Opinion

How retailers can share the love at the sharp end

Pressure continues to mount for many global retailers. Trading, against the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic, continues to prove challenging and is rapidly changing: new shopping behaviours challenging established ‘ways of working’, the transference of in-store sales to online, and enforced restrictions within the in-store environment, are leading retailers to explore and implement strategies for resourcing policies where simpler structures, fewer team members and transferable skills can be quick and easily shared business wide.

With both budgets and resources facing critical review, there’s a drive to simplify corporate structures and resourcing needs. As a result, retailers that were previously organised with multiple layers of people in specialist skilled roles are being faced with the challenge of distributing accountability for every day tasks more generally across the business.

…corporate reorganisation can be tricky

Yes, job losses are regrettable and can be very hard for people affected, but for retailers and those that remain, there are ‘positives’ to be found. Along with every difficult challenge also comes opportunity. And re-organising, re-training and re-energising colleagues with additional ‘strings to their bows’, can have some surprising associated benefits for everyone in the organisation.

All too often in large retailers, the ‘everyday things’ that, in theory, should be simple to execute, manage and maintain, become siloed in responsibility with sluggish, ineffective implementation. Activities that in practice should be done easily and expediently instead ‘slip through structural cracks’—especially when multiple stakeholders and poorly aligned retail activity is involved in executing or managing retail tasks.

We all recognise that corporate reorganisation can be tricky. The bigger the organisation, the slower and more ‘gloopy’ it is to implement. It’s little wonder then that a sense of weariness and incompletion often prevails.

development of those ‘at the sharp end’ can be overlooked

At times like this, development of those ‘at the sharp end’ can be overlooked. But asking people to take up new responsibilities for additional skill areas must go hand-in-hand with effective support to equip them with the capability, confidence and motivation they need to succeed. However, it’s easier said than more typically done.

More often than not, training of retail colleagues has been seen in a binary mode, with two conventional learning formats dominating. The first is typically written policy guidelines and updates, for colleagues to read and swat up on. The second is participation within group workshops, development programs or one-to-one coaching activities. But both of these established learning and development approaches have serious drawbacks for retailers in the current climate.

Printed communication, by its very nature, quickly becomes dated and is costly to distribute. More importantly, this ‘snail mail’ process is cumbersome, bureaucratic and slow— requiring considerable manual intervention to track, check and confirm learning progress. It’s prone to failure by all its inherent practical weaknesses.

…starving the development budget with ‘dead costs’

Even before the pandemic struck, retail organisations were also retreating from the use of ‘physical training’ activities due to the practicalities of organising this, and the high costs involved.

Practical Covid related challenges aside; ‘group training’ has become an unaffordable cost for routine, day-to-day staff development activities—starving the development budget with ‘dead costs’. As well as the financial costs, bringing people together means removing them from the workplace, something that retailers can ill-afford even in the best of times. It also requires participants to organise the time to learn and manage disruption to home life to accommodate childcare, family working patterns and everyday life is a real issue. Simply, anything posing a barrier to easy and effective learning should be overcome.

 

 

But there is a third, more effective way. And it’s one increasingly being adopted by leading retailers around the world.

Online learning tools combine the best of document-based learning materials, with the interactivity and experiential elements of stimulating group training—providing companies and employees with flexibility for where, when and how to learn, and provides many other user benefits.

For every retail organisation the benefits are clear…

The best are developed with a combination of informative retail policy information, engaging video content, gamification options (to introduce a sense of fun and competitiveness, where required), and two-way ‘sharing’ interactivity with productive checking tools to maintain visibility of the learning cycle. Detailed reporting analytics that check progress for every training initiative, down to an individual user level assessment and tracking, via personal login access and other programmed confirmation tools. Enhanced features built within digital training tools also present the ability for global retailers to offer the same learning content in different languages and cultural adaptation, at the touch of a button.

Rather than valuable company resources being spent on facilitators, facilities and casual expenses, investment can be directed into the production of outstanding digital learning tools that can have a wider and longer lasting impact. For every retail organisation the benefits are clear: greater efficiency, reduced costs, demonstrable ROI, and increased effectiveness.

It’s how ambitious global retailers are continuing to forge ahead. Not only creating more agile and productive ways to inform, educate and support their most valuable assets, but providing the vital foundations needed to optimise in-store performance, even in challenging times.

By Kirsty Kean

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