From launching a new brand identity to navigating the pandemic, hear how the Rite Aid Corporation stepped up to the challenge to educate team members across the country. Learning and Talent Development Director Emily Steinkamp shares how successful training helped empower more than 50,000 employees at close to 2500 stores to better serve its customers.
Rite Aid Learning and Talent Development Director Emily Steinkamp shares how they empower team members across the retail chain to embrace change and provide excellent customer service every day. She offers advice on leveraging training to impact the bottom line including these points:
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Susan: Hello, and welcome to Powered by Learning. I'm your host Susan Cort. With me is d'Vinci Client Solutions Consultant, Angeline Evans. Today, we're going to talk with Emily Steinkamp, Director, Learning & Talent Development at Rite Aid Corporation about training across their organization. Welcome, Emily.
Angeline Evans: Hi, Emily.
Emily Steinkamp: Hi, ladies, so happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Susan: Thank you. Emily, start off by telling us a little bit about your background and your current role at Rite Aid.
Emily: Absolutely. Ironically, I came from nonprofit. Coming to Rite Aid has been very different and unique experience. I was in the nonprofit sector for about 14 years. I was presented an opportunity to join Rite Aid two years ago. A mentor of mine always said, "Take every interview opportunity. Even if you're not looking, just take it and practice." I've always had that at the back of my head, so like, "Sure, I'll go to the interview." At that time, I actually was hired in as Manager for Talent Development.
Then I had the wonderful opportunity to be promoted to Director of Learning & Talent development in January 2020. I want to say my green card, I'm still a little new, but I've been told I can't play that new card anymore and that's long past. I've been with the company for two years. One of the things that really excited me about Rite Aid was the opportunity for rebirth. I hope a lot of folks have seen the rebranding of our company. Coming into the role, I recognize there was a lot of opportunity.
We had some changes in the company for the years that I had not been with. A lot of the training pieces had stalled as different company ebbs and flows. And so when I came in, we essentially had a clean slate to start over. That was exciting, it was also challenging, not to say. My scope of work currently is to support the full chain, from our corporate audience to our now sister organizations, Elixir our PBM company. Of course, our 2500 stores chain wide, our DCs. Our footprint is quite vast. We focus on anything from our, of course, our crucial compliance to operational training from retail to pharmacy is our main scope of work.
Angeline: With Rite Aid having such a large geographic footprint, and you're a learning leader for a company this size, how do you handle the challenges of training employees all over the country and all over those different departments and fields that you just mentioned?
Emily: I credit a lot of our focus on three things. One: relationships. Two: Gemba walks and I'll talk about that in a minute. And then three: empowering my team. First and foremost, my focus, especially as an HR leader, is we have to support our business. We have to have those relationships, we need to know our business, we need to be at the table for those discussions.
That way, we are keying in on their initiatives, their focuses but I also hope they can also say we're also addressing some aspects they may have not considered within their training. When we think about that vast footprint, we have to be connected with our business leaders and be at that table. The next piece is that Gemba walk. Our new CEO, Heyward Donegan, who’s not so new anymore either, her focus is the Lean concepts.
So from a company perspective, we've been educated and learning more about Lean. One of those pieces is a Gemba walk. What that is about is making sure we have feet on the ground, if you will, an ear to the sales floor and that we are tapping into our regional store leaders, our store leaders themselves and we're asking those questions. Long is the day that we're just looking to our business partner for the answer, we must hear from our associate base.
That is something that our executive leadership really prides. If you open new Rite Aid on our focus, we have to know what our associates think and what they need, before we make decisions on the training support for them. Then the last piece is around that empowering. I came in from a nonprofit world, so I knew fundraising, I knew events. I did not know pharmacy, I did not know retail, and so it really was tough leaning in to my team.
We got an amazing group of women, no token males yet to our department. Amazing group of women, we've been able to expand over this past year, which has been really exciting.
At the end of the day, and my concept, just as a leader in general is my team's got to know more than me. At the end of the day, I hope that they can take ownership, that they have the relationship, that they have the experience or knowledge.
And as they need support, or help, they're going to tap me or any of my managers, but more importantly, that they know that we want them to bring their creative self to whatever deliverable is being asked. Angeline, I think that's how I would summarize how we're tackling the footprint that we currently have.
Angeline: Yes, thank you so much, that was great. If we dive a little bit deeper, can you tell us more about the strategic approach you might take to the different delivery formats for training that you would give to each of your employee types, so from retail, to pharmacy, and so forth?
Emily: When I came into the company, a lot of the focus, and I'm sure, like many of our more tenured companies, it was very heavy IoT, to the extent what they were doing like eight hours of training or two-day programs. Obviously, in today's fast pace, we were recognizing that was not the modality that we needed, whether it was an e-learning, or an IoT. One of the biggest changes that our department has brought to the company is the concept of micro-learning, those bite-sized pieces of information. With society, as fast paced as it is, we needed to make sure and especially in a retail space, that whatever we were giving to these associates that it was tracking, that it was connecting. More importantly, that it felt good like, "I got this. I understood that piece. I can do it again." Especially, we think about the behavior change. At the end of the day-- I once had an OD professional tell me like, "We don't need training." I was so aghast, I'm like, "What do you mean we don't need training? Of course, we need training."
What she was really echoing is if we're not changing the behavior, we can train, you know, quote, unquote, "all we want." If we don't see that change in that person, and instead, they just said, "Oh, that was fun. I learned a lot," but if they don't do anything about it, it's pointless. That is the one piece that we really want to double down on is that you see the change.
Rite Aid is evolving in so many aspects of the company from what it was to what it needs to be. And that comes down to our associates. For our customers to have that great experience and to see this different side of the company, we have to make sure that those folks feel successful.
So time and time again, they're going to want a little bit more taste of training, they're going to want another bite. We are truly taking that micro course, bite-sized bits of information, and all aspects that we do, moving forward for any platform that we have.
Angeline: I love that approach. It's so true. Micro-learning is obviously the shift that a lot of organizations are going but I love what you said about it needs to feel good. If you give someone a daunting, long training, they're not going to feel like confident, they're not going to feel confident when they get started, they're not going to have that, I got this mentality. I really think that is just a wonderful approach and it's probably very successful across your organization.
In that light, in those micro-learning components, what other efforts do you mainly put to make things more creative and innovative? Can you tell us a little bit more about those micro-learning deliverables?
Emily: Yes, sure. The animation component, I'm sure this is definitely nothing that new for all of our learning professionals listening. But, for Rite Aid, it was. It was by adding a little bit of fun, a little bit of, we want to keep things professional, but at the same time, let's engage and make it look a little different than what they're used to. So, one of the biggest pieces that we have incorporated this past year especially, is utilizing Vyond, creating those animations.
We can put a little bit of a color, if you will, to what they're seeing and we're connecting those dots a little easier by telling that story. One of the biggest pieces I have heard a lot too from our leaders, is we have to tell the story, they have to make sure they see those connections. I think that tool is a wonderful resource to make those points key and visible to the learner. Many of the pieces that we've had in regards to mainly a lot of role-specific trainings we've delivered, we've been using Vyond.
Angeline: I love Vyond, it's such a great tool for those animation components and it does, it adds a little bit of a fun flair to the stories that you're telling and you can just do so much with the different characters and scenes. For those of you that are listening, if you haven't checked it out, it's V-Y-O-N-D, Vyond. It's so cool.
Emily: It's always going to be, go animate to me like, I always have to speak to myself to say it differently. The other piece too, we do have a new VP for DE&I and that’s made a very strong proponent for our company to be more mindful of that diversity and inclusion piece. To that point, as you're doing those creations, you're making it unique, you're making that perhaps individual in a wheelchair or you're making that person with a specific headgear piece, you're trying to make sure that too, that our learnings are inclusive of our audience, and that we're moving away from perhaps the standard individual of what they may, "Supposed to look like," or wherever that may be, and ensuring that our training is also diverse of our customer base and our associates too.
Angeline: Absolutely. How have you been measuring the effectiveness of these programs? What sort of tracking?
Emily: Great, great question. I would love to say we have a completely built-out process in this but we don't. When I came to the company, we had a legacy LMS system which was comprised by our tech services team. Quite honestly, I definitely don't have the knowledge to build such a system, so I give the folks who did it, but it was a homegrown system. And with a homegrown system, we didn't have some of the bells and whistles like we do with other standard platforms.
So we recently launched, Adobe Captivate Prime as our new LMS, and we are working to build that system. So with that, we have a lot of different pieces, some complexities too, on how we do our mapping of our associates and so I'll be honest, we don't have a 100% system in place yet for our evaluations due to our new system, so that the APs definitely come back to me in a year and I'll tell you how we're doing. But our goal is obviously to use those different evaluation pieces to address that learner traction, but we need to start from the baseline as we just didn't have some of that data from history.
Angeline: Rolling out a new LMS can be challenging sometimes. How have you been increasing awareness across your learner audience about the opportunities that are available and where to go now?
Emily: Great question. It's a partnership that we have with operations. They recently deployed a communication tool to help essentially shift all that comes down to our stores and so that's one way that we have partnered with operations by utilizing that communication tool to put pieces out, reminding people of what's available through our LMS system. We also have company-wide, like most companies, communication tool that we're able to do little pockets of tidbits of information about the system itself and mainly it comes down to our field leaders.
At the end of the day, it's our managers that need to reinforce message follow-up with key points, and so we're really trying to make a focused effort to ensure that they feel supported, that they know where to go because at the end of the day they're the voice, the associate. And if they have the answers they can better support their people, so really focusing on that mid-level manager role is very important.
Angeline: Absolutely. You mentioned when we first started about Rite Aid’s rebrand. I'm a customer of Rite Aid, so I've noticed the rebrand as well.
Emily: Thank you.
Angeline: What role did your team have in the brand rollout, can tell us a little bit more about that?
Emily: Yes, absolutely. Within the brand rollout, obviously, a lot of it came down to our marketing team, which did some awesome work. We were essentially once the brand was identified, to me it was the so what, right? We have this great new brand so what are we going to be doing about it? And it was twofold, one with our pharmacy platform and then two within our retail space.
One of our biggest focuses as a company is to evolve the role our pharmacists play to elevate them, to get them beyond the cash register, to get them beyond counting pills, and really to connect with our patients that come through the door and be able to provide some good advice. Whether that's from a scientific base of a drug or a more holistic approach from perhaps supplements or another product that they could use to support them.
And so our team had launched a program in collaboration with our pharmacy team around the Perfect Fusion, and this is a quarterly series that we educate our pharmacists on a wide scope of topics to ensure that they have the knowledge to again speak to both sides of the house if you will, about not only our medical side but also the more holistic natural side of recommendations.
So we will do topics on eating, on headaches, on stress, et cetera. That way we are truly supporting our communities as they come through the door wanting to know why are we so different and how can our pharmacists help them by aiming and supporting them with that type of material. So that was for pharmacy, and then with retail, it's all about our brand ambassador.
Our retailer associates are the first people that our community sees when they walk through the door, and it was really important by our executive team that we were supporting our retail associates with information to speak to our products. They have that product knowledge to be able to create a safe and clean and supportive environment when they walkthrough, so what does that customer engagement look like, and then all the while making sure that we are putting that purpose over task.
That's a key coin that our retail team uses. That purpose over task and really making sure that we focus on our customers' needs, not about the task perhaps the planogram or other key and crucial work that our team has to do, but that they're really putting that customer first. In essence, with the rebrand, it was about supporting the behaviors of our associates to make sure it was matching what we were promoting to the public.
Angeline: Absolutely. It's so important with the brand rollout that you got everyone to really embody that brand and it sounds like this approach just really hit that mark. For the delivery format of those programs, you mentioned micro-learning earlier, was there additional components like performance support handouts that sort of thing?
Emily: Yes. We do a couple of different initiatives. Infographics that was our new tool to our writing body, a lot of our different team members brought from their former world. What we found was resources in the past are heavy laden with a lot of content and content is good, right, but we all know that visual trumps words. And so we focused a lot on the infographics. Again, telling that story, helping that pharmacist, or that retail associate through whatever means of content we have for them, that was huge.
The other piece that we're really focusing on was manager huddles. Again, can we arm our managers with the information they need to have the dialogue with their teams to be able to share a key piece of knowledge with them, but also not have to recreate the wheel? A lot of these pieces came on the back end to that, we were supporting our managers to deliver that information and be those eyes and ears if you will, to whatever that key piece of content was about.
I think those are the two biggest pieces that we really supported. Obviously, we've been doing the e-learnings and different packaging but that's I think would be key for those two products.
Angeline: Great. You've kind of spoken to it, but it sounds like you're really equipping other leaders at your company to then strongly communicate with their team. Can you speak any more to how you feel like the L&D department helps your business really win in this highly competitive market? How do you help that bottom line? Is it just more of that arming those managers and other leaders of the company, do other components come into play here?
Emily: Great question. When I think about what we're doing to help the company when it's being that you're at the table that says, "Have you thought about this? Or, "Would you reconsider if we did x?" When we come to the table, I would hope that our business clients are saying, "Talent really made me think a little different," or "I didn't think about behavior change until you've made me think with that one question."
With that being said I hope with a lot of the dialogue that we're having with our business partners, or with our field leaders who were identified to help us curate content, and that we're making those connections. I think a lot of the time in L&D you're like that puzzle maker. Your bits and drabs across the entire company that those other departments don't hear but you get the opportunity to, and so how can you pull from that, this department said this so, "Hey have you thought about connecting with that department and helping those connections of alignment happen?"
So when you are that one consistent factor to different discussions, are you also helping the business make those ties and connections by what you say, by the questions that you ask? Long and short, I realized that rambling here just a little bit here.
Angeline: No, no.
Emily: It would be about the dialogue that we have with our business and our field and then we make those connections and tie back to our main company goals, and if not, do you step away from the project, do we reconsider it? Because we've got to make sure we have that alignment.
Susan: I love that analogy of being the puzzle maker. Speaking of the role of training is really that link, the link to the departments because you're in touch with all the departments so you can really look more holistically than probably any other department at the corporation.
Emily: Absolutely. I think it's a double-edged sword, it's great but at the same time, wow, it's a lot of information and carry, but it's fun.
Angeline: Yes, so I can only imagine the extra layer that the pandemics added to all of your L&D efforts. I know Rite Aid is a huge hub for the testing and vaccine administrations, so have you had to navigate any new compliance measures or roll out some rapid training resources to get everybody up to speed?
Emily: Yes. Obviously, at the height of COVID last year, it was a lot of collaboration with all of our HR partners, our compliance governing office, our different key partners in regard to policies and procedures. The one thing we did create was around the Articulate 360 platform. When COVID first hit, it literally was like, as we all know, every day something was changing. We were recognizing that sending out email after email was not going to help our HR leaders in the field, our operational leaders either.
We used Articulate 360 as the single source of truth, if you will, for all things updated. As our COVID task force was constantly updating information based on what we heard, we were updating that platform with the latest tools. That way that HR staff partner, as they were traveling to stores could utilize their phone, tap into that platform and have the most up-to-date information. This was before we had deployed our new LMS system.
With our legacy site, it's not like they had that capability, technology-wise to just tap into our LMS and perhaps pull up a talking point, so that I feel, I would hope our partners would say was very helpful because as soon as we got something, it was updated and it was available to them.
Angeline That's wonderful. Were you using the Storyline components and the Rise components in Articulate 360?
Emily: Yes, we had utilized Rise, which is really great because obviously, as every state had a different guideline or policy or recommendation, we were essentially able to create those different chapters. Again, if I was working in New Jersey, I could go to my New Jersey tab and there was the latest versus having to filter through all the different states and jurisdictions.
Angeline: Absolutely. Rise is such a wonderful tool as performance support and something like you said that that might need to be updated often. That is definitely the right resource for that. Well, this has ben, it's been so wonderful to hear about things that you're accomplishing at Rite Aid in the learning and development department. Are there any other nuggets of wisdom that you'd be able to share with us, that you've found over your two years migrating to the corporate environment from nonprofit and being a learning leader?
Emily: That is a great question. One of the biggest things, and especially in this space of this past year was how quickly it was for myself to get away from that personal learning. I think, I'm a working mother, like many women are in the workforce and as we were juggling all these different components, right, of working from home and having children at home and school and with any type of change, let alone a level of pandemic, I lost the bit of time for self and self-development.
I think as a learning leader, it's so crucial that we're mindful of those pieces, that we're really practicing what we preach to everybody else that we support. And I wasn't, I definitely wasn't. I came out of 2020, and I love that the start of a new year. I was recognizing like, that was my gap. One of the things actually that I did for the start of the new year was I got myself a coach and I'm so excited to make some dedicated time.
I have that accountability partner to help me learn and grow, so that I can be a more of an effective leader, not only for my department, but also for the company. So, I think that would definitely be my words of wisdom coming out of 2020 is making sure you are taking time to sharpen the saw as the old saying goes, and that you can really show up to your best, not only to rejuvenate your department, but bring different perspectives to the company. So to your earlier comment, that we are staying ahead and that we are being competitive would be my recommendation.
Angeline: Thank you so much. That is great advice, and it's so true. A lot of parents really had a big adjustment with the pandemic. I have a 16-month-old at home. You're right. It's taken me a long time to finally realize that I haven't taken that personal development time for myself. I think a lot of times training and development professionals are so focused on helping their audiences and the goals of their organization, they often forget about their own professional development because we're so busy focusing on everyone else's. It is such a great tip and I love that as our closing message for this podcast, so thank you so much.
Susan: It's one of those, from the challenges you can reimagine and reinvent, and you think about how you were able to pivot during the pandemic and because of the new brand, Emily and really re-imagine how you did training. And on a personal level, how it's made us all reflect and think about what we can do to better ourselves and our companies. I couldn't think of a better way to end and appreciate all that you shared with us today. It was really a pleasure to meet you.
Emily: Thank you ladies. I really enjoyed the time here. I appreciate it.
Angeline: It was, thank you so much,
Susan: Angeline, what a nice conversation we had with Emily. She had so many great points. What are some of the key takeaways in your mind?
Angeline: We did. I think some of the things that really stood out to me are how important building relationships are across the organization. Learning and development professionals really get the inside scoop from each department. They're the ones that can build bridges across the company and help everyone align in support with the organization's business goals. I think that was a really key piece that we need to remind ourselves.
Another thing she mentioned was the importance of arming your organization's leaders with the skills they need to successfully communicate the training message and really empower their audience. Whether that's your retail workers or your pharmacy workers at your frontline associates, whomever that may be really making sure their managers are equipped to really help them be ambassadors for the brand and help change behavior there on the front lines. And this is a really big one for, especially for reaching audiences across a large geographic footprint and making sure you have those training ambassadors lined up across your organization.
I also love how she talked about the latest rapid development tools her team is using to deliver micro-learning. So that using things like Vyond and Articulate Rise, especially Articulate Rise to deliver that content in the moment of need. She really hit the nail on the head when she mentioned how creating learning that gets your audience engaged and really feeling confident in their abilities. That's how you're going to affect change and really shift their behavior in the direction that you need it to be and give them those new skills to be successful, and inspire them to come back for more training in the future.
Susan: Those are great points. I love too when she encouraged learning and development leaders to think of themselves as the puzzle makers, because they're really the ones who are listening to all the departments and aggregating what the needs are because that's what's going to create the most meaningful, impactful training across any organizations. I loved that point.
Angeline: Yes, I couldn't agree more.
Susan: Well. Thanks Angelina. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to Emily today. Many thanks to Emily Steinkamp, the Director of Learning & Talent Development from Rite Aid Corporation. If you have any questions about what we talked about today, you can reach out to us on d’Vinci social channels through our website, dvinci.com or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Announcer 2: 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 @dvinci.com.