Magnolia Certified Magnolia's extensive employee training program

The world of audio, video and home automation can be a difficult one to navigate. That’s why, when people come to a Magnolia Design Center, they expect the sales staff, installers and project managers to have a level of knowledge and capability that goes well beyond the everyday. To deliver this level of expertise, Magnolia employs a dedicated staff passionate about giving every employee the tools required to exceed the needs of every customer. Together, this team, led by Ken Churchill, Training Manager for Magnolia, along with his counterpart in services, Training Manager Larry Tait, and Specialists Mark Brust, Brittany Pierson and JoNae Villeneuve, create the curriculum that turns Magnolia employees from home theater enthusiasts, into home theater experts.

Hundreds of employees—one voice

With over 80 Magnolia Design Center locations, and hundreds of employees, finding a consistent voice is key. To do this, every Magnolia Design Center employee goes through a rigorous onboarding process that consists of testing, face-to-face training and a whole lot of know-how.

“When we open new stores we bring everyone in for what we call a boot camp,” Ken said. “This is 8–9 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 3 weeks.” Located in a dedicated training facility in Lakeville, Minnesota, this boot camp consists of intense informational sessions, hands-on training, and manufacturers’ demonstrations. “It’s a pretty intense 3 weeks.”

This training process ensures everyone who touches the Magnolia brand is in unison with what they know, and how they communicate that knowledge to customers. “We start out with the foundational elements: what is a receiver, what is a speaker, how do they work, what makes one better than another. Then we layer on the manufacturers’ technologies to that underlying knowledge. This is a different approach than a lot of places where they just assume employees already know this stuff or that they’ll learn it in time. We ensure that every System Designer has this deep knowledge and understanding and can demonstrate it from day one.”

Ken went on to say, “A big component is how we train. We need to balance the fact that we’re a retailer, where product knowledge is important, but we’re also an integrator, and we need to be able to design and explain more complex whole home solutions. An employee can know all the specs and product details in their head, but if they can’t apply it in such a way that helps a customer find the right solutions for their technology needs, it doesn’t do them much good.”

At the end of this boot camp, employees are required to pass an SAT-style written test, as well as multiple proficiency tests. And if that weren’t enough, every three months they must also complete quarterly tests that touch on business changes, new technologies and new products. If knowledge is king, Magnolia Designs Centers are filled with royalty.

Not just a job, a career

This intensive learning process creates not only better employees, but employees that make Magnolia their career. To further develop employees in categories they are passionate about, Magnolia offers additional training with specific manufacturers. These opportunities include in-depth training programs that can be 3–5 days long with companies like Bowers & Wilkins, MartinLogan, McIntosh, Lutron, Sumiko and Control4. As employees step out of these programs, they are certified by that brand, with advanced knowledge and resources to help customers make product decisions.

For installers, Magnolia offers unique growth opportunities as well. Starting as Apprentice Installers, these individuals can move up to Installers, Lead Installers, Project Managers and ultimately Regional Custom Managers. It’s this defined career path that not only helps employees grow, but helps customers get the most passionate and well-versed service in the industry.

“The great thing about all of this is that we tend to have employees who have been around for five to seven years,” Ken told us. “We don’t have the high turnover that other retailers have. I think that has a lot to do with our robust training programs and our ability to help individuals become professionally qualified in the latest audio, video and home automation technologies.”

How this benefits you

“At the end of the day, we hope the time we spend creating content, crafting training programs and preparing our employees means you’re going to get, at minimum, a better experience than you would at any of our competitors,” Ken said happily. “In addition, when you come across a tenured employee who’s had the chance to go through some of the more advanced training, you’re going to find people who are tops in the industry with knowledge and skills beyond what you’ll find anywhere else.”

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