If you want to see long-term success in your retail business, it's not enough for only you to know how to improve it. That's because business involves more than one person. If you want to progress, you must get your staff engaged. And, if they don’t yet have the necessary knowledge to assist, you can always offer them staff training.
Why should retailers provide staff training?
Considering the speed at which retail is evolving as well as the competitiveness of the industry, any debate around why retailers must provide staff training should be null and void. After all, skilled staff deliver better results.
However, that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any debate about the type of training that your staff receives. Not all training is created equal. Likewise, not all training is appropriate to your retail environment or staff.
Let’s look at a few examples of the elements that you’d find in an average retail environment.
For one, your staff must understand different pricing strategies and know-how to implement them in-store. Merchandising and product placement is just as vital to know. So too is store flow and how your customer's shop. You can add stock turn, stock control, range maintenance as well as sales and finances to that list.
While it’s not vital that all of your staff know everything about the above elements, the more exposure you can give your employees, the better.
That’s because of the benefits. For example, you’ll have a team that understands everyone’s role within the business. As a result, you’ll create cohesion and have everyone working together towards one goal.
More than that, if each of your staff members understands their role and its significance to your overall success, they’re more inclined to contribute. They’re motivated to build a better shopping environment for your customers.
What should you consider when setting up training for your staff?
When you first consider setting up training for your employees, there is a question that you must ask yourself. Your answer will guide you in all of your future decisions around staff training. More importantly, it will save you both time and money.
Here’s the question: do you have the in-house capability to conduct the type of training that you want your staff to undergo?
It’s relatively easy to know if you have the capacity and pool of knowledge to tap into. You only need to look at the core of your business as well as your policies and protocols - what is unique to your business that you can’t find elsewhere?
For example, you may follow a particular process when it comes to stock replenishment on the shelf. In that case, anyone who joins your business could receive such in-house training to complete the job successfully.
Another way to determine if you have the capability is to test-run the training with a small group of staff and then look at the results. If, after training your team, your stores flourish, and you can pinpoint that it’s because of what they had learnt, you’ll know you have the right skillset in-house to continue providing such training.
If, however, your business isn’t improving, you need to seek outside help. Thus, the result also indicates that it’s not a core business function.
Fortunately, it’s also reasonably easy to identify non-core functions. Again, it comes down to asking yourself a question: is there another organisation that can provide your staff with better training, and at a better price? If yes, then it’s non-core.
For example, when it comes to what shelves must look like in your store, you might have taught your staff about your store process. However, they may not know every merchandising principle or how to use these principles for each category.
In that case, you would want to contract this out to third-party specialists who have the relevant experience and use various training techniques and other third parties to deliver information for companies in the education industry.
How should you go about creating a staff training programme?
Once you have understood your core and non-core business functions, the next action to take is to decide on your preferred training programme.
How can you do that? Fortunately, there is an easy step-by-step process to follow.
1. Conduct a training needs analysis
The first step to follow when creating a staff training programme depends heavily on who you are targeting.
Let us explain:
At any given time, there will be at least two different types of employees in your business. There are your recruits or incoming personnel and your current employees. Both will require different kinds and levels of training.
For example, for your recruits, assessing what kind of training they need begins before they even start working at your store. Here’s a possible process to follow: their job description would first need to be clear and well-developed. During the recruitment process, you need to assess their skills. Once hired, you’d provide foundational training around your basic in-store operations.
Once you have trained them up in the basics, you can begin to identify any skill gaps.
Since your current employees would have already undergone the introductory training, you’d need to look at which skills they’d need to improve to perform better at their job.
You could find that out by setting up specific tests or tasks particular to their job function. For example, if they’re in sales, you might want to look at testing their interpersonal skills to see if they need improvement. If they’re involved in shelf planning or involved on the store floor, you could look at testing their cognitive abilities.
2. Pick your learning outcomes
After you’ve assessed the skills of your staff and you have a better idea of where they need to improve, it’s time to pick your learning outcomes.
When choosing your learning outcomes, it’s all about linking the result to the skills that you want your staff to acquire.
For example, if you’ve found that your staff lack merchandising skills that’ll help them fulfil their job, you’d want to enrol them in a retail course that’ll give them the knowledge. Thus, once they’ve completed that course, you can rest assured that they have learnt the necessary skills.
If, on the other hand, they’re either new to retail or are interested in upskilling themselves, you might pick an outcome such as the ability to explain and discuss the main factors when placing stock on your shelf.
It doesn’t matter which learning outcomes you choose, as long as you pick them and they’re unique to that specific role. That’s because once selected, you’ll have a benchmark that you can use to see if your staff are successful or not.
3. Design or source training to fit these learning outcomes
It’s now time to design training specific to your staff so that they can meet the learning outcomes that you’ve set out for them.
Before we continue, it’s worth pointing out that when you’re working through this step, you need to consider if the training you want your staff to complete can be done in-house or whether you need to outsource it.
That said, regardless of whether you keep this in-house or outsource your training to a third party, you must have the following in place:
- Well-established learning objectives;
- An understanding of the sequence in which the training must be completed;
- An instructional strategy;
- An understanding of how the course material is delivered; and
- Some form of evaluation that results in certification.
Besides the above, you also need to know if the training is going to use simple learning resources, interactive lessons, electronic simulations, job aids or even practical experience. How resource intensive is it for you? Also, is the training going to be done face-to-face or in a virtual classroom?
Lastly, the training must align with your business and staff needs. After all, it could be the best course available and supply your team with all the skills you’d want them to have. But if the core principles aren’t conveyed in a way that provides a clear understanding of how they can be implemented in your business, it becomes pointless.
4. Implement the training you’ve chosen
Once you’ve chosen your desired training programme, it’s time to implement it. In short, it’s time to get your staff to start learning.
If the training programme is conducted in-house, you need to have already set up appropriate lead times. Are you expecting staff to finish it within a specified period? Is there a practical element associated with each unit or is it entirely self-study?
For example, if you want someone to identify something on the shelf, then your best approach is to include some form of practical learning as part of the course. Whereas, if you want your staff to understand the theoretical components of placing products on the shelf, e-learning will work better.
Fortunately, through trial and error, you can figure out how best to present training in-house. It’s not the same if you outsource it. Unless you’ve asked a third party to custom design a training course for you, you’d need to comply with how they’ve presented it.
While that might sound limiting, it’s not. If you’ve chosen the right third party, you’ll receive expertise and knowledge that you can apply to your business.
5. Assess how your staff have received the training
The final step is perhaps the most important. That’s because it’s the moment where you find out if the training you’ve provided to your staff has given them the knowledge they need.
There are a few ways that you can assess the knowledge of your staff post-training. The traditional route to take is to include some form of an assessment or test with certification upon completion.
Besides that, you could include feedback forms to allow your staff to inform you of what they’ve learnt and whether they found it worthwhile and helpful. A feedback form can also help you to find any learning gaps that need filling from your side.
That said, assessing whether or not your staff have learnt from the training doesn’t only happen straight after they’ve finished the course. That’s when it’s fresh in their minds, so it’s not always helpful. The real worth comes later.
For example, can your employees recall what they had learnt six months to a year after they finished the course? More importantly, are they making practical use of what they learned to improve their outputs?
Regular assessments should form part of your work environment not only so you can test your staff at any time but to reveal any other training or recaps that may be required. Also, it’s worth including performance criteria that links back to their job description.
DotActiv Academy is DotActiv’s education portal where you can learn about all things retail and category management. From product placement and pricing strategies to merchandising techniques and the category management process, it’s there.
For more information about the various courses, visit DotActiv Academy here.