Customers don’t take kindly to retail staff they deem sub-standard.
Managers are called, complaints are fired off and social media rants can all result from an unpleasant exchange between shopper and employee. The blowback can be quite damaging to the brand in some cases, even if it is known for fair prices and good service.
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The problem is that sometimes the employee may not be at fault at all; it is simply that he or she has not been trained properly. But because they are the first faces customers see and deal with, consumers’ wrath usually falls on them.
Training staff in the retail sector is complex, says Paul Hanly, founder of South African online learning solutions provider New Leaf Technologies.
Staff turnover is usually high and there is a need to upskill seasonal employees quickly and efficiently, particularly for big sale days like Christmas and Black Friday. Furthermore, to operate effectively, employees need to know the products and procedures “inside out” and may need additional customer-facing skills.
“Many retailers across all industries are getting it right, but some certainly are not. The public usually only engages with front office staff, who can sometimes be less than personable,” Hanly says.
“It doesn’t matter what the industry is: the quality of service needs to be excellent to keep customers coming back for more. In a tight economy like South Africa’s, business growth will only come by eating the competitor’s lunch. To do that, you need to be better than the competitor. Better service is often more important than price.”
Because of retail’s fast-paced nature, there may be little time to sit employees down for workshops and classes, particularly if the business has countrywide divisions.
That’s where online training comes in.
“Agility in training is especially important in the sector, as is the ability for people to learn on any device, anytime and anywhere. Online training is not only mobile but can be dipped into as necessary or done when time is available,” Hanly says.
“Massive open online courses can be offered free to targeted members of the public to identify which potential recruits would be best suited to the job. At the very least, Solid Learning & Development training should start with a great induction course. New recruits need to understand a company’s values and buy into that right up front.”
It is essential to find the right learning partner that is not simply a supplier of technology, but one that provides services and ongoing support to the whole L&D team. This includes technology, consulting, content development, Integration, and strategy.
“A business needs a partner, not just a vendor,” Hanly says.
The advantages of quality staff training are numerous.
Employee productivity will soar because people who know what they are doing are more efficient. Because of their expertise, they will be able to recognise any pitfalls in the business that need to be addressed. By tackling these issues quickly, the company stands to benefit.
Morale is also boosted when employees understand their roles. The right training sends the message that their firm values them and is willing to invest in them. Spirits are lifted because career development is a key driver in staff members performing well.
Training also helps to attract and retain employees. According to the LinkedIn 2023 Workplace Learning Report, companies that offer employee training programmes are twice as likely to retain staff. Making it publicly known that the business offers such programmes also helps to attract the right job candidates.
Hanly says organisations should embrace learning management systems (LMS) that create personalised learning paths for learners based on their individual needs and learning preferences.
“The LMS needs to offer a variety of content types and formats, virtual classrooms, simulations, gamification and even built-in content authoring. It must also include analytics and reporting tools to track learners’ progress and identify areas for improvement. We’ve found that the aNewSpring Learning Platform is very well-suited for this purpose and ticks all these boxes.”