Get the Most from Your Retail Training Budget by using Blended Learning Techniques

One of the concerns that we hear from many retail sales managers is that when they invest in training seminars, keynote addresses, and other short-term training projects they fail to see any type of long-term return on their investment.   Sure, there is a spike in sales activity and revenue, but it typically lasts less than 90 days.  Then you either have to bring everyone off of the retail floor again or accept the less than desirable retail sales results.  This phenomenon creates a reticence to make further investments in the on-going training of retail sales representatives and store managers.

So is the issue the training content?  The quality of the presentation?  Or maybe the follow-up plan from the management team?

All of these can have an impact, but the real issue is the lack of a long-term and ongoing approach to training.  The most successful retailers have a culture that requires retail employees to be trained – whether on products, selling skills, or operational skills – each and every month!  So how do they accomplish this and not blow the retail training budget?  The answer is the use of “blended learning” techniques.

Blended learning refers to the use of multiple training tactics to reach your audience.  And because many of them take advantage of web-based training techniques the retailer gets the benefit of lower training costs, improved training consistency, and better follow-up on training activity.  These tactics can include:

·         Instructor-led Classroom Training:  Often, the classroom experience is a cornerstone of a blended learning experience.  When expert trainers and facilitators are used an instructor-led retail training experience can yield effective results.  The key is to ensure that there are role-playing and action planning components along with a reinforcement plan to keep the training relevant and top-of-mind once it is completed.

·         Virtual Classroom or Webinar Training: Virtual Classroom events are a convenient way to experience direct interaction with an experienced trainer without the costs associated with travel to off-site classroom locations.  This method of training retail personnel is cost effective while still offering many of the benefits of face-to-face delivery. 

·         Self-Paced E-Learning:  E-learning programs leverage the power of the Internet to deliver professionally developed retail training courses directly to the employee.  Because this training is delivered at the store and in manageable portions the employee can remain focused on sales productivity.  Retail e-learning has the added advantages of always being delivered the same way every time and of being able to deliver multimedia content including video, audio, and printed job aids.  We often recommend using e-learning for delivery of base-level training prior to having retail employees attend classroom training.

·         Mobile Learning and Social Networks:  Whether it is through Podcasts or video segments delivers to a smartphone or iPad, mobile learning is another way to reach your training audience.  When combined with the implementation of private social networks, these are low cost ways to deliver training messages to your team for hot products, promotions, or other new concepts.

   

All of the above Blended Learning components can be used as standalone training methods, but when they are combined into a complete package they allow companies to train retail employees effectively an to solve the problem of creating a long-term impact from your retail training investment.

-          David Goodwin is the Principal of the Retail Advocacy Group.  As a 30 year veteran of the retail industry he has hired, trained, and performance managed thousands of retail sales representatives and retail managers.  You can learn more about instructor-led, e-learning, and other training solutions for retailers at www.retailertrainingservices.com.