Mobile Learning at the Home Depot
Roger Anderson, Sr. Director Learning, and Jenn Lortz, Instructional Designer
I attended the March ISPI Atlanta chapter meeting at The Home Depot, excited to hear more about their mobile learning pilot program. Truth be told, I also wanted to get an idea what the work environment would be like there. They did not disappoint! Every detail was attended to and every person I encountered was there to do just a little bit more. There seems to be a very real culture at The Home Depot of excellence in service whether “on the floor” or in a conference room. As Roger said, they focus on what their associates want and need and work to that. Naturally, I hung out afterwards like a groupie practically begging for them to hire me on the spot. What can I say? I have good taste and want to be a part of excellence!
I didn’t completely understand that Mike Law would be presenting the same mobile learning pilot program to our studio class a few days later. I’m glad I went to the ISPI meeting because they were able to really demo the device with plenty of detail there on their own home turf.
They presented the following challenges for mobile technology:
- Size of device (varies by work environment – small seems better for HD)
- Employee Acceptance
In their current Alpharetta pilot they are using iPod Touch devices since they were a quick, cheap, and easy way to get into the market. Of the 30 devices they started with in January, only one has gone missing so far. Some of the features include a voice search that precisely locates items to aisle and bay, tools (e.g. paint calculator, caliper, blind cutting machine information), Ortho thirdy-party vendor problem solving app, MMUs (monthly merchant updates), and project how-to videos that can be shared with customers.
I thought it was interesting that they tried QR codes to provide more information on products, but they couldn’t get the customer to scan them on their own. Customer feedback on the iPods, though, has been positive. I guess they prefer the human connection. In their “Endless Aisle” of 35k SKUs (plus 500_ online, installation, and other services) any training time saved leads to more time “on the floor” which leads to savings and profit. The more confident they can make their associates, the more they will engage with their customers leading to better customer service experiences.
The associates in the pilot program have appreciated the access to information for other departments. They are not currently tracking access to the content, but they have found that associates spend down time learning about other areas of the store resulting in a lot of informal learning without taking the associate off “the floor.” They were concerned customers might perceive they are off task when they use the devices, but this has not been an issue.
Some side benefits they anticipate include the decreased need for the device over time as the associate completes more informal training and even potential future associates arriving somewhat trained and knowledgeable from using the content that is available to the public. Also, it is not practical to train every associate to the expert level in every area. Mobile Learning gives The Home Depot a place to store content that is not needed as often but would still be beneficial.
During the ISPI presentation they mentioned Camtasia as a tool that had the least learning curve and most benefit. Then in his presentation to our Studio class, Mike Law mentioned the use of Captivate as well. I was surprised to hear that they were able to cut a 16 hour window treatment course down to a 2 hour e-learning course which will likely lead to more retention due to its interactivity. I think this mobile learning program has a lot of room for development ahead, particularly with responsive web design (RWD), the expansion of the pilot to more stores and associates, and the changing environment of information mobility.