Continuing our series of industry reports following Learning Technologies 2022, we turn our attention to retail – a sector that is awash with post-pandemic potential. This blog looks at the three key insights for L&D professionals in retail to consider to help satisfy current needs and ensure future success.
Setting the scene.
The necessity to rapidly onboard employees, high staff turnover rate, vital need for compliance and soft-skill training, and awareness of customer behaviour means that retailers have always recognised the value of good training. Even before phrases such as ‘a culture of learning’ became common parlance beyond L&D circles, retail organisations were exploring ways of optimising training for their employees.
To an extent, retail’s focus on L&D helped it weather the disruptions caused by COVID-19. However, a perfect storm of supply chain issues, furlough, and changing shopping patterns has made the post-pandemic world ‘the most turbulent and destructive period for the retail industry since the Second World War’.
Overall, the picture is mixed – some retail businesses are booming; others may never recover. While retail in 2022 is awash with opportunity, perennial issues such as low engagement have been turbocharged by the pandemic. With the sector at a crossroads, it is up to L&D practitioners to understand how to cater for a younger workforce, leverage learning analytics, and create sustainable strategies to retain talent.
Off the back of conversations and talks at Learning Technologies, we have assembled the following insights to aid key L&D decision makers within the retail sector. They are summarised below and explored in more detail in the following insight report.
Insight One: A younger workforce presents challenges and opportunities for the retail sector.
Against a backdrop of rapid technological change and dispersed teams, many retailers a struggling to deliver learning to time-pressed, young employees. Onboarding and continuous learning are vital, but employees struggle to take time away from their daily jobs to learn.
In place of this disruptiveness, many in the sector are turning to micro-learning to deliver learning ‘in the flow of work’. These short, concise, blocks of information can be accessed on the user’s own device, to deliver learning in a moment of need. Given the fact that Gen-Z tend to consume information in a highly distilled way, micro-learning may well become their favourite type of L&D content.
It is important to note that micro-learning should not be the only form of content within an L&D strategy. However, when it is deployed correctly, as is the case with Sponge’s range of Skill Pill content, micro-learning can maximise the impact of other content types to support behavioural change within an organisation. Introducing micro-learning creates the functionality to deliver different types of learning experiences – this isn’t based on the length of the experience, but more about having the information that is needed in the moment that it’s needed.
Insight Two: Robust analytics will help L&D professionals make sense of critical learning data.
The ongoing threat to training budgets, because of various issues including rising inflation post-COVID, means that it is more vital than ever for L&D practitioners to use data to justify learning strategy. Repeatedly at Learning Technologies 2022, we heard of the importance of using data to link content to individuals and individual performance to overall ROI.
As well as giving L&D practitioners a seat at the table with key decision makers, data can help highlight gaps in knowledge that lead to negative on-the-job behaviours that put the company and employees at risk. By understanding how employees are answering questions, it becomes easy to identify blind spots and take prompt remedial action.
It is this level of focus, which is the driving force behind Sponge’s data processing technology. This provides a single, collated view of risk, behavioural change, and culture, allowing for quick iterations and improvements. Within retail, L&D practitioners can rapidly make sense of critical data and take evasive actions where needed.
Insight Three: Sustainable L&D strategies are essential for retaining talent in the retail sector.
COVID-19 has certainly turbocharged digital transformation within retail, with terms such as AR, VR, and Machine Learning becoming more common within the sector. However, despite the partial adoption of this tech, retail faces a continual challenge of reacting in a sustainable manner, particularly given the large-scale impact of the Great Resignation on the sector.
Within this context, sustainability deals with businesses becoming more effective by building on the workforce skills they already have, rather than looking elsewhere for talent. Knowing the skills that are in place, being aware of the gaps, and defining the requirements, saves effort, cost, and unnecessary consumables, all the while empowering individuals.
Given statistics such as the fact that 52% of all activities in retail could be automated with existing technology, practitioners must take practical steps to avoid large-scale digital disruptions. Rather than focusing on the buzzwords, L&D should drill down into an organisation’s unique challenges and skill gaps.
How can Sponge help?
At Sponge, we have a proven track record of meeting the needs of the retail sector. From our off-the-shelf micro-learning that is ideally suited to meeting the needs of Gen-Z, to our preoccupation with data and talent retention, we are experts in developing bespoke solutions to meet the industry’s present and future challenges.
Author: Tom Griffiths, Learning Experience Consultant, Sponge.