Big Lots

 | Case Study

How Big Lots transformed staff training

Streamlined learning-and-development has improved employee performance and reduced costs.

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How it started

Searching for a better way

With more than 1,400 stores across the United States and employing upwards of 30,000 people, Big Lots—the retail giant headquartered in Columbus, Ohio—invests millions of dollars in learning and development each year. Training videos and printed materials produced at corporate headquarters, while effective, had proved time-consuming to distribute, and costly.

“When you have more than 1,400 stores,” Julie Holbein, Vice President of Talent Development at Big Lots, explained, “and you have to put out printed cards, booklets, and reference guides, and make multiple copies for multiple registers, that’s a [significant] cost.”

There was another, less obvious limitation of only investing in traditional training and development methods: It left a valuable resource untapped.

BigLots CEO

Where they landed

‘No better trainer than someone doing the job’

Utilizing The Beat, their custom-branded intelligent communication platform by Firstup, Big Lots launched a video channel filled with training content that employees could access on their mobile devices, anytime, anywhere.

“Now associates, instead of logging onto our learning management system, can log onto The Beat right from our point of sale, watch a 30-second clip, and then go do it,” Julie explained. “It’s been amazing. Turnaround and performance has improved.”

“This just-in-time video training has saved us so much money in terms of waste and paper costs. Being able to get training in people’s hands right away is a key factor in keeping our workforce engaged and retained.”

UGC content soon followed, with associates uploading their own training videos.

“There’s no better trainer than somebody who’s doing the job right now,” Julie explained. “Associates will film their own videos on their phones and post them to share best practices, and other associates will respond. It’s someone standing in a store [filming themselves] on an iPhone saying, ‘This is what I do to do my job better.’ And others love it. It’s so real.”

Two-way communication also shone a light on benefits beyond learning and development. Data gathered through The Beat revealed another critical insight that had previously been invisible to the C-suite when it came to printed materials. Customers rarely engaged with “circulars,” the brochures at the front of the store advertising deals and specials.

“Expensive wrapping tissue—that’s what we discovered the circulars were mostly used for,” Joey D’Amico, Manager, Internal Communications at Big Lots, recently told Firstup. “When customers buy a fragile item, associates would wrap it in that.”

“From this feedback, that was $10 million in savings that we reinvested into a profitable digital media asset.”

With The Beat, not only has Big Lots streamlined learning and development and seen a clear return on investment, but the impact on company culture has been “life-changing,” as Julie described it.

“You spend the majority of your day at work, so you want to feel connected and valued and a part of something when you show up on the job every day. If you log into The Beat for five minutes, you’re going to see stories that warm your heart, stories that are informational; you’re going to see celebratory moments. So you just get this warm sense of community when you log on even for five minutes. Everybody should feel like they belong at work.”

Watch the video for the full story on how Big Lots transformed employee training with Firstup.


Big Lots

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Big Lots, Inc. is a community retailer operating more than 1,400 Big Lots stores in 47 states, dedicated to friendly service, trustworthy value, and affordable solutions in every season and category—furniture, food, décor, and more. Big Lots is committed to being the big difference for a better life by delivering unmatched value through surprise and delight, building a “best place to work” culture, rewarding shareholders with consistent growth, and doing good as we do well.
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