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Online modules are a cost-effective way to train multiple staff across stores.
Online modules are a cost-effective way to train multiple staff across stores.

Why staff training matters most in the changing retail environment

While the retail industry has remained resilient in the face of the COVID-19 upheaval, the past 12 months have illustrated the importance of staff training, writes JOSH STRUTT.

The Australian retail industry has faced a high degree of instability as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, from closing and re-opening over and over, to navigating government payments and disruptions to supply chains and stock availability.

Despite these challenges, retail remains the country’s second-largest employing industry, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and recent retail turnover reports have shown positive trends.

At the heart of all this change is retail’s most important asset – people.

As Brian Walker, CEO Retail Doctor Group, explains, “Retail is and always will be a predominantly ‘people’ business. Think about the top 10 bricks-and-mortar retailers globally, and it becomes very apparent – they all have the ‘people’ edge.”

Indeed, as the retail industry 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.

For example, Woolworths announced a significant investment of $50 million to prepare its workforce for the retail industry of the future; as Brad Banducci, CEO Woolworths Group, said, “Around the globe, retail is changing at the fastest pace we’ve seen in many decades.”

With this in mind, retail businesses of all sizes must change the way they manage the workforce, viewing training and development as a necessity rather than a ‘box-ticking’ exercise.

Finding focus
“Retail businesses of all sizes must change the way they manage the workforce, viewing training and development as a necessity rather than a ‘box-ticking’ exercise.”

Employees in any business want to feel valued, motivated and developed; in return, they contribute more, achieve their goals and strive for brilliance at every turn.

The question is, how seriously do retail business owners really invest in their staff, from senior leadership to the sales floor?

David Rumbens, a partner at Deloitte Access Economics, says, “While technology is driving change in the way we work, and the work we do, it’s ultimately not a substitute for people,” warning that there is a large skills shortage across the workforce.

Some may say the answer is in hiring new staff. However, it is estimated that the average replacement cost of a salaried employee is the equivalent of six to nine months of their salary.

Thus, it makes financial sense for businesses to focus on improving the skills of their existing employees.

So, how should a retail business maximise their investment in the right type of training for their workforce?

Business priorities

The number-one requirement when it comes to training staff is attitude; if the employee isn’t interested in being coached, save your time and money! Attitude will determine the training return-on- investment every time.

The second necessity is goal setting and measuring the outcomes that the training should deliver, as training without measurable improvement is like pouring money into a black hole.

Finally, blended learning that engages the employee’s senses is the most potent form of training and particularly necessary for senior staff. It involves combining online modules with classroom-style training, one-on-one coaching for further retention and follow-ups with the trainee.

However, blended learning it is often financially-intensive.

Take it online

Fortunately, when blended learning isn’t feasible, online modules can be a simple and cost-effective way to train staff. Here are some of the benefits:

Allows for efficiency – Trainers can condense hours of material into a 20–30-minute module that learners can access any time from any device.

Caters to all learning styles – Online learning combines visual and auditory components, with voice-overs, videos, activities and other interactive techniques to keep learners engaged.

Makes tracking progress simple – Real- time reporting and notifications mean trainers can easily track learners’ success, while learners can see their progress which also keeps them engaged.

Improves knowledge retention – Learners can review the content as many times as they like. At the same time, content is broken down into digestible ‘bites’ of information, making it easier to retain.

Keeps training consistent – Online modules allow trainers to deliver the same message across multiple channels and locations, reaching more employees and ensuring they are trained consistently. Modules can also be altered quickly and easily, giving trainers flexibility.

Whichever strategy business owners employ to train staff – so long as staff have the right attitude and measurable goals – the results far outweigh the cost.



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Josh Strutt

Contributor • Retail Doctor Group

Josh Strutt is Retail Doctor Group’s strategy analyst. His background is in maximising operational efficiency to drive growth. Visit:

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