Taking Giant Leaps to Create a Culture of Learning
When it was time to transform the learning and development culture at The Giant Company, learning leaders knew they had to focus on the learner journey. In this episode, Anthony Amadure, Manager Learning Organizational Development at The GIANT Company, talks about the innovative changes they made.
Anthony Amadure transformed their learning and development culture by building a framework that focused on ensuring employees could access the training they needed to learn and grow at The GIANT Company.
- The journey model assesses each team member to determine what level they are at and what skills are needed to take them to the next level.
- The GIANT Company focused on learning labs with classes they built within Giant University.
- The company prepares team members for the future through a talent development program that prepares employees for what’s next in their career.
Listen to our interview with Constellation Brands, which was mentioned in this podcast:
Powered by Learning earned an Award of Distinction in the Podcast/Audio category from The Communicator Awards and a Silver Davey Award for Educational Podcast. The podcast is also named to Feedspot's Top 40 L&D podcasts and Training Industry’s Ultimate L&D Podcast Guide.
[00:00] Susan Cort: This is Powered By Learning, a podcast designed for learning leaders to hear the latest approaches to creating learning experiences that engage learners and achieve improved performance for individuals and organizations.
Voiceover: Powered By Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations, and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
[00:40] Susan: Hello, and welcome to Powered By Learning. I'm your host Susan Cort. Today I'm joined by d'Vinci Learning Experience Director Jenny Fedullo, and our guest Anthony Amadure, Manager Learning Organizational Development at Giant/Martin's. The Giant Company is a supermarket chain that operates full-scale stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, under the Giant and Martin's banners along with small-scale urban stores under the Giant Heirloom market banner. Welcome, Anthony.
Jenny Fedullo: Hey, Anthony, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
Anthony Amadure: Good morning, everybody. Pleasure to be here and excited to talk to everybody today.
Susan: Well, great. Thanks. Let's start out, Anthony, by telling us a little bit about your career in the L&D industry.
[01:24] Anthony: It's been a great journey. I started out working in a large ice cream company, got to work all the positions and really cut my teeth with learning and development by redesigning a lot of their programs. From there, I went to economic development and took my knowledge of how a large privately owned company works, and did it to attract businesses, US and international to Pennsylvania. Then did a small stint with teaching in order to use those connections, get students hired, get them prepared for the workforce. Finally comes full circle and started working with Ahold USA and now was pulled into the Giant Company with this learning position back to where my passions really lie.
Jenny: Thanks, Anthony. That's a really interesting journey. I always love to connect with learning professionals and hear their story, because so many of them don't necessarily start out in the training and development field, but it really is a journey or a story. Thanks for sharing that. Tell us a bit about your role at Giant/Martin's and about the company in general.
[02:29] Anthony: I'm going to start with the company. I see it as really the foundation of our growth ideas. David Javitch opened a two-man butcher shop in 1923. Then he immediately started innovating the industry by opening a Giant Food Shopping Center in 1937. This was a totally new concept at the time, as it offered dry and perishable items. We like to think we're following in his footsteps as we've never really stopped thinking of new ways to innovate for our customers and our team members.
Bonus buys, choice rewards, online ordering, you had mentioned urban formats like our Heirloom stores in Philly, and more was just for our customers. The role of learning comes in with what we're doing to develop and present standardized and custom workshops for our new to role leadership sessions, and really a whole new era of personal development where our team members take hold of it themselves.
We also administer our LMS system, help the creation of the online content and manage compliance courses. Then we cover everything from analyzing and recommending ways of working, executing various developmental academies. More recently, we're really moving into the realm of championing change management practices for projects and various initiatives and rollouts.
But I think the most exciting development is the launch of our largest Learning Initiative, which we decided to call Giant University.
Jenny: Sounds exciting. What breadth and depth, a responsibility that you have in your role. Tell me a little bit about the variety of other roles within Giant. You've got cashiers to customer facing team members, to supervisors, managers, executives, I'm sure. What are some of the training needs they have and how do they support your company goals?
[04:25] Anthony: We're really looking to put personal development into the hands of our team members. They're going to get the standardized requirements automatically. Those normal things you need to produce, be effective and successful at your position, identification of high potential for advance programs. Again, taking that one step forward with GU, because we want team members do feel they have more control over customizing their development.
We're going to achieve more, and really learn where the needs can be more focused by what they're going after, what they're looking for. It's a balance of, here's the baseline things that you need, but everybody's unique and everybody's individual. Your skill set at a certain position, after you get the fundamentals is going to be different. It's tough. Over 35,000 people in the organization, we're using that personal touch to really identify where those areas are.
If we see patterns, trends, et cetera, maybe we can institute and create something a little more standard that they get, but help that person advance and grow in their career by giving them the framework for them to target and identify those skills to be successful in their current position, as well as kind of peeking over the wall to see what they need to do for that next move.
Susan: Anthony, you mentioned Giant University or GU, as you called it. We know our parent company JPL has created some training videos for Giant University. Talk a little bit about those training videos and how that really pulls into the overall training and the initiative with Giant University.
Anthony: Great question. The videos are fantastic. We've done a number of different things. Beginning of last year, we had our Promises and Action event where we discussed our three team promises. We wanted to teach people about them, and give them an activity so they can go and use them and apply them directly. We did a series of videos with you, and we wrapped it into a contest, we had some grand prizes, we had rewards and things given out and the greatest thing that came out of that was, at the end, after people went out and applied the skills, we got ideas on innovation from them.
Where are their pain points? What was going on? Where did they need help or assistance? We got to teach them through a really great interactive series of videos, and we also got to hear from them. It's always a two-way street. They say two birds, one stone, as you say. We never want to do anything with just a singular result. What can we do to get more from our team members, and for our team members? Most recently, we did a series of animated videos, which I'll talk about a little later, I think, to help identify and teach people about our leadership journey matrix, which is a really nice framework that we want our team members to use to help guide their personal development plans.
Jenny: All right, over the last few years, it sounds like you've really helped transform learning. You've already given us quite a few examples. What was the catalyst? What was it that made you want to create this, or the organization to create this high impact learning organization?
[07:46] Anthony: I’ll say… I think it's a number of things, but probably competition is a main one. It's ever-growing. Technologies are evolving, and so the needs and learning styles of our team members are continually growing, changing, adapting. You go back to the '90s, computer-based training, that was the big rage, and everybody wanted to do that. Now, as I call it, the butts in seats, it's not as effective as it used to be.
Really, in current times, I think retention, or we feel retention, is as important if not more than recruitment. We knew we had to grow our employee value proposition. We wanted to add more reasons and benefits for team members to stay, to avoid that brain drain. We asked how we can do more, how we can reach more team members, have it be more efficient, and more exciting.
We knew we really just had to evolve to do these things differently, and make us stand out to have people want to stay here, so they don't feel like they come in and, oh, I take this training and then it's done. It's a big blank space moving forward. We wanted to have a continuous journey that kept people engaged throughout their entire career. What we did was we looked at who's receiving training? At what level? Is that training really helping with succession planning? Are we building the right people at the right time to prevent that brain drain?
Just how deep was our bench? With the move towards becoming a true omni-channel organization, we are constantly growing different areas. Those areas have different new and unique skill sets where we may not have had them before. We wanted to be able to place people with the needed skills and experiences into positions to prevent that gap that would slow down our projects, growth and overall innovation.
I think if more organizations, or if most organizations looked at their learning and development offerings, they're going to find it's clustered around certain groups, while others may not be getting as well rounded of an experience.
I think a reason for this is that the populations that fall outside of some of those focus groups are often larger, need a larger amount and a wider variety of resources, which can be costly, could be difficult to get that personal level attention that's so critical. Let's face it. A lot of training teams just aren't super large and the larger the organization, it limits what you're doing. We took all those items into consideration on how can we change? How can we be different? How can we get more learning to more people, in a more effective way.
Jenny: It sounds like, Anthony, you took a typical approach of mapping out the customer lifecycle and put it to the mapping out the employee lifecycle. What are those touch points along the way, their journey, what learning development do they need? It's a technique that we've used a few times as well, and it's so effective. Part of the training program you do icertainly involves instructor-led training. Explain how that has evolved.
Anthony: I said before our training team isn't super large, so we had limited facilitation resources, which in turn lessens the variety of courses that you can effectively offer. I'll give you an example, and what really jumped out at me. We had an original ‘Leading Others’ program for managers. It was a four-day course. We used to offer two full sessions across 12 different areas. Just with that, we're spending 96 days for just one program for one specific group. There is no way you can develop a deep level of offerings to address all the needs of your organization with that type of setup. The first thing that we decided to do is we needed to be more efficient, but still keep that level of personal interaction.
The solution was the development of our learning lab.
We designed a room with writeable walls, electric in the tables, two giant TVs, tracking cameras, directional mics, and this really allowed us to do less classes with more participants and still keep things interactive. We can put 32 people in that room and have an unlimited number of people participating virtually, which lessens the number of sessions we had to do and gives us the opportunity to increase the time we have to do more different necessary trainings that we've identified. We put it all together and that was step one. Then we looked at the length and composition of our programs.
We decided they needed to be shorter, more focused, more interactive, and also broken up, so team members had the ability to go out and apply what they've learned from, again, working in other organizations. You see that most people aren't designed to internalize a ton of info from multiple 4 to 8 hour days.
[13:15] How much do you really retain, and how much of that retention does someone actually apply? I think those are two of the main things that continue to evolve and really helped us set the groundwork to set the parameters, to change the way we do learning to make it more effective. From other organizations, someone would come, "I need an 8-hour program. I need a two-day program."
Well, do you really need that? To really start to challenge, I like to call it, the nice to know versus need to know. How do we get it with the need to know, have that be actionable, give time for knowledge to set in, and then all the need to know stuff starts to develop that excellent journey of things people can come back to and keep that excitement for their learning path during their career.
Jenny: Anthony, I'm sure for those listening, that is something that all training professionals face, is the, "I need an 8-hour class. I need a four-hour class." Whereas we then have to turn into consultants and say, "Well, what do you need the learner, your audience, to learn and know? What is critical?" Let's start there as opposed to what the time constraint is, how long you need the course to be.
Anthony: Yes. I challenge them immediately. Why 8 hours? Where'd you come up with that number? "Oh, well, because it's just a go-to thing. I need an 8-hour day." I said, "Let's focus on the need to know, let's build it. Let's make it interactive with follow up, application, and then we'll calculate out how much time it is, and you might be surprised we can maybe do it in two hours, three hours, or, if we do need all that, let's not do it in one day. Let's break it up a little bit, so that way you get the knowledge, it sets, and then you build on it."
Susan: It sounds, too, then you're more focused on training in the flow of work versus just focusing on that training event, more of an experience and integrating it into what they need and when they need it.
Anthony: Yes. Here's what you're going to learn. Here's where it's going to apply. Now here's your exercise to go out and do it, and when we do the follow up, they're being held accountable. Hey, look, let's talk about what you did and how you did it and what the effects were. Oh, it didn't work? Okay, let's go and analyze and take a look at that. The consecutive trainings aren't just, okay, here's a new skill. That first part is time spent to talk about what they learned previously, questions, answers, review, et cetera.
Jenny: Anthony, how do you use whether it's Giant University or what processor or what do you do to make sure team members get the right training when they need it? What is a technique or process that you're using or that you've built in?
Anthony: I think it's a number of items. What was generated was our leadership journey model, which gives you a base of where am I in my career, and puts you on a specific level.
What are the needed skills, capabilities that you need to be successful there? Then we cross-sectioned that with five different qualities of people growth, change, performance, and purpose. They're good concepts. We have them defined, but what that allows you to do is to sit down with a mentor, coach, et cetera, and say, "Okay, where are my strengths? What do I need to get that personal aspect?"
We have set programs at each of those levels, that base knowledge skill that I talked about before that people will go through that's now broken up. But within that, they're going to use the matrix as a guide to identify what their specific skills are. When they sit down, have those conversations, they'll be able to put those on their plans, and that's where Giant University comes in, which is a central hub and repository that connects all of our learning that's out there, that we give people the resources, they can find what they need, simply, easily with recommendations and do it on their own time.
I think a lot of times companies look at training as a one size fits all, and it's not absolutely…that. I think it's really that blend between those two things, that Giant University, that hub covers a number of areas - on demand is one area. It's everything that connects to external business partners, websites, blogs. We're bringing in a new learning management system that has about 3 million different learnings. You can do skill assessments and it allows us to connect everything. We'll be able to take those career paths that we've developed for those individual levels of our matrix and put them in there so people can see them, take them. It directs you to register for or a class. It tells you, "Okay, do these online learnings," and they can do it whenever they want, because it's going to be mobile.
We've integrated that with our learning lab. Learning lab is the section of all live classes, and we developed a course scheduler. This is where that reach to all people we couldn't get to in a year comes in. We plug in all of our live classes by quarter, the first three quarters of the year, and people can go search by business area or other topic and find a live class they need in one click register and then they can attend virtually, and we've linked all the materials for it. Linking the GU mobile with the course scheduler, aligning that with the leadership matrix, really brings everything together and integrates it into one homogenized package. Is that the right word?
The learning lab also has another area for managers or supervisors. Hey, learning, we have a need for this team, this area, this department, what do you got? Well, with the learning paths that we're creating in our GU mobile for the different levels, it's modular. You don't have to sit through. If you sat through it all, it'd be three quarters of a day, maybe, but you can pull out, oh, we need these two modules, so they can come in and request specific sections to meet the needs of their team members, so we can just grab and go and give them exactly what they need as identified by the supervisor.
Now, of course, you do the consult with them and talk about, work through, well, what do you mean by communication? What exactly is that? That really helps allow people to self-serve and then gives that other outreach to those departments to give them focus on looking for something.
Finally, the third pillar of GU is our development programs, which we have a host of secondary education business partners.
Team members can go in, use our tuition assistance, et cetera, and scholarship programs to get everything from a certificate, associate's, BA, BS, graduate degree. And then we have other partnerships with educational institutions, where we have designed custom programs for certificates that cover some core skills in a specific area.
Again, we don't have time to teach all of those things. Let's let those professionals take care of it, and they can put that towards an advanced degree if they want, but it's one of those items on those pathways that we line up for the matrix that automatically come down. "Hey, look, here's this big path of these recommendations, here's all these classes you should take, here's some online learnings, et cetera." If you're interested, "Hey, here's some of these other educational programs that maybe you want to jump in and take as well."
Jenny: Anthony, tell me for everyone listening right now, there might be some in the same situation where they're ready to begin the journey of transformation within their company. What’s the one piece of advice you could give those learning leaders who might be in the situation you were a few years ago, or when you started this?
Anthony: I have to go to Socrates. I think he said it best with “Know thyself.”
How well do you know the structure of your learning initiatives? Are your programs clustered on certain areas? Are they info dumps? Are you providing an ongoing journey that keeps people excited and involved? Is it manageable bites? Are you giving them something to look forward to? The more you can understand your current structure and why you're doing that, you can evaluate if it's effective, and if not, don't be afraid to start kicking over rocks.
Don't take no for an answer. You say, "That's the way we've always done it." No. If you have to say that, then it's probably time for a change, time to update, try all these new things and I think you'll see, like we have, a more engaged set of team members, people coming to us for learning because they've said, "That was what I needed. It didn't waste my time. It was spot on. I got to apply it. I get to share my ideas." To make it interactive as well, know thyself.
Once you understand how your learning is developed and what the needs are, then you can start to put the pieces together little by little, but map it out, make that frame, what those ultimate things that you want to achieve with your team members. We said we want to retain. We want to increase the employee value proposition. That was our looking at the horizon there in order to follow it and that was our guiding light.
Jenny: Yes. That's a great piece of advice. I know we work with clients, we’ve coined or we use is, exploring their learning ecosystem. So we look, we explore with them what, look internal, look at yourself. What is your organization structure? How is learning viewed? What are the needs of the learner? Who is your learner? That really is important and a great piece of advice, so thank you.
Susan: Sounds like a lot of exciting things ahead for the Giant Company, and I love the focus on learning and the focus on the learner and the learner experience. It sounds like you're really, really dedicated to that. We look forward to hearing more about what's in store for your efforts, so thanks for joining us today, Anthony.
Jenny: Yes. Thank you, Anthony. Good luck on the full rollout. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Thanks.
Anthony: Well, thank you very much. It was exciting to come out and talk and I enjoyed this very, very much to get to share all the great things we're doing for our team members.
Susan: Jenny, love lots of exciting things going on in learning and development at Giant. What are some of your takeaways from the interview with Anthony?
Jenny: Yes, agreed, Susan. What I took away was, I think Anthony summarized it at the end in the three pillars, but really it was the crux of the whole conversation.
But the three pillars they built in their transformation of the learning function was first, that journey model that he talked about and the matrix. It's really assessing each individual to determine what level they're at, and what skills that they're going to need to get to the next level.
Then that second pillar were the learning labs, the classes that they built within Giant University.
Then, finally, the development programs, which is more career oriented, the next job. What are we preparing for in the future? It was secondary education, tuition, reimbursement programs, things like that. Having those three pillars really laid that framework and the foundation for them to create the entire program.
Susan: It does really sound like a holistic approach they're taking, and I think they're going to have great success with it. What's new at d'Vinci? What are you working on?
Jenny: We just kicked off a project with a Fortune 500 company that's an American producer and marketer of beer, wine and spirits. This project actually, I think I can equate to the discussion we just had with Anthony, and I'd say that we're working with them to shape the framework, the foundation for their overall learning plan. This plan similar to Giant's journey model is going to shape and inform their course curriculum. And then at the same time, we're also working with them to build learning labs, which connects to a Giant second pillar, what Anthony talked about.
These learning labs are instructor-led and are going to be delivered either synchronously or asynchronously, and then, finally, we're also creating some eLearning modules using a mix of Articulate Rise or 360, depending on the content. There's definitely that hook with what Anthony said, so we're excited to work on this project.
Susan: Well, I look forward to hearing more about it. Thanks, Jenny.
Jenny: You're welcome.
Susan: Many thanks to Anthony Amadure of Giant/Martin's for joining us today. If you have any questions about what we talked about today, you could reach out to us on d'Vinci social channels, through our website dvinci.com or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Voiceover: Powered by Learning is brought to you by d'Vinci Interactive. For more than 25 years, d'Vinci has provided custom learning solutions to government agencies, corporations, medical education and certification organizations and educational content providers. We collaborate with our clients to bring order and clarity to content and technology. Learn more at dvinci.com.
By Jenny Fedullo, Director, Learning Experience
d'Vinci Interactive is an award-winning comprehensive learning solutions provider for corporate, government, medical, non-profit, and K-12 target markets.