By Retail Doctor Group


As an Australian retail manager, you understand the importance of a skilled and adaptable team. But with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and a data-driven landscape, the traditional retail skillset needs a refresh. In fact, job skill requirements have evolved by as much as 25% since 2015, emphasising the need for continuous employee skill development that takes a multifaceted approach to training.

A leading guide for human resources’ management development programs, the three-skill approach is a framework built by Robert L. Katz, an American management scholar in the 1950s. Our comprehensive guide delves into the three key skill categories that form part of Katz’s framework, suggesting that retailers follow this methodology to identify leaders, while also upskilling and retraining those at static levels of development.

The Retail Doctor Group’s tri-skill approach uses categories to broadly identify the essential skills employees will need at all developmental stages of their careers. We’ll also explore the best training methods for each stage, and highlight the importance of AI and data analysis literacy in each skill. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • ​​Overlapping Skillsets Between Shopfloor and Head Office Personnel
  • ​The Benefits of Overlapping Skillsets in a Retail Environment
  • ​Core Retail Skills for Shopfloor and Head Office Personnel
  • ​Critical Retail Skills for Shopfloor and Head Office Personnel
  • ​Beyond the Basics: Additional Skills for Retail Staff
  • ​Soft Skills to Look for at Interview Stage
  • ​What is the RDG Tri-Skill Approach to Training?
  • ​Why the RDG Tri-Skill Approach Works So Well

The retail world is constantly evolving, with new technologies, consumer trends, and competitor strategies emerging all the time. Both shopfloor and head office staff need to be adaptable and ready to embrace change. 

Equipping your team with the right skillset demands a multi-faceted approach. The need for relevant skills – especially given the skill shortage for qualified, competent retail staff – is of critical concern as we travel ever-deeper into this technological age. 

Overlapping Skillsets Between Shopfloor and Head Office Personnel 

But while the focus and daily realities may differ between shopfloor and head office retail staff, there’s a surprising amount of overlap in terms of essential skillsets. This overlap fosters a sense of synergy within a retail organisation, allowing information and best practices to flow freely between departments, branches, and even teams. However, it relies on collaboration and teamwork. 

First and foremost, the ability to articulate information clearly and concisely is a critical skill, whether it’s a shop assistant explaining a product feature to a customer or a head office analyst presenting data insights to management. Communication is the cornerstone of success in both shopfloor and head office settings 

Next, the ability to think critically and solve problems efficiently is an essential skill for both shopfloor and head office staff. For example, shopfloor staff may encounter disgruntled customers, unexpected product shortages, or technical issues with equipment, while head office personnel deal with inventory discrepancies, forecasting errors, and marketing challenges.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are essential for analyzing issues, identifying root causes, and implementing effective solutions. If you re-read the last two sentences, you’ll now be better able to recognise Katz’s three skill categories, namely technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills.

The Benefits of Overlapping Skillsets in a Retail Environment 

By recognising (and harnessing) the overlap in skillsets between shopfloor and head office staff, retail organisations can upskill or even cross-skill their employees, thereby fostering a more collaborative and cohesive environment. 

These overlapping skillsets offer several benefits for the retail organisation: 

  • Improved Customer Experience: When shopfloor staff understand the strategic decisions made at head office (for example, pricing strategies), they can better explain these decisions to customers. 
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Insights from the shopfloor on customer behaviors can inform head office decisions on product selection and marketing campaigns. You can find more information about customer behaviours and using Limbic Insights™ to profile them further down below. 
  • Cross-Functional Training Opportunities: Shared skillsets allow for cross-training opportunities, where head office staff gain valuable customer interaction experience and shopfloor staff develop an understanding of the bigger retail picture. 

Core Retail Skills for Shopfloor and Head Office Personnel 

Now, let’s take a look at the core, essential skillsets for both shopfloor and head office retail professionals, whether they overlap or not. 

Shopfloor Skillsets 

Technical Skills

The shopfloor is the heart of the retail experience. While the primary focus on training is not to create a dozen sales bunnies overnight, understanding basic sales techniques can go a long way to increasing your numbers and achieving sales targets. Basic sales training can help your staff identify customer needs, present product features effectively, overcome objections professionally, and close sales ethically. 

Also, transforming a team into customer service champions is pretty easy when they’re walking product encyclopedias! To get to that stage, retailers will need to equip their staff with in-depth knowledge of all available stock so they can answer customer queries confidently, recommend relevant items, and create a sense of trust.

However, opening the sale professionally only occurs in an average of 60% of thousands of customer interactions in your store every month. Meanwhile, staff are actually only asking for the sale in 40% of all interactions. There’s clearly an opportunity to more than double your sales, simply by training staff on how to close the sale.

A critical shopfloor skill that must be taught and emphasised at onboarding stage, upselling is an art form that’s perhaps best identified by McDonald’s most famous catch-phrase: “Do you want fries with that?” – and yet, these questions are only asked around 50% of the time on average in customer interactions.

Upselling as a concept contains variations of this theme, including:

  • Add-on sales (such as extended warranties, etc.) – which occur on average only about 45% of the time.
  • Value-add services (such as joining the retailer’s loyalty program) – is raised as a topic in only 2 in 5 customer interactions.

It’s clear that an average of 55% of transactions are missing the opportunity to increase the overall value of the sale made because employees don’t know how to create that opportunity. In other words, more than half your customers are leaving your store halfway done, unintentionally cutting short what their customer journey should have been!

Human Skills

To master clear, concise, and friendly communication, staff need to be taught the art of active listening. And while this is a term that’s thrown around often, it’s also a sure-fire way to build loyalty, trust, and a sense of belonging, of being in the right place at the right time. By actively listening to what a customer is saying, shopfloor staff can tailor their language to the customer’s level of understanding, and be enthusiastic about the products they sell. 

Teamwork is a customer-centric approach to completing a task or managing a job role. The retail environment is a place where team efforts can make or break a brand. Foster a collaborative environment where staff readily assist each other on busy days, share best practices, and maintain a positive and supportive work environment. 

Conceptual Skills

Showing up on time every time is not just a skill; it’s a personal commitment to yourself. When you take the deadline-driven nature of a sale into account, you can see why time management is such an important skill for shopfloor staff. Customers no longer have the desire to hang around for ages waiting for advice, assistance, or to process an in-store purchase. Luckily, time management is a skill that can be taught. 

JB Hi-Fi, a powerhouse in the Australian consumer electronics sector, is renowned for its exceptional customer service. Their staff undergo rigorous product knowledge training, empowering them to provide informed advice and solutions to even the most complex tech dilemmas. JB Hi-Fi also fosters a culture of teamwork, with staff readily assisting each other and going the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. 

Head Office Skillsets 

Human Skills

Head office retail roles often involve strategic planning, data analysis, and process optimisation. And while these roles may not need as much customer interaction as shopfloor roles do, it’s vital that your head office personnel understand and respect the roles that actually pay the wages. After all, no sales = no salaries. 

• Technical Skills

Customers generate an extraordinary amount of data in each transaction. A shopfloor assistant may have the forte for data analysis, but this is generally interpreted and analysed by head office staff.

Make sure your head office staff can interpret sales figures, identify trends, and make informed business decisions. Knowing how to interpret data is one thing; understanding and knowing how to use the tools to do that is another. Ensure your head office staff are well-trained to use spreadsheets and business intelligence software. 

• Conceptual Skills

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills tackle operational challenges, in addition to helping customers with problems. Head office staff should be able to identify pain points and issues quickly, and implement the right solution effectively. Critical thinking skills also encourage a more-creative approach, lead to brainstorming sessions, and help your staff make those all-important data-driven decisions. 

Thinking again about time management and organisational skills, head office staff juggle multiple tasks and deadlines as par for the course on a daily basis. Effective time management and organisational skills ensure staff can meet deadlines, keep projects on track, exceed expectations, and prioritise effectively under pressure. 

Communication in a head office setting is not always about what you say or how you say it. It’s not just about how to formulate an email the right way, either. Staff should be able to: 

  • articulate complex data insights in clear language that gets to the point,  
  • deliver impactful presentations to stakeholders. 
  • communicate with all departments and management teams effectively. 

Critical Technical Retail Skills for Shopfloor and Head Office Personnel 

The retail landscape is being reshaped by AI. From chatbots providing customer service to automated stock management systems, understanding AI and its applications is becoming increasingly important. Retailers will need to equip their teams with a basic understanding of AI concepts like machine learning and natural language processing. This will help them grasp how AI can best be used in retail and the potential benefits it offers.  

To help teams master AI fundamentals, data literacy and AI-management skills are necessary. This is the future of retail, and training sessions and webinars will help retailers showcase real-world examples of AI applications in retail. This could include ways to recognise trends in the AI data, personalised product recommendations powered by AI, or AI-driven demand forecasting to optimise inventory management. 

AI thrives on data, and head office teams will need to be trained in data analysis techniques like data cleaning, data visualisation, and basic statistical analysis. This will allow them to interpret data effectively and prepare it for AI applications. 

Woolworths is at the forefront of AI adoption. They’ve implemented AI-powered chatbots to answer customer queries and streamline the customer service experience. Additionally, Woolworths uses AI for demand forecasting, optimising stock levels and minimising waste. By training staff in AI fundamentals and data analysis, Woolworths empowers them to leverage this technology for better decision-making and improved efficiency. 

Beyond the Basics: Additional Skills for Retail Staff 

While core retail skills are essential, there’s always room for growth. In keeping with AI trends and much-needed digital aptitude, familiarity with social media platforms, online marketing trends, and basic e-commerce concepts can be a valuable asset for both shopfloor and head office staff. For this, retailers can set up team training that leverages digital tools for customer engagement, brand promotion, and online sales optimisation. 

Visual merchandising skills help create attractive and customer-enticing product displays. This is a skill that can be taught by focusing on the principles of effective product placement, colour theory, and using the store layout to tell a story.  

Sustainability is a growing concern for consumers and staff can be empowered to answer customer queries about sustainable practices, eco-friendly products, and recycled packaging. Retailers must ensure that both shopfloor and head office employees are trained to highlight sustainable product features and promote eco-conscious shopping habits. 

For retailers who own or operate a store in a diverse region, foreign language skills can be a game-changer, allowing staff to connect with a wider customer base and provide exceptional service to non-English speaking customers. There’s an added bonus to having a diverse team that satisfies a diverse customer base: increased loyalty. 

Of course, soft skills are notoriously difficult to train. They must align with an individual’s personalities and attitudes, while also relating to their life experiences. They’re also challenging to define and difficult to measure because they vary from person to person, making them non-standardised and therefore not easy to evaluate out of context.  

Soft Skills to Look for at Interview Stage 

Core skills are just the foundation of a good employee. Soft skills are those essential human qualities that make a retail professional truly empathetic. But it’s not that empathy per se is needed; rather, the ability of employees to project themselves into the customer’s shoes, to understand their point of view, to recognise their needs and behaviours is of paramount importance to the customer. 

This, along with a genuine passion for serving customers, means your team will be truly empathetic, attentive, and proactive in anticipating customer needs. This genuine form of empathy, coupled with effective collaboration between teams, means your people can share knowledge and support each other in a way that achieves common goals. 

A positive and enthusiastic attitude translates into a positive demeanour, even under pressure. Hire new employees that can help create a welcoming and upbeat atmosphere – not just for customers, but for teammates, too. Remember, the ideal retail professional displays a blend of technical expertise, strong human-centric skills, and the deep conceptual hands-on learning that’s shaped them into the consummate professionals they are. 

However, for introverts or those without an inherent understanding of self, soft skills (such as communication) may be incredibly hard to master. Simply attending a training session could be terrifying at best, and make participants feel inauthentic and fake, at worst.  

This is not a book learning training session; it’s an intense behaviour/attitude-altering life experience. Soft skill training must therefore be approached with respect and consideration for individual differences.  

There is some good news about learning soft skills, though: many of them can be learned, nurtured, and evolved over time. Patience is key, but so is a holistic approach to training your staff. At RDG, we offer a multifaceted tri-skill approach to training. 

The Retail Doctor Group is a retail advisory and consulting practice that builds retail channels and increases the performance of retail and FMCG businesses through our customised & transformative “Fit for Business™” methodologies.

With 18 years of experience in retail, and over 200 training modules available, you can tailor our “Fit for Business™” content to integrate seamlessly with your business, enhancing all aspects of your retail operations.

What is The Retail Doctor Academy’s Tri-Skill Approach to Learning? 

Gone are the days where your entire workforce clocked out of the office for an intensive off-site training session that lasted 3 days. It’s not just about how you manage while they’re gone; customer demands for instant gratification and attention mean your staff need to be just as quick about it – whether that’s in training, customer assistance, or processing a sale. 

The Retail Doctor Academy’s multifaceted tri-skill approach to training is an effective, time-efficient way to upskill your retail staff that offers: 

  • world class and transferable skill sets. 
  • an omnichannel approach to customer service. 
  • minimal downtime, yet maximum results. 
  • unprecedented returns on investment with visible results. 

The Retail Doctor Academy’s tri-skill approach is a blended learning program that focuses on face-to-face, online academy, and webinar sessions to deliver relevant, case-specific content that’s traditional enough to seamlessly integrate into your existing culture, while also modernising employees’ approaches to common customer challenges they may encounter. 

Our “Fit for Business™” methodologies include Limbic Insights™, our proprietary program that’ll give you real insights into your customers’ behaviours, drivers, and motivations with a focus on the importance (and relevance) of creating customer profiles and using big data to map your customers’ journeys.  

Face-to-Face Training 

This interactive approach fosters hands-on learning, scenario-based role-playing, and personalised feedback. Imagine a new sales team huddled around a seasoned floor manager, learning the intricacies of a new product launch. This immediate engagement allows for real-time clarification, fosters team building, and allows experienced staff to impart valuable knowledge. 

David Jones, a leading Australian luxury retailer, exemplifies the power of face-to-face training. Their “Retail Excellence Program” features interactive workshops led by industry experts. New staff undergo product knowledge immersion sessions, where they learn about the brand’s history, materials, and craftsmanship.  This personalised approach empowers staff to deliver exceptional customer service and position themselves as brand ambassadors. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to face-to-face training. Each retailer – and their training needs – differ. To identify your critical skill shortages and training needs, The Retail Doctor Academy experts talk to both your shopfloor and head office employees to find a common ground that facilitates team-building, while also minimising the traditional downtime found in other training sessions. 

Online Academy 

Flexible and accessible, The Retail Doctor Academy empowers your team to continue learning at a manageable and trackable pace. Modules can cover a wide range of topics, from Workplace Health and Safety regulations to the latest point-of-sale systems, from AI-related skill-building to data management principles. Think bite-sized videos and tutorials your staff can access on their phones during breaks, or in-depth eLearning modules they can continue learning, even when away from their desks or travelling for business. 

Webinar Sessions 

Webinars offer a cost-effective way to connect with industry leaders and learn from the comfort of your store or office. Additionally, webinars often provide a safe space for employees to voice their concerns and needs, while also delivering impactful Q&A sessions that foster engagement and the exchange of knowledge. 

The Retail Doctor Academy’s live sessions include a focus on the latest AI applications in retail, trends and industry updates, and the future of technology in retail – all without leaving your desk! 

Why The Retail Doctor Academy’s Tri-Skill Approach Works So Well 

The most effective approach to modern day learning combines all three interactive methods of training. This includes a comprehensive onboarding program that starts with a face-to-face induction, followed by online product knowledge modules, webinars, and your own bespoke modules. Individualised coaching sessions are also available for those who may need additional help with navigating their soft skills competencies.

The Retail Doctor Academy is a Learning Management System (LMS) that hosts The Retail Doctor Group’s “Fit for Business™” modules, as well as a complete library of best practice Retail Skills learning and development content – designed to educate best practice retail and maximise team member performance.

Browse The Retail Doctor Academy course library now. Create your own approach to technical, human-centric, and conceptual elements of your business to get a truly bespoke approach to your training needs.

Discover how The Retail Doctor Academy’s bespoke training program can help you achieve double-digit growth with learning content specifically tailored to your brand. This blended approach caters to different learning styles, reinforces knowledge retention, and ensures your team is well-equipped to navigate the ever-evolving and dynamic retail landscape. 

Why wait? Leverage bespoke training for your team and start your learning journey with The Retail Doctor Academy today.

Schedule a consult with The Retail Doctor Academy’s training experts! Contact Simon Neilson at simon@retaildoctor.com.au or +61 2 9460 2882 now.