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Bloomingdale’s uses machine learning to evaluate employee knowledge

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Bloomingdale’s can now pinpoint which of its employee learning programs are generating results — and by how much in real dollars.

The Macy’s division has deployed Axonify Impact, (from Axonify), a learning attribution engine that uses machine learning to evaluate the data collected through training programs. Results reveal the direct impact that employee training programs are having on real business metrics, such as increases in revenue or decreases in expenditures.

As employees interact with the platform, the technology’s machine learning capabilities reveal which programs are generating the greatest impact, and how employee knowledge and participation influence business results. It also uncovers gaps, and makes real-time recommendations to frontline managers when a business target is at risk.

At Bloomingdale’s, the platform has played a large role in helping reduce safety incidents. The platform automatically ties the retailer’s training efforts to how well it is reducing its overall safety claims. Bloomingdale’s has attributed about one third of this safety claim reduction to training efforts on the platform, which translated to a savings of $3 million in one year.

“At Bloomingdale’s, we’re always digging deeper into the effectiveness of our training programs and content to understand exactly how they impact business results,” said Chad McIntosh,VP of asset protection and risk management of Bloomingdale’s. “For most companies, making these connections is incredibly difficult and time-consuming.”

Bloomingdale’s can now easily identify where “learning has benefited our company, because we can tie training efforts directly back to business results,” he added. “But what’s most powerful to me is that Impact shows us exactly what we need to do to drive a greater effect on our business. This just hasn’t been possible before.”

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A.T. Kearney: Retailers in for big hit if U.S. exits NAFTA

BY Marianne Wilson

New tariffs, reduced retail spending, and lost jobs are among the outcomes if the United States exits the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

The near-term cost to retailers of leaving NAFTA is estimated at $15.8 billion in added tariffs and reduced margins, according to a study from global strategy and management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. The retail industry imports $182 billion of goods from NAFTA partners.

“Retailers in different sectors would be affected in different ways—even from product to product,” said Johan Gott, A.T. Kearney principal and co-author of the study. “But bottom line, the impact will extend to millions of products imported into the U.S.”

The study, How NAFTA Affects US Retail, quantifies direct and indirect margin impact across all sectors of retail. It also quantifies the impact on retail employment, projecting losses of over one hundred thousand jobs within the next three years.

“NAFTA has dramatically influenced the US economy, the retail sector, and Americans’ standard of living,” said Gott. “From the time it came into force, retailers have gradually become de facto importers, because their customers demand the products that NAFTA allows them to purchase easily, affordably, and with great variety. Retailers, then, are agents without the protections that other importers enjoy.”

Should NAFTA be terminated, the report suggests that retailers:

• Take steps to quantify the impact on their cost of goods sold;

• Outline a response in terms of several different scenarios that factor in potential impact;

• Become an active voice with policymakers, industry groups and peers to share the real, direct impact that the end of NAFTA would have; and

• Be prepared to share confidential data with government officials to demonstrate this impact.

“If the United States terminates NAFTA, many importers would likely be covered by other protective sanctions against foreign competition,” added Gott. “US retailers do not face the same kind of foreign competition, but they would be left to face higher costs for the goods they sell — a prospect whose ramifications would reverberate throughout the US economy.”

The A.T. Kearney study was done in partnership with the National Retail Federation (NRF), Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and Food Marketing Institute (FMI). To view the full How NAFTA Affects US Retail study, visit atkearney.com/retail/how-nafta-affects-us-retail.

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Study: Retailers shifting more healthcare costs to employees

BY Marianne Wilson

Health care is getting more expensive for employees in the retail industry as their employers look to keep benefit costs under control.

Retail employees are taking on more health plan costs, according to a study by Benefitfocus, a cloud-based benefits management platform. The report revealed that high-deductable health plans are becoming more prevalent — and more expensive. Employers offering at least one high-deductable plan increased from 55% in 2016 to 76% in 2017. The study also noted that more employers are offering voluntary benefits to supplement coverage.

The “State of Employee Benefits – Industry Edition” research report found that despite the prevalence of high deductable plans, retail employers contributed 40% less to health spending accounts (HSAs) than the average for all employers, and employees contributed 20% less than peers in other industries.

In other retail findings:

• Forty-percent of employees elected the high deductable plans.

• Premiums for high-deductable plans are rising, with the average annual employee contribution for a single-coverage plan rising to $1,147 from $980 since 2016.

• Fifty-six percent of employers offered at least one voluntary benefit to supplement coverage, up from 43% in 2016

“What employers in every industry have in common is the struggle to economically provide the best plans and care for their employees,” said Ray August, president and CEO, Benefitfocus. “The report data shows how benefits have grown horizontally, expanding to more voluntary products far beyond traditional medical insurance.”

For more findings, download the full Benefitfocus State of Employee Benefits 2018 – Industry Edition here.

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