When developing store managers, there are no shortcuts.

With a burgeoning number of stores, and without a program that specialized in retail among high schools, vocational-technical institutions, or graduate programs in the entire country, Migros Ticaret A.Ş., a Turkish-based supermarket chain, took developing its assistant store managers into its own hands. The development program that the company created was, as Migros describes it, a holistic development and apprenticeship program.

Designing a four-step program that begins with a certificate and culminates with the employee as an assistant manager, Migros has seen an increased readiness for that role of 59 percent, in addition to improved loyalty of those staff.

The need for a robust program

Experiencing growth that translated into a need of nearly four new hires every business hour, Migros sees assistant managers as critical to its success. Along with the growth in employees is the expansion in store openings: 249 new shops opened in 2015. With each store requiring two assistant store managers, that means 550 new developed assistant store managers are needed each year.

As Chief Human Resources Officer Demir Aytaç explains, "Since each store is managed as a separate business, the store managers are not only people who directly manage the profitability of the store, but also have to take on the critical role of maintaining service standards in such a widespread geography."

Compile those factors with the lack of educational facilities in the country with an appropriate retail training program, and Migros was in for quite a challenge to keep stores profitable, customers happy, and employees functioning at a high level.

Further, the role of assistant manager being so key to the company's success, employees needed to have critical skills before they stepped into their new role.

Not leaving it to chance

While Migros already had an orientation program for new assistant store managers in place prior to the creation of this new holistic one—one that involved in-class training and a two-month internship—it didn't guarantee standardized training. Because managers were responsible for training new managers on the job, developing suitable, uniform training was essential to ensure that customers received a standard level of service no matter which store they visited.

To overcome this challenge and fully understand what was necessary from a training program for assistant managers, the organization designed tools and processes that would survey all the stakeholders as part of a needs assessment program. These stakeholders included business leaders from stores around the country, C-level administration team members, seasoned and new assistant store managers, human resources staff, store employees, and customers. To tap into the experience and thinking of the stakeholders, Migros used focus groups, business results analysis, one-on-one meetings, 360-degree assessment score results, and sampling analysis.

As a result of the assessment, Migros came to the realization that the existing training program, with two months of orientation, was not sufficient to have fully prepared assistant managers. To be fully up to speed, a new assistant manager needed experience with all the seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)—each of which has its own specific requirements and challenges in a retail setting.

Pulled from all sides

Many managers, Migros already knew, didn't stick around for all four seasons. The turnover rate during the needs assessment period was 7.7 percent. That managers left during the first year was a red flag for the Migros talent development team to surmise that an effective development program can help not only in developing competencies and with the time-to-ready process, but also to lower turnover rates of assistant store managers.

While the company determined that the two-month time period did not allow for the necessary skills and competencies to be fully ingrained, Migros also learned that—for legal reasons—the allowable trial work period was two months. Thus, while not being able to get assistant store managers up to speed in two months, Migros was prohibited from extending the trial work period. So the company needed a different development model.

Developing store managers was a critical strategic factor for the company, one that received utmost priority and attention from the CEO and other C-level personnel. According to Aytaç, the strategic goal was not only to train new hires to be effective assistant store managers, but also to increase customer and employee satisfaction by having qualified managers.

Needed: Collaboration

Migros used outside-of-the-box thinking to deal with the challenge of no university curriculum teaching the required skills for retail management. After conducting its needs assessment, the organization worked in collaboration with universities to develop a training curriculum that met the standards of a university certificate program. The program was publicly available, meaning that a student need not be an employee of Migros to enroll in it.

Further collaboration included the talent development team working with business line and business owners to decide the most effective training methodology for the necessary skills and abilities, the time that should be allotted for the training, and the amount of internal and external resources that should be allocated for it.

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Following the design phase—the organization used the ADDIE model for its training program—the Migros talent development team again tapped business officers and sought the guidance of universities, regulatory authorities, and certificate centers to develop a high-level, macro program design. At that point, it was time to ensure that the content met the business need before the details of the program were configured.

The business need also served as a determining factor for deciding how many participants would undergo the program, along with the criteria for selecting them; and where training sessions would take place, along with the dates.

Rather than wait to fix something that might not be working as planned, Migros asks instructors, business owners, participants, and other stakeholders to evaluate the program as it progresses, after each group of training. That way, any needed revisions can be made as soon as possible.

Finally, what counts is the bottom line. Aytaç explains that once training is complete, the company uses predetermined metrics, which are submitted to relevant business managers, and calculates where it is on targeted outputs. "These results are used as data for the decision on designing further development programs or repeating the same program."

Full-scale approach

Migros's new assistant manager program is 1.5 years in duration, and consists of university training, in-class instruction, on-the-job training, e-learning, mentoring, exams, and an internship.

Through the company's collaboration with education institutions, there have been curriculums for a retail certificate program developed at three universities; students receive the certificate, in addition to their diploma, upon successful completion of the program.

In conjunction with the final year of university training, students complete an internship, working in all departments with experience during all four seasons, for reasons mentioned earlier. Students progress from department staff interns to management trainee interns, serving in the role they aspire to, that of assistant store manager. This phase lasts six months and takes place in two different stores, with mentorship from two different senior store managers.

Candidates move on to their permanent store—in the role of assistant manager—where they continue their development with a six-month mentoring program. This follows the joint university/part-time management trainee internship.

A final exam along with evaluations by mentors are used to score a potential assistant store manager. Only if trainees have scored higher than 65 out of 100 on an exam with 70 questions, and in consultation with their mentors from each store, will they be allowed to fill that role; otherwise, trainees undergo an additional week of internship.

Seeing results

Because a talent development program is only as good as the results that an organization sees, Migros measures the success of the assistant store manager development program by comparing individuals who completed the new training against a control group of employees who had undergone the previous form of training.

What Migros learned confirmed the success of the new development program: Program graduates averaged a readiness score of 81, compared with a readiness score average of 51 for nongraduates of the new program. It signifies a readiness increase of 59 percent.

In addition to readiness, Migros sought to lower turnover and improve loyalty among its assistant managers. Here, too, the data indicate that the talent development team had made solid choices. Turnover decreased to 5.8 percent, from 7.7 percent. This translates to improved loyalty of 25 percent.

Finally, as Aytaç states, Migros has as its motto that "better trained store managers will lead to happier employees"—a principle that is playing out in practice.


Lessons Learned

The lessons learned by the Migros talent development team, C-suite, and business line include the following.

  • Employees want professional development; if you design a program that is practical and touches on employees’ careers, they will take advantage of the opportunity, and it will be a win-win for all those involved.
  • If you fail to update your training programs frequently, they will lose their validity.
  • For programs to be successful, an organization must at least keep up with the pace of its sector and business.
  • Training programs must be aligned with the business needs to be successful.
  • The quicker employees are competent on their jobs, the better they can serve your customers.
  • The key to program design is a thorough analysis of the real need that includes listening to your customers.