College students selling jeans at Old Navy 10 hours a week don’t need to be retail experts. But perhaps they should be. Figuring that if every employee understood Old Navy’s big-picture strategy it would improve service and sales, Jenna Whitney led a massive reeducation of the chain’s 35,000 employees across 850 stores in 2004. Instead of distributing tedious binders, she teamed up with Root Learning to provide lively visuals: Break rooms looked like situation rooms, with conference table-sized maps displaying marketplace dynamics. Although it’s too early to measure sales impact, Whitney says staffers are more engaged and employee turnover has decreased. “I think it’s easy to underestimate that there are incredibly smart, talented people at all levels of organizations,” she says. Watch your back, Ram Charan: Your future competition is currently folding fleeces at an Old Navy.
2005 FAST 50 WINNER
Jenna Whitney, 38
Director of learning & development
San Francisco, California
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