Human Side of Retail Execution with Axonify & Dollar General


During RILA’s 21st Century Retail Workforce Summit, Axonify’s Chief Learning Architect JD Dillon joined Dollar General’s Senior Director of Training and Development Matt Metzger for a session dedicated to the human side of retail execution, including topics like onboarding, communication, engagement and retention.
JD discussed the important connection between the role the frontline plays in a growing retail brand and the customer experience an organization is trying to deliver. Matt highlighted how Dollar General’s reputation as the go-to “friendly neighborhood store”—despite being spread out across thousands of locations in the US—has been created and upheld largely thanks to their customer-facing associates. Matt also spoke to the company’s emphasis on exceeding customer expectations at every level by enabling associates to treat people with kindness, even encouraging them to dedicate some of their time on the floor to connect with shoppers who look like they might need a bit of conversation. He says that “at the end of the day, associates are the ones who execute the brand promises planned by corporate.”
Building a frontline retail team that is able to balance delivering an ideal customer experience while staying efficient can be a challenge. JD and Matt chatted about how keeping stores running smoothly, especially amid the current labor shortage causing staffing and turnover issues, relies on having the right frontline training support. This can include resources designed to fill knowledge gaps and encourage the behaviors you want your associates to adopt. Matt said Dollar General has invested in personalized employee training with Axonify that takes just 3 minutes per shift to complete. So, when things go awry, their associates know how to make the right spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Matt also shared a driving principle behind Dollar General’s operation: “Every single employee–no matter where they begin–has a real opportunity to succeed.” This means that regardless of title or educational background, associates have access to training that fits into the flow of work and builds both confidence and competence to positively impact business outcomes. That way, every employee across all locations has the same chance to do a great job no matter where within the operation they sit and upskill thanks to optimized training.
Finally, when staffing is tight, associates are even more valuable to building a more agile and efficient retail operation. JD and Matt offered that while it is possible to do more with less people, it involves an upskilling strategy that aims to turn every associate into your best associate to plug operational gaps. Their parting discussion touched on moving training out of the back room and into the aisle, without disrupting the operation, helps get people on the job faster and ensures they have the knowledge needed to succeed and build next-level skills.

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