Picture your best business day. Your retail operation is humming right along: customers are pouring in, eager and full of questions, and your associates are right there ready with answers. Shopping carts are full, and you can just feel the sales numbers surging. Your stores are running smooth as silk, welcoming for both customers and associates alike. It’s a pretty satisfying image. The question is, how do you get there?
Most would immediately go to things like the right lighting, background music, attractive displays and well-stocked shelves. But those are just table stakes in today’s competitive retail world. The real answer is by investing in building the expertise of your retail associates. A workforce that’s engaged and knowledgeable will make smart decisions and be ambassadors for your organization’s brand. And they’ll become your secret weapon, if you give them what they need to be successful.
So you might think, “Okay, I get it. I need to give my associates more training.” But it’s not that cut and dry. “More” training won’t work if it isn’t done in a way that helps associates grow, sustain and apply their knowledge on the job. Simply reaching for an old-style tool in the training arsenal — the Learning Management System (LMS) — won’t equip your associates with the knowledge or skills they need to win the battle against the competition. Here’s why:
The LMS Simply Wasn’t Built For Retail Training
Learning Management Systems were designed to deliver classroom-style learning for distance education. And they’re great for that purpose. The focus is on completing a bunch of courses, getting a diploma, and then moving on to “the real world.”
But your retail associates are already in the real world. And their world is always changing. To keep up with new products, promotions and policies, learning happens daily. A single course doesn’t make sense. Plus, your associates work in shifts; they’re on their feet; and they’re on the move. Pulling them off the floor for hours of training is a logistical nightmare, not to mention incredibly expensive.
The LMS Doesn’t Engage Today’s Employees
Think about who’s on your payroll. Your part-time staff likely consists largely of Millennials and upcoming Generation Z’s. This age group is used to having content delivered in quick, bite-sized, often catchy formats. Google is their go-to source and they’re adept at finding whatever information they need, whenever they need it.
The LMS provides the completely opposite experience. While an LMS-based course can be viewed on a mobile device, it doesn’t get around the fact that your associates won’t want to sit for hours viewing lengthy, linear course content on a tiny smartphone screen. They’ll tune out, stop watching and won’t remember most of it in a month’s time. So what’s the point?
The LMS Can’t Help Associates Answer Questions On The Fly
Your associates deal with customers who look up product information online before they ever set foot in your store. To add value to a retail transaction, associates need to have access to up-to-date information on the latest processes, promotions and products at the click of a button.
Learning Management Systems weren’t designed for real-time information sharing or data retrieval. It would be impossible for associates to go back into an LMS and find course content quickly enough to help a customer or handle a complaint. Add to this the fact that the LMS gathers limited data, like who has logged into the system and what courses they’ve taken, and this means you can’t understand what associates actually know, if they’re actually performing on the job and how to provide the best support.
Finding A Learning Solution That Actually Works In Retail
The good news is retailers no longer have to be relegated to antiquated systems to keep their associates up to speed. There are now tools out there that were purpose-built for retail to make associates smarter and more engaged. Associates can take a few minutes of training every shift during downtime via a POS or mobile device, without having to leave the floor. And the content is served up in micro-sized chunks through short, fun games that keep associates’ attention. Plus, managers can see what information associates know or don’t know to help coach them along.
The best part is, these tools work to build your associates’ knowledge and expertise so you can provide the highest level of service that keeps customers coming back. It’s no longer a dream. Your best business day is closer than you think.
Carol Leaman is the CEO of Axonify Inc., a disruptor in the corporate learning space and innovator behind the world’s first Employee Knowledge Platform — proven to increase employee knowledge and performance necessary for achieving targeted business results.