By: Carol Abel, Vice President of Education, Food Marketing Institute
Events and Education 2017

In much the same way that shoppers no longer interact with stores as they once did, FMI members want different ways to learn. They seek experiences that will help them master practical tools, exposure to trends with insights they can apply quickly and connections with potential partners and resources that can help them solve challenges. To address these new ways our members consume information, in 2017 we instituted a number of changes to FMI education programs.

For many years the Midwinter Executive Conference has been the most highly-valued and strategically focused FMI event. But just as every successful store must continue to innovate and respond to customer needs, we knew we had to adjust. A number of responsive changes were made to Midwinter in 2017, including shortening the event by a day, putting a renewed focus on opportunities for insights on major industry trends with added education sessions and providing additional chances to collaborate with partners during more Strategic Executive Exchange appointments. With record-setting attendance and highly positive attendee feedback, the results validated the changes.

We continue to hear our members express concern about workforce and talent development. As the industry has changed, talent needs have changed and strategic leadership at all levels is more important than ever. A completely revamped Future Leaders eXperience provides at least a couple of pieces to the talent challenge puzzle. Future Leaders was restructured as an immersive, experiential and interactive learning laboratory in which teams of emerging leaders from multiple companies and multiple functions work together to practice the hands-on skills necessary for today’s food retail leaders. Teams learned about fostering peak performance, translating trends, strategic response and more. Along the way attendees made lasting connections with colleagues from across the country. Once again results proved the value of the new format: more than 80 percent of attendees predicted improvements would result from their participation; and company executives shared stories of associates who were inspired to try new approaches to some existing challenges.

Not every company or individual needs the same type of support for talent development. Some need more fundamental support that provides academic underpinning to expand everyday skills developed on the job. That’s where the Retail Management Certificate Program (RMC) can help. The RMC was developed by the Western Association of Food Chains over fifteen years ago and is supported nationally by FMI. In 2017, FMI helped expand this community college-based, eight-credit course program to thirteen new community colleges, and associates of FMI members in Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin began building their effectiveness.

We also evolved our event addressing omnichannel into a new format, Grocerytalk, in conjunction with the hosts of Shoptalk. The opportunity for food retail e-commerce and marketing professionals to learn and interact with other retail and brands is a valuable offering for an omnichannel team.

For the asset protection community, we will join forces with the National Retail Federation (NRF) for a combined annual conference in 2018. Under the NRF PROTECT conference banner, NRF PROTECT 2018 will be “brought to you by NRF and FMI,” to the benefit of the retail asset protection, risk, and food safety professionals.

Not all members can spare the time for multi-day conferences, and some topics are so timely and important that they need to be communicated immediately. In these cases webinars are a quick delivery mechanism to share new insights with broad audiences. In 2017 FMI nearly tripled the number of webinars available to our members, and on everything from consumer trends to food defense and from digital capability-building to private brands.

As we move into 2018, we will continue to employ new learning techniques to make existing events even more relevant, to consider new formats that support quick learning or rapid application, and to help our members see what is coming and best prepare themselves and their teams.