Demand is at an all-time high for brick-and-mortar retailers to cut costs, reduce shrink, challenge their online competition, grow omnichannel, and improve customer experience amidst the changing landscape of retail. To empower workers to be a driving force in meeting and exceeding these demands, while remaining competitive, savvy retailers must give their employees relevant on-the-job training. Whether it be employee onboarding, new product introductions and even loss prevention topics, learning needs to be reinforced on a continuous basis, which ultimately helps a retailer transform a poor or mediocre customer service experience to a superior one that customers will remember and value.
For the second year in a row, Axonify has released the results of its annual State of Workplace Training Study, conducted in December 2017 by global market research firm Ipsos. The study’s goal was to gain a comprehensive view of workplace training across different industries, including retail, and highlight the importance of providing the right kind of training to drive measurable business results.
Current State of Training in Retail
Most astonishing in the research findings was that almost a third of retail employees (32 percent) say they don’t receive any formal training, which is higher than any other industry surveyed. While training has been proven to be critical in helping employees achieve key performance objectives, only 77 percent of retail employees believe this vs. 90 percent of employees at large. Additionally, close to half of retail employees (45 percent) receive job training via online or a mix of classroom and online training, while 11 percent receive only classroom training.
Furthermore, when compared with other industries, fewer retail employees believe training is effective in helping them perform their job. Retail employees are experiencing eroding levels of engagement as only 31 percent of associates indicated they were extremely engaged, down 5 percent from the previous year’s study. The good news for retailers is that 92 percent of employees think that formal workplace training positively impacts their job engagement.
Most employees want to learn and succeed within their particular position. When given the right environment to learn, they will become more confident associates that recognize that their employer is investing in their future. Here are a few keys to a path forward in building a modern training program:
- Focus on experience for each associate. Retailers recognize that different positions have diverse needs. For example, less experienced retail associates may require revisiting certain components of an onboarding or product training session, while more experienced employees may need managerial coaching. Similarly, associates who work in different parts of the store require different and unique types of knowledge. Therefore, personalized and relevant training is essential for associates to perform their jobs effectively.
- Engage associates with on-the-job training anywhere, anytime. Poor engagement levels can negatively impact retention, productivity and a retailer’s bottom line. Employers must deliver on-the-job training anytime, anywhere for their frontline workforce. Technology like “microlearning” — a way of delivering content to learners in three minute to five minute bursts via desktop or mobile devices — can help weave learning into natural workflows without adding another element to an employee’s already busy day.
- Provide continuous and engaging learning opportunities. It’s important for employees to receive regular, frequent training that’s appealing. When training topics are delivered in short, daily bursts tied to rewards or gaming mechanisms, employees are more likely to retain information. For example, one major U.S. retailer implemented microlearning to reduce safety incidents across distribution centers and improve employee knowledge and retention about safety practices. The organization was able to meet its goals with short daily videos that incorporated safety questions alongside engaging mobile games and rewards.
As the results of this survey indicate, retail employees credit training as an important part of their overall job success. As traditional training approaches are increasingly proving to be ineffective due to their one-size-fits-all and one-and-done approach, employees are at a disadvantage in helping themselves and retailers remain competitive. Creating a continuous learning experience that’s less event driven and more focused on providing what workers need to know when they need it in small bite-sized pieces is the key to success.
Carol Leaman is the CEO of Axonify, a microlearning platform trusted by business leaders to drive performance.