company strategy. By maintaining continuous training charts for the employees, it can be effectively used for ensuring competence of employees at all levels and provides linkage to the career path.
A 4 level performance measurement can be adopted for effectively measuring the results of the training and learning method adopted and ensures that results are obtained.
With effective management of resources at the right time, Fairprice can take advantage of the changes in the business to prepare the organisation to achieve higher levels of success.
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