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MNB reader Jim Huey had a thought about Michael Sansolo’s column yesterday about the importance of not working in an echo chamber:

As I was reading Michael’s article on General Hayden I was reminded of the scene in Brad Pitt’s movie World War Z which seems to make the same point. The movie is not Gone With the Wind, but there is a scene where Brad Pitt’s character is talking to a dignitary from Israel about why they built a wall in time to keep out the zombies. The dignitary explains that when the senior leadership team all agree on something it is the responsibility of one of them to dissent and proceed as though all the others are wrong.

Yeah, but if Gone With The Wind had zombies… 

Extra credit to Jim for the business lesson from a movie.

Another MNB reader wrote:

I think Michael’s observation: "55-year-old executives….should invite in…. "some 20-something associates to discuss the same question might produce wildly different opinions. And that’s a very good thing” Is SPOT ON. AND, it’s even beyond a good thing… is an imperative. So many companies have worked on Diversity & Inclusion…..but get stuck on thinking diverse representation is the goal. The goal is to LEVERAGE diversity to get to better plans and solutions, and to do that those diverse voices need to get into the planning and problem solving.

We also had an Eye-Opener yesterday about how home improvement retailer Lowe’s has a new workforce development program that will offer employees financial assistance to pursue certification for a specific trade skill, such as carpentry, heating and air conditioning, electrical, plumbing and appliance repair.”

My reaction:

I like this idea a lot, and think that more retailers ought to consider the possibility that they should be offering employees an advanced education in whatever category they happen to be in.

Can you imagine how it would change the culture of a supermarket, for example, if a company offered cooking lessons to employees? These front line workers might stop seeing products as packages and prices, and instead see the building blocks of meals and nutrition. They’d see customers not as the enemy, but as fellow travelers on the road to feeding their families in effective and efficient ways.

And it could lead to meaningful connections between shoppers and shopkeepers (to use an old fashioned word), which then could lead to higher sales and profits.

MNB reader Robert Wheatley responded:

You're onto something here with training

You might agree that the future of food retail will require changing the business model. And today grocery is an aisle maze, self-help zone where consumers often must navigate 50,000 square feet in order to find 5 to 8 ingredients for dinner. Frustrating.

But what if food retailers changed their model and decided they were in the culinary inspiration business, not just the boxes, cans and bags business?

What if a certain class of employee went through culinary certification training at a local chef school so they could help home cooks with their menus, preparation questions, and maybe up-sell a customer on wine pairings? Actual qualified help in the aisles??

Believe HEB’s Central Market banner is doing this now in collaboration with CIA — Culinary Institute of America — and have staff in the store wearing special uniforms to flag their expertise.

In essence, what if supermarket companies fell in love with food experience? What would change in the shopping experience and Deli menu offerings?

Bob, you’re playing my song.

From MNB reader Bruce Wesbury:

Our industry as well as other are suffering the same issue, it is not relegated to construction. Here is an example. Food safety and chain of custody is becoming a bigger and bigger piece of our business. For Inventory Coordinators/Managers whose sole job was to make sure that if the computer said 20 cases were to be in a particular slot all they needed to do was count 20 cases and check the box. Fast forward to 2018 and the job become much more mentally challenging. Those same 20 cases now need to not only be counted but lot codes confirmed, batch codes understood, certificate of analysis need to be filed and HAACP guidelines need to be followed from receiving to shipping. After the sale we now need to know who received each case and in the event of a recall, product needs to be brought back, counted and confirmed.
What I’m seeing is this job responsibility growing past a number of currently employed Inventory personnel. We needed to step up our game and move the right people into the right positions. In some instance additional training can be the fix but we are also finding that in some cases, additional training does not work.

Well, that’s comforting.
KC's View: