Nordstrom: Performance Analysis Review and Job Aid

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Introduction

Nordstrom has always been a company that puts its customer service as one of its most important traits.  The company is known to go out of its way to ensure that its customers are both happy and have had all of their needs met when it comes to either the products that the customer purchases or the services that they receive while in a Nordstrom store.  One of the key elements to the Nordstrom business that they have implicated to their employees as a tool for the organization is the Nordstrom Personal Book.  The Personal Book is a means by which those that work for the department store can grow their own individual sales by using this customer relationship management device.  It allows the employees of Nordstrom to perform several important sales-related tasks.  Employees can store and track information about their customers with the Personal Book, which can allow for a direct customer to sales relation to form allowing for a potential increase in sales.  The Personal Book also tracks vital customer information with regards to the products in the store including such areas as customer sizes, shipping and billing addresses, credit card information, and purchase history.  Although this system is in place to help the sales representative, as well as the customer, it is not being implemented effectively enough for the company.  The main issue at hand is the lack of an effective training program for the proper use of the Personal Book.  With a lack of any classes or real formal training to understand how to work the Personal Book, employees of Nordstrom must look to their managers to gain any knowledge of the system.  Those that work for this company, in its over 200 store locations nationwide, that are not technically savvy are more likely to never utilize the system even though management fully believes that it helps with maintaining and creating new sales opportunities.

This report will look at the shortcomings of the apparent lack of training that employees receive with regards to the Personal Book and will make suggestions on implementing an effective training program that will allow employees to become more familiar and, therefore, more likely to utilize the Personal Book in the workplace.  By reviewing the performance analysis and making note of the new goals, the job aid aims to provide a means to account for and deal with the lack of training that is proving to be an important issue for the Nordstrom Company.

Performance Analysis Review

To further look at the problem facing Nordstrom, specifically between the apparent disconnect from its employees and the Personal Book tool, a performance analysis was conducted.  The focus of this analysis was to see how both employees and management dealt with the use of the Personal Book when compared to the way in which the company sets up how its practices and emphasizes the importance of the Personal Book’s use.  A survey of 12 out of 15 sales associates in the Sportswear Department has conducted as well as a direct survey to the Store Manager.  Results from these surveys were a bit shocking.

The results showed both the employees and the management felt that they were not getting the full benefit from the use of Personal Book. The Store manager felt that employees were obtaining no more than 50% of the maximum efficiency when using Personal Book and felt that the lack of training was a strong contributor to why employees were not using Personal Book as a sales tool.  The employee survey results confirmed the mentioned disconnect and strengthen the belief that a lack of training is to blame for the incorrect, and apparent lack of, use of Personal Book for sales.  Employees used the Personal Book at the found optimal rate of over 10 times a shift at only 16%.  Further, 33% of the employees outright cited the lack of training as a factor in their limited use of Personal Book. 

Goals and Objectives

The recommendations of the Performance Analysis were to implement a more effective training program to both show employees how to effectively operate Personal Book and how to use it to grow their own personal business.  The goals of the Job Aid, therefore, are as follows:

1. To promote and provide an environment where an employee is comfortable with all of the current features of Personal Book and can utilize them with a high level of efficiency and confidence.  

2. To create an environment where the current employees comprehend the system so fully that they can seamlessly integrate and utilize any and all of the new features that could be potentially added to the Personal Book tool.

By meeting these goals, the gap that has appeared between management’s expectations and employee actual use of the system as a whole.  The effective training program will create an environment where the employees feel confident in the use of the system and are not underperforming compared to the management’s perceived expectations.

Job Aid Design

The design of this particular job aid should be one that can be referred to quickly in the potential high-stress environment of customer service.  Being kept at the register, the job aid should be streamlined so that an employee can simply glance down at it and find an effective solution to their current problem.  This will keep the flow of customers moving smoothly and will help the employee as a sort of reference guide to the trouble they may have when utilizing Personal Book.  It should be not only kept at the register for the reference of the employees that are using Personal Book as a sales tool, but it should also be kept as a supplementary and back up copy in a location such as the employee break room or where personal effects are kept during work hours so that employees are always able to reference it. 

The aid itself should be organized into a format that an employee can quickly scan it and find how to use a particular function that is giving them difficulties.  Functions can be bolded and given a brief description on how to be used so that an employee can quickly scan the sheet, find the function, and read the brief description that will help to stimulate their memory from the training that they received about the use of Personal Book.  The suggested setting up of the job aid, therefore, is analogous to that of a glossary found in a high school textbook.  The descriptions of the functions need to be concise but encompassing so that an employee can read it, whether a customer is present or not, and be able to recall the use of that function and correctly use it in that given scenario.  

Pilot Testing (Suggestion)

To see how effective this sort of job aid would be to the employee, a pilot test was designed to be carried out on the same group of employees that were surveyed for the original Performance Analysis.  The test consisted of first conducting a mock meeting for management to inform its employees that this new job aid was going to be given out and could be used as a reference for the potential troubles that they had when dealing with Personal Book.  Further, the test would take this group of surveyed employees and give them access to quarterly training programs for the use of Personal Book.  The training will cover in detail how to perform certain functions when using Personal Book and how to perform any and all new features that are added to it since the last training program was offered.  

The test itself should be a way for the employees to have to be able to utilize the job aid in a real-life scenario to ensure that it is beneficial and worth keeping as a means of reference.  The test should be as follows and divided into several different questions:

1. Employees are asked to carry out a function that is very basic to use with Personal Book in a mock sales scenario

a. This will allow the administrator of the test to see how effective the training program has been for the employee because the task they are asked to perform should be one of the most basic functions of Personal Book.  This allows the administrators of the test to see their basic comprehension of the system and use of the job aid

2. Employees are asked to carry out a function that is seen on some sales that Personal Book is able to log and track

a. This test will show if the employee has gained a working knowledge of the system and if they can/need to refer to the job aid in order to carry out the task. If they need to refer to the job aid, this level of task will make it so that the employee must be able to gather how to perform the function with the limited, concise data given from the aid

3. Employees are asked to carry out a function that is rarely seen in sales but can still be logged and tracked within Personal Book.

a. This test will truly test if the employee has become a mast of the system.  They will likely want to refer to the job aid to see a basic idea of how to utilize and log this data, so this test phase is important is seeing how effective the job aid is to the employee as well.

This test should be administered in 2 phases:

1. Given before the new training program is implemented but still with the job aid present to see if the aid alone will be all that is necessary for the employees to be able to carry out functions that range from simple to complex.

2. Given after the new training program is implemented to see if employees are referring to the job aid less and recalling from the training how to carry out the specified functions.

Revisions (Potential)

The testing procedure may find that certain information included in the reference guide is unnecessary or poorly formatted.  Based on the resulting data from the testing phase, the job aid can be remade or reformatted to include or omit data that is either needed to be included or eliminated.  Further, the new training program may not encompass all of the necessary functions that employees want to learn about and can be modified after receiving feedback from those that attend the training program.  Revisions to the training can be made based on the feedback received so that they can be streamlined and let those that attend retain the most amount of information possible.

Conclusion

The implementation of the job aid based on the results of the Performance Analysis is to get the employees of Nordstrom familiar with the Personal Book tool that will help them with their own sales, ultimately helping the company as a whole generate greater profits.  By adding the additional training sessions and testing the employees, the management will be able to see where the skills are developed in Personal Book and what skills are still lacking and need more training.  The job aid will serve as a sort of reference guide to supplement the additional training.  It will allow for employees to quickly reference a function that they may have forgotten from their training and still be able to carry it out quickly and effectively even if they are in the middle of a sale with a real customer.  By taking these necessary steps, Nordstrom will eliminate the gap that has been seen between leadership development in the management’s expectations of its employees and that of the employees’ actual performance.  Because the company feels so strongly that the correct use of Personal Book will boost and aid sales to the employees, correct training and an effective means of reference should result in an increase in sales from the employees in general.