In the competitive world of retail, training your associates and managers is essential to building and maintaining the right customer experience that supports your brand. Kennedy Communications has had the privilege of working with a number of leading global retailers on a variety of training initiatives. We’ve developed a collection of best practices in retail training as a result of these programs. If you have any additions to this list, please leave us a comment and we’ll update as appropriate.

1. Simplify processes
Concept: Clearly define all processes and keep them simple.
Example: Process training can be overwhelming, and if the processes are too complicated they will not be followed. It is also useful to include memory devices such as acronyms or metaphors to assist retention.

2. Time-release learning
Concept: Break learning down into manageable chunks; spread information delivery over time to avoid bombarding associates with too much, too fast.
Example: A series of short online learning sessions followed by defined exercises and manager/mentor check-in to reinforce and validate learning.

3. Evaluate ROI
Concept: Evaluate depth of training program by Return On Investment (ROI).
Example: Base the investment in training on the predictable longevity of the associate and the ROI that will be realized from the cost of training. Also, deliver training in forms that require minimal involvement from other team members to decrease labor costs associated with training.

4. Keep associates on sales floor
Concept: Take associates out of the workspace for as little time as possible.
Example: Design training that can be done in between regular work responsibilities on the sales floor or will only take the associate off the floor for short (15 minute) intervals.

5. Deliver training on demand
Deliver training using vehicles that are available on demand for immediate learning and usage of new tools.
Use video, computer-based training, and self-guided workbooks, as opposed to structured classes that may cause a delay in learning due to scheduling.

6. Align with advancement and competency models
Concept: Align training components with a model that reinforces and supports steps and stages.
Example: Associates will see that investing in their own trainingᅠwill better qualify them for future advancement.

7. Use job aids
Concept: Provide job aids in theᅠwork environment to concepts rolled out in training.
Example: Provide workflow or process posters, flash cards and summary sheets for associates to use on the sales floor or in the back-of-store.

8. Incentivize learning
Concept: Support learning culture by tying incentives to ongoing learning opportunities.
Example: Create a points program or reward structure to motivate and encourage training program involvement.

9. Follow up
Concept: Follow delivery of training content with exercises and evaluations to validate and reinforce learning.
Example: Check back with the manager/mentor after a training session to review and support the learning.

10. Provide mentoring
Concept: Offer structured communication and mentoring/coaching processes.
Example: Many organizations find it useful to provide a mentor for a new associate that may not be their direct manager.

11. Show commitment
Concept: Develop formalized (or branded) training program that clearly demonstrates the business commitment to learning.
Example: A “corporate university” or other recognized program can effectively show a commitment to a strong learning culture. This can also be used as a recruiting tool for associates looking for a job that offers development opportunities.

12. Communicate program goals
Concept: Develop and roll out company-wide communication about training programs, opportunities, changes and announcements.
Example: Communicate with associates via learning portals, education update emails and bulletin boards displaying training updates in stores.

13. Track efforts
Concept: Track module/course completion.
Example: This can be as formal as a Web-based Learning Management System (LMS) or as simple as a checklist for associates and managers, but is very important in assuring compliance.

14. Enable associates to hit the ground running
Concept: Focus training for new hires on being able to use tools and content immediately.
Example: Within their first days on the job, associates should be able to see they can add value.

15. Encourage self-assessment
Concept: Create and provide self-assessment tools to all associates so they can monitor their progress and choose ongoing training courses that fit their skill development needs.
Example: Assessing performance and skills at regular intervals can also trigger additional motivation to stay with the company and to continue to develop professionally.

About Kurt Kennedy

Kurt founded Kennedy Communications in 1988 as a media production company. Since then, Kennedy Global has evolved into the leading internal-external brand alignment agency. Kurt and his team create strategic business solutions that align a company’s external customer promise with an engaged internal culture that generates tremendous results at every level of an organization. Kurt and his team have created strategic programs for some of the world’s most recognized brands including Intel, Nike, Office Depot, Starbucks, Albertsons, Adobe, Dell, LensCrafters, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Unilever and many others. In addition to consulting with clients, Kurt frequently serves as a speaker and facilitator at a variety of business events around the world including strategy sessions with executive leadership teams, interactive workshops and training sessions at corporate summits, and keynote presentations at industry events. Kurt earned his BA in Mass Communications from Walla Walla University. He enjoys traveling in his spare time.