Strong Training in Operations: Important for Strong Co-ops!

Here is a solution for when you have poor or no retail training materials! The Basic Operations Training Resources are available for natural food retail cooperatives to use in their training programs. These resources have been created by the University of Wisconsin staff that helps to bring to the food co-op community both the Cooperative Management Institute and the CCMA conference.

These Basic Operations Resources will assist your co-op's training program to:

  • train new and current co-op employees in basic operations;
  • provide information and job aids to assess and improve current operations, procedures, and job tasks; and
  • establish a place to begin writing and documenting the co-op's own training and resources.

The training resources cover Basic Retail Operations Training, Front End Training, and an Employee Orientation Program. Each is summarized below.

Each training resource arrives in an easy to photocopy format and to store in a three ring binder. Computer diskettes containing the training resources in MSWord 7.0 for PCs accompany the printed resources.

Basic Retail Operations Training Resource

Basic Retail Operations is a set of five training resources that covers many retail function including: buying, inventory counts, pricing, receiving, stocking, merchandising, and staffing. The resources present instructions for various retail functions in an overall training resource and also focus on important differences in the performance of these functions for retail departments as produce, grocery, HABA, and deli and bakery.

In addition to instruction on retail function, the resources provide explanations and examples of important retail topics such as financial controls for margin, inventory, and labor; basic product information; and information specific to departments, such as menu cycles for the deli, washing and trimming produce for display, and glossaries of department terminology.

Front End Training Resource

Front End Training provides evaluation forms to assess cashier performance. It shows users how to utilize the evaluation forms; each evaluation form is completed for a fictitious employee. Other important training topics contained in this resource are "Customer Service Standards and Cashier Responses" and "How Cashiers Reduce Shrink."

Numerous other procedures are explained with definitions, examples, and usable forms, including "Accepting and Tendering cash, checks, credit cards, and food stamps," "Bagging Groceries," and "Preparing a Deposit."

Employee Orientation and Written Job Responsibilities

The Employee Orientation Program consists of a sample Employee Handbook with introductory information adaptable to your co-op, its structure, employees, history, and personnel policies. Every part can be revised to best fit individual co-ops. The Employee Orientation Program also consists of a step-by-step Trainer's Guide to assist training program delivery and an Employee Orientation manual, which provides the employee with a written account of the information contained in the training program.

The Written Job Responsibilities contains job descriptions and areas of accountability and indicators of performance for many job titles in the front end, produce, grocery, HABA, and deli and bakery departments. Each listing of areas of accountability and indicators of performance is a two-column document for each position with the indicators useful to evaluate job performance. Orientation and training checklists are also provided.

"All too frequent are stories of workers who learn their jobs from other workers or who are forced to depend upon unintelligible printed instructions. Often there is little training or none at all. Just as often, workers don't know when they have done their jobs correctly....It is very difficult to erase improper training."
--from The Deming Management Method,
by Mary Walton

Can one size fit all?

Many cooperatives ask how one retail training program can be used by co-ops whose retail sales vary from under a million dollars to over ten million dollars. The answer is that these resources are presented in such a way that the co-op can either use them as they are, with basic forms and checklists, or modify them to better fit their store and methods.

As co-ops grow and expand, many changes occur that affect systems and procedures. For example, larger stores typically have more employees, so that each person's job may become more specialized. In a smaller store, an employee may have a number of job responsibilities in one or more departments. Job duties, physical space, and inventory increasingly become more differentiated and segregated as the co-op grows. Communications become more complicated, since there are more people who are required to know ongoing policy or procedural changes.

Furthermore, the use of technology typically increases, with larger stores relying more on scanning and sophisticated electronic register systems. Typically, levels of management and numbers of supervisors also increase.

Training resources are adaptable. Each training resource consists of numerous operations topics that present chunks of retail information that can be comfortably studied or taught. They can also be expanded or reduced to a simple checklist. See the example below.

Patty Stockdale is currently completing the Basic Operations Training Resources. They are available for sale by writing or phone: 120h SoHE, 1300 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706; 608/262-4535.


Three Weeks before Counting Inventory: Department Managers
1. Post date and time of inventory count.  Managers must post the date and time for counting inventory. Employees must be notified in advance, so that they will make necessary plans, such as arrangements for child care.
2. Assign and describe work to employees who are counting. Employees must be informed of work assignments and given a written description of responsibilities and tasks. "Instructions on Inventory Counts for Employees" [provided] is a sample written description of responsibilities and tasks. When experienced employees know responsibilities, they can check in with the inventory supervisor when beginning and then go right to work.
3. Update Inventory Count Forms for new and deleted inventory and updated prices.  Inventory count forms are used by department employees to record product names, descriptions, quantities, and retail prices. A careful review is necessary to update new or deleted products and current wholesale prices.The Inventory Coordinating Checklist [provided] is a neessary tool to organize and record inventory count sheets.
4. Update tare weight sheet. The manager must update the tare weight sheet. A tare weight sheet is a list of container weights used for bulk display and storage. These containers contain glass, Plexiglas, metal, plastic dispensing bins, buckets, jars, and barrels. Shipping bags, such as flour bags, can also be weighed for tare weights.
5. Ensure scales are working properly. Tests that scales are working properly are:
  • Balance bubble for leveling scale is centered.
  • Weight display area lights (electronic)
  • Electronic scale allows employees to [measure inventory].  Technical manuals for scales must be available for reference.
6. Update product location map. When finished with inventory count, the product location map must be updated for product resets and changes since the last inventory count.  Product location map is displayed on the sales floor...
Three Weeks before Counting Inventory
1. Post date and time of inventory count.
2. Assign and describe work to employees who are counting.
3. Update Inventory Count Forms for new and deleted
     inventory and updated prices.
4. Update tare weight sheet.
5. Ensure scales are working properly.
6. Update product location map.

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