Some companies continue to make employee engagement a priority even in this recessionary economy. It would be easy for a company to take the position that it can’t afford to increase its investment in employees. This is not true for Best Buy, the 43 billion dollar appliance and consumer electronics retailer. A year ago I wrote about how Best Buy empowers its front-line employees byBestBuyLogo giving them the authority to make local merchandising decisions and do what is best for their local customers.  Now, Best Buy is empowering employees with choices about the method, time, and place of training. This is part of the company’s new Results-Oriented Learning Environment (ROLE) program and its three pillars: freedom to choose the training that they need; co-creation of the training programs by employees, customers, and vendors; and an online library of learning materials. John Congemi, senior manager at Best Buy, describes the purpose of ROLE:

We’re opening up learning opportunities inside and outside of the store, and empowering employees to decide how, where, and when they’ll learn best. Co-creation is all about harnessing the expertise and creativity of our employees, our vendors, and our customers. We’re no longer developing training in a vacuum, but rather side by side with experts and end users. The robust library of content makes all of this possible. We’re ensuring our employees can not only access training materials on any topic they choose, but can pick from a wide variety of learning vehicles to do so (e-learning, audio training, videos, paper-based, etc.).

The Best Buy online library includes a wiki which, similar to Wikipedia, allows employees to make changes in the content and to comment on content as well as upload videos and other content that they think might be helpful to co-workers. Using a wiki to provide useful information when and where it is needed is an innovative approach to employee learning. RealTime Performance provides pre-populated wikis that companies can modify over time to fit their learning needs.

Best Buy’s approach to training and learning is certainly innovative, but, oddly, its approach to measuring the results of this “results-oriented” program will probably not tell them very much about results. Apparently, they are relying on customer satisfaction scores and employee satisfaction scores. While these scores are indicators of impact, and I commend Best Buy for trying to link training to business results, these scores do not tell the whole story.  The company will not know what had the effect on the change in ratings, nor will it know how ROLE affected these ratings, nor will it know what could have been done to increase the positive impact of ROLE. I would challenge Best Buy to be as innovative in its evaluation of ROLE as it is in how it is engaging employees in their own learning.