By Josh Strutt
Business & Strategy Consultant – Deployment, Retail Doctor Group

It’s no surprise that the Australian retail industry has faced a high degree of instability as a result of the pandemic: stores shutting their doors and then re-opening (and for some states happening again and again)Job Seeker and Job Keeper payments (which ends on 28th March 2021)stock challengesthe list goes on.  Despite these challenges, Retail Trade remains Australia’s second largest employing industry, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Recent trading results look quite strong in many sectors with retail spending in January, 10.6% higher than the same month in 2020, according to the latest figures revealed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – and at the heart of all this changeas in any retail business, is the most important asset, our people.   

Over the last few months, as retail navigates its way to the other side of the pandemic and beyond, businesses are looking to new ways of working and re-building a smarter and more efficient workforce. “Retail is and always will be a predominantly people business,” states Brian Walker, CEO and founder of Retail Doctor Group.   

Now we all know that employees in any business want to be nurtured, feel valued, motivated and developed – and in return they will contribute more, smash their goals and strive for brilliance at every turn. It is no surprise then, that retailers are investing in upskilling and developing their people, now more than ever before. Think about the top 10 bricks-and-mortar retailers globally, and it will become very apparent – they all have a people edge, Brian Walker also adds.  

The question is, how seriously do we really invest in our people, from senior leadership development to on the floor coaching sessions? 

David Rumbens, Deloitte Access Economics partner, states that “whilst technology is driving change in the way we work, and the work we do, it’s ultimately not a substitute for people.” Rumbens goes on to comment that, Today, the average worker is missing nearly 2 of the 18 critical skills advertised for a job, equating to 23 million skills shortages across the economy.” 

Last month, Woolworths announced a significant funding investment of $50 million to upskill its team to prepare them for the retail industry of the future.  As Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci shares, “Around the globe, retail is changing at the fastest pace we’ve seen in many decades.” With this in mind, we need to change the way we manage our workforce and view training and development as a necessity, not an expense that impacts our bottom line or a tickthebox exercise. 

SHRM estimates that the average replacement cost of a salaried employee to be 6 to 9 months’ their salarynot to mention the loss in sales and margin degradation. Thus, it makes sense to focus on retaining the ones you do have.   

So where to invest and why? How should a retail business maximise their investment in the right type of training for their workforce?    

The number one requirement is attitude. If your recipient isn’t interested in being trained or coachedthen save your investment. Attitude will determine the training ROI every time.   

The second necessity is goal setting and measuring the outcomes you want your training to deliver.  Training without measurement and improvement is like pouring money into a large hole. 

And thirdly, blended learning, engaging the learner’s senses is the most potent, albeit often the greatest investment and particularly necessary for senior team membersCombining online modules with classroom training, followed by one-on-one coaching for further retention and followup is key.   

Nevertheless, for those large retail distribution networks, focusing solely on online learning is by far the most cost effective and simplest way to upskill your workforce. Here are five reasons why:  

  1. It’s efficient  You can condense hours of material into a 20-to-30minute online module that your learners can access anytime and anywhere, from any device.
  2. Caters to all learning styles – We all learn differently. Some learners learn with visuals, whilst others are auditory and prefer to learn by listening to the trainer.  Online learning allows you to satisfy all learning styles with voiceovers, videos, activities and a variety of other interactive techniques.
  3. Track and train – Encourage participation with real time reporting and notifications.
  4. Greater retention  Your learners can go back and review the content as many times as they like. Content is broken down into digestible bitesmaking it easier to retain the information.
  5. Consistency – Delivering the same message across multiple channels and locations allows you to reach more employees or altering the same module multiple times to cater to a variety of audiences and assign different users to a course. The flexibility with online learning modules is vast and the opportunities are endless. 

Finally, whichever strategy you choose is right for your peoplejust remember, the pay off your business will receive from investing in your people’s development far outweighs the decision not to train.   

Sylvia Katiforis is Head of RDG Training Academy at Retail Doctor Group and can be reached on 0428 515 536