Retail Training Tip: 10 Training Methods for Improving Employee Skills

Retailers have long relied on the old standby of on-the-job training to get their new team members up to speed on everything from product knowledge to retail selling skills to policies and procedures.

They utilize this method of training because it is perceived as being cost effective – after all, there are no costs associated with hiring a trainer and the employee is able to hit the sales floor immediately. 

But there are real costs associated with only utilizing this mode of training.  This included lost productivity for existing employees who have to correct mistakes, lost revenue due to poor retail selling skills, lost profits due to operational mistakes, as well as poor customer experience.

Additionally, the fact is that different people learn in different ways.  Therefore you will want to leverage multiple training methods in order communicate retail skills and to get the best training result.  With that in mind, let’s quickly explore 10 other training methods that are not only cost effective but impactful as well!

1.       Checklists – A perfect tool to keep new hires and existing team members on-track for their training.  A real time saver as retail leaders don’t have to worry about what is the next training activity.  Allows retail reps to stay on track.

2.       Reading and Workbooks – Many times your store leaders may be engaged with customers or other tasks.  This is a great time to have new hires work on self-directed retail training activities.  These are low cost and keep the trainee focused on their training.

3.       Job Shadowing / Observation – The power of a positive example is extremely strong.  Show your team members how to do things the right way by letting them observe your best retail reps in action!  Just make sure that you then let them practice what they have learned.

4.       Role Playing – You know the old saying…”practice makes perfect.”  Nowhere is that more true than with sales training.  After having your team members watch you in action, have them practice, practice, and practice some more.

5.       On-line Courses – Web-based retail training courses are a perfect way to consistently communicate your standards, practices, product knowledge, and retail sales training.  Team members can complete them between customers in a self-directed manner and you can track results via the web.  E-learning tends to make every other training lever more efficient as well!

6.       Webinars – When you need to communicate new information quickly a webinar is the perfect method.  Team members can log-in from any remote location with internet access and view PowerPoint decks, video content, and listen to your training message.  Just like retail e-learning you will know that your training message has been delivered the same way to all of your retail reps.

7.       Classroom Training – Many retailers overlook this training lever because it can leave the stores under-covered and it can be expensive to reimbursed team members for mileage.  But when you need to ensure that a message is delivered nothing beats being able to look an employee in the eye.  And there are few better ways to get reps energized than an old fashioned sales rally!

8.       Training Videos – Do you want to deliver product training? Whether they are delivered on-line or via DVD, videos are a great way to deliver a consistent training message about your product’s features and benefits.  Just remember to tie-in retail sales training concepts at the same time! 

9.       Social Networks – For many retailers, the average age of an employee is less than 25 and that means that they are very comfortable with communicating via twitter, text, and facebook.  Practice communicating a daily training message in 140 characters on twitter or text message!

10.   On-the-Job – We have reviewed 9 other retail training methods.  But that does not mean that we want to ignore our old standby.  OTJ allows retail reps to practice what they have learned.  The key to success is observing their behavior and then providing praise or corrective action as they work.

Do you need assistance with designing your retail training program?  Could you use updated retail training content?  If so, contact us for a free one-hour consultation and needs assessment!

–          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