By Margery Weinstein
Best Buy historically has kicked off drive times and holiday seasons with a large-scale, offsite training event. Although these events have been branded differently throughout the years (as conferences, summits, training forums, etc.), the components that make up the events have remained consistent.
Each event has consisted of leadership messages (typically presented from a main stage in an auditorium), vendor product training sessions (typically presented at a trade show- style booth), role-play exercises to practice applying the strategies being taught, and an opportunity for networking (both formal and during breaks and meals).
But last year, Best Buy’s appliance business team was asked to consider alternatives to bringing all of its field leaders and store associates to a central location. The challenge was clear: Provide the full training event experience employees have grown accustomed to without the expenses associated with travel and lodging. To meet this challenge head on, Best Buy created what became known as the Virtual Training Event.
Through a combination of both online training modules and live application, Best Buy set out to create a several-day event that ensured all relevant leaders and line-level associates were set up for success heading into the holiday season. Here are some of the key components:
Leadership messages: Best Buy kicked things off with pre-recorded messages of key leaders sharing their expectations around the execution of the company’s holiday strategy plan. All leaders were asked to access these videos to ensure they were aware of the plan and would serve as champions of the work.
Vendor product training sessions: The company then created a virtual vendor expo, simulating the look and feel of what employees would experience interacting with vendors on a show floor. Virtual vendor booths gave employees an opportunity to view presentations highlighting each vendor’s latest products and technologies, rate those products and presentations, test their knowledge, and ask questions of each vendor representative directly.
Role-play exercises: Employees were given “assignments” to follow through on each day of the event. They were encouraged to take pictures and videos of themselves and their team following through on each exercise. This added a level of accountability and gave them an opportunity to share what they had been doing and learning.
Networking: Best Buy created a social networking site (think Facebook) that gave all employees a forum for discussing each video, e-learning module, and exercise. They uploaded their pictures and videos on this site, and received feedback and rewards for doing so. Word started spreading about stores or individuals who had posted the highest quality examples and they began serving as the vision of good.
The launch of the Virtual Training Event has been widely regarded as a success. An event that was budgeted at $2.5 million was conducted for $125,000. Feedback around the Virtual Training Event was strong, as well. Leaders and line-level associates consistently praised the quality and efficiency of the model. What’s more, Best Buy saw a lift in business performance due, in part, to the preparedness of its teams coming out of the event. The appliance team increased sales 6.73 percent last year and was 108 percent to gross margin budget.
HAVE INPUT OR TIPS on this topic? If so, send them our way in an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line “Best Buy,” and we’ll try to include your advice in an upcoming edition of the Training Top 125 Best Practices/Executive Exchange e-newsletter.