Article featured on Issue 05 of Insight Retail Magazine link: http://www.insightretails.com/
INTRODUCTION RETAIL TRAINING
One of the many questions that I keep wondering about, especially when I look at several successful retailers with fairly modest education backgrounds is “Are Retailers born or made?” There are several very prominent and founding fathers of Retail trade in the world that did not get an MBA or such academic tags and yet they are quoted in Business Journals all over. In Kenya here we have a number of Retail “gurus” that would compete comfortably in any Economy. That leads to my next puzzle “Can you create a Retailer?” Like all professions, there are fundamental characteristics or personality profile that would be ideal for a leader in Retail. For example, a Retailer has to be very patient, able to operate long hours, meet different people positively and be able to handle all kinds of money (in the past they used to bank like ksh10,000/- in 1/- and in fifty cents denominations).
In the present age however, Retail has developed systematically to the point that you can professionally separate the specific functions that combine to make it complete. People are now specializing in various aspects of Retail – like merchandising, customer service, marketing, supply chain, category management, marketing, floor selling and many others. Because of this, the staffs of Retail now qualify for training, subsequent performance appraisal and YES you can create a RETAILER.
WHY TRAIN STAFF
Although Training is a costly exercise, there are several reasons why it should be undertaken by the Retailer, especially now when our consumers are very enlightened and know what they want out of an outlet. Decision makers know that Training has direct impact on the bottom line, and this generally slows decisions on whether to train or not. In the present age, this is an investment that cannot be ignored.
- In addition to the above, Retailer should train for the following reasons:
- Increase productivity – your staff get to know what they are expected to do
- For Performance Management – helps you to set standards for performance
- For Consistency in Product Quality and Service – no mistakes
- For Employee Retention – empowered and motivated
- To be Competitive – be in line with the market
- To Remain Current and Relevant – not to be left behind with “fashion” and demand shifts
- Social Responsibility – improve society
WHO SHOULD CONDUCT TRAINING?
I give credit to many Retail organizations for setting up active Human Resource Management Departments to manage the Human Capital, and also to spearhead the Training activities. Most Retail Organizations look outside for trainers, who come perform their one or two day action and move on. It is fundamental that Training is supported from within; especially the CEOs personal seal has to be evident for it to be effective in the long run.
- Yes! Get the professional trainers from outside, but ensure the total participation of the following from within the organization:
- Senior Company Management – especially CEO
- Management and Team Leaders
- Fellow Staff members/Team members
- Technical Specialist for specific activities
Let training be a continuous activity in the Retailer’s strategy. Let the cost be a secondary consideration. BUT PLEASE BE INVOLVED IN THE TRAINING.
SOME TYPES OF TRAINING
There are many types of training that is open to the Retailer, depending on the stage of staff development. Some are listed here below:
- Functional Training – This is the foundation training for all members of staff, it can be in the form of orientation, information or general introduction to operations of the organization. If this is not done, you will have staff that lack direction, they may end up being inducted by others who may have already developed bad habit and shortcuts. Ideally needs to be conducted by Internal staff, but can be supplemented by outside trainers on specific areas like Customer Service
- Management Training – This is the type where you equip your managers with specific skills that will enable performance monitoring and implementation of controls. For any staff to be promoted to the next level, they need to be subjected to this type of training. This training is very specific and would generally require an expert from outside at least to start the process. But it is important that managers within the Retail are allocated designated duties that will ensure that skills imparted by the trainer are adhered to and successfully implemented.
- Technical Training – There are specific technical jobs in the Retail where you are supposed to recruit staff that are already qualified and possess the skills you need – for example IT, Maintenance, Finance and many others. However, you may have some junior staff that has the potential, but not the qualification. You can train such and fit them into specific positions. You may also have Technical requirements for growth – ISO standards etc – such require technical training
CAUTION ON TRAINING
The Retailer needs some caution on Training; otherwise it will be a waste of resources. After Training, it is important to provide the right environment for application of skills acquired through this training. If this does not happen, the Retailer will lose staff to competitors or even to total different industries. Training opens the minds of staff and sometimes gives them courage to demand some rights (that is the reason why some Retailers avoid it) Therefore after an effective training, the Retailer should be prepared to accommodate staff with higher skills.
In addition to the above, the Retailer should be aware of the following:
- Provide the Right Training that takes account of:
- The need for a skill
- The absence of a skill
- Provide Employees with skills they currently need but do not have
- Provide skills that are in line with your organizations vision and strategy
- Do not provide skills that simply drive your trained staff to competition
- Establish if the challenges facing you is “A WON’T DO” or “A CAN’T DO” situation
TRAINING NEEDS ANALYSIS
- The primary step in training for the Retailer is the Training Needs Analysis which should address the following issues:
- What skills do your employees require?
- Match your skills inventory to your staff
- Identify the skills gap/gaps
- Decide whether the gaps can be satisfactorily filled by internal training and who can do this?
- Search for external relevant trainers that can provide skills for those identified gaps
WHY TRAINING FAILS?
Many Retailers complain of bad training experiences, to the point that they are not interested in any further activities. Several reasons can be given for such lack of success, apart from the quality of the provider. I have identified some as follows:
- No commitment from top management – is there evidence to the staff of top management support to the training activity? Is top management willing to change and accommodate the new skills level?
- Wrong TNA – Was the need there in the first place?
- No follow up to the training – If training was done by an outside Trainer, do they come back to check progress, and if they do is management listening?
- No commitment from the trainees – What criteria did you use in selecting trainees, and does the training lead to improvement of status?
- Very low budgets therefore poor quality of training
- “WON’T DO SYNDROME” – Sometimes your staff are simply rebellious, they know what they are supposed to do but they “WON’T DO.” In that case training will not help, look for another method
Finally, it is important to appreciate what our Government does to assist industries to improve performance. Through National Training Authority, your training will be subsidized to the level of your contribution. Most Retailers have been contributing less than their employees and are therefore not able to claim any reasonable reimbursement. This contribution is a statutory deduction and it is for your total benefit.
Training keeps you smiling to your customers!
Chief Trainer and Proprietor
Distribution Management Systems Ltd (DMS Ltd)
email@example.com Cell – 0722726055
Issue 05 of Insight Retail Magazine is now available online from link: http://www.insightretails.com/ ; just click on the cover page and read online.
One of the long-standing theories of retailing is that the customer is always right. Managers and floor staff will discourse for hours trying to convince others to their side of this argument. The facts are clear and there is a definitive and absolute answer to this age-old query.
The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909, and is typically used by businesses to:
- Convince customers that they will get good service at this company
- Convince employees to give customers good service maybe even fear them
Fortunately more and more retailers are abandoning this maxim – ironically because it leads to bad customer service. So is the customer always right?
A customer walks into the alcohol counter of the store, red eyed and in a total foul mood. He goes straight to the counter salesman, grabs him by the shirt and shouts: “You sold me a lousy drink for lousy money, give me back my money or I beat you!” His food store then opens and all the mixture (alcohol, roast meet etc) contained there floods the young man and his counter!
A cashier to the customer: “Sorry sir, but we don’t have coins; can I offer you sweets or a matchbox instead?”
Customer takes the sweets, throws them on the cashiers face and uses very abusive language, walks out and leaves the whole shopping, to the disgust of staff and shoppers.
So, is the Customer always right? Five reasons why this is not always the case:
- When It makes employees unhappy
- When it gives abrasive customers an unfair advantage
- Some customers are just bad for business
- When it results in worse customer service from the staff
- Some customers are just plain wrong
The fact is that some customers are just plain wrong, those businesses are better of without them, and that managers siding with unreasonable customers over employees is a very bad idea, that results in worse customer service. So put your people first. And watch them put the customers first.
In conclusion, it is important to observe the adage that “CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS KING”. The King may be wrong but will always remain KING.
JASPER OUMA – firstname.lastname@example.org, 0722726055
CHIEF TRAINER AT DMS RETAIL TRAINERS