I vividly remember an old television game show called Name that Tune in which contestants would guess how many notes it would take them to recognize a song when played.

The goal was to bid on the lowest number of notes that would lead to success in naming the tune and winning the game. A few years back, I was reminded of that game show when creating various versions of a retail sales course that evolved from a three-day instructor led course. Here is a brief timeline of the evolution.

retail training

Evolution of Retail Training

Ground Zero – The client was delivering a three-day field sales training using accelerated learning techniques and facilitated activities.

First Evolution – Create a two-day classroom training for corporate owned store sales associates and standardize the design so anyone could teach the course given the appropriate instructor guide and classroom materials. Why? To reduce the amount of time sales associates were off the sales floor and so the course could be taught by anyone.

Second Evolution – Create a one-day classroom training covering critical information for dealer operated store sales associates. Why? To reduce the amount of time sales associates were off the sales floor.

Third Evolution – Create a one-hour in-store training to be delivered by the store managers that would allow the store manager a degree of flexibility to focus on specific phases of the sales process. Why? To reduce the amount of time sales associates were off the sales floor.

Fourth Evolution – Create a series of 15-minute activities to be facilitated by the store manager that would be selected based on priority skills to be improved. Why? To reinforce sales skills and reduce the amount of time sales associates were off the sales floor.

Do you see a pattern? The same material, repurposed four times to basically meet one goal – to reduce the amount of time sales associates were off the sales floor. If we follow the evolution to its natural conclusion we might be looking at a 15-minute eLearning, five-minute mLearning, or JIT on the floor coaching.

Influenced by Environment

The evolution described in this article does not imply the earlier forms of training formats were not effective – simply that in the retail environment, like manufacturing, time away from the job is a major consideration.

With every training solution comes certain pros and cons. For example, offering short bursts of eLearning may be deemed a perfect training solution because it ensures consistent delivery of content to all employees. But, it also raises questions about technology access and if employees are given time on the job to complete the training or if they are expected to complete the training off-shift – and whether employees get paid for training time if they do complete it off-shift.

Different Retail Training for Different Sized Stores

The training solution for a big box store is most likely very different than for an independent retailer. In future posts, we’ll be exploring various training methods appropriate for the retail environment, so stay tuned.