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customer experience
Flora Marriott
  • By Flora Marriott
  • Apr 21 2016

Cutting What Counts

Thoughts on Sainsbury's decision to axe the 'store trainer' role

Last week, Britain’s second largest supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, announced it was doing away with its existing ‘store trainer role’. The plan is to replace the role, currently held by 870 employees, with 280 learning and development management positions.

“We know from looking at the service profit chain, low morale within a workforce affects the customer experience. This is common sense.” Flora Marriott

For the supermarket giant, whose website boasts that ‘Motivated colleagues are fundamental to our continued success’ as a core brand value, I found myself questioning the business acumen of it all.

In the couple of decades I’ve been in and around the learning and development scene, it has always perplexed me when I see brands make cuts to the teams responsible for motivating, challenging and advancing the brand itself.

Here are five aspects of the decision that worry me:

1) The actual cost saving isn’t significant considering the wider Sainsbury’s business model, and what they might be able to save, may well be lost if it takes longer to train new starters or if employee performance and productivity levels dip.

2) This decision gives the impression that Sainsbury’s may be confused about their brand purpose and how they differentiate themselves. Their business proposition isn’t ‘budget’ stores like Aldi, so this downsizing operation doesn’t really fit their stance in the marketplace.

3) Wrap it up in HR and PR speak all you like, this decision will damage employee morale. The trainer role is an aspirational progression step for many staff members in store. Those in that role have a direct influence on the career paths of those waving the Sainsbury’s flag each day. And considering that investment in personal development and training is always one of the key things that employees value, how supported will the staff feel knowing it has fallen down the priority list?

4) As we know from looking at the service profit chain, low morale within a workforce affects the customer experience. This is common sense. And for those who argue ‘You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette’ I couldn’t agree more. However, good luck trying to make an omelette without any eggs. And that’s what is happening here. A valued training platform for those ‘on the ground’ is being reduced by two thirds by those at head office.

5) What message is the company trying to communicate to the customer? Is it that price is more important than service. That profit is more important than purpose?

It must have been a tough decision to make, and I’ll be interested to see how it works out for Sainsbury’s.