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The Key to Employee Development in Retail

by Brandon Brooks

One of the greatest opportunities of my professional career happened when an organization took a chance and allowed me to take on roles and challenges that, on paper, I was nowhere near qualified for. I have a degree in music performance, but it was a stint as a part-time sales associate that started my journey into corporate retail. As my responsibilities grew, I transitioned to a project team that developed the sales strategy and processes that were ultimately rolled out for an entire channel of sales professionals at one of the largest retailers in the world.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Moving into a leadership role has given me reason for pause and reflection into the kinds of choices that I must make within my own hiring process. Mainly, looking into the key characteristics and personality traits that I embody that gave my leadership team the confidence to take a chance on me. Why and how could they possibly know or trust that I was equipped to not only achieve, but also exceed the expectations of these different roles?

My current interpretation of the answer to this question is that my company’s selection process was focused on finding people with values that personified their culture. They wanted a personal brand representation that corresponded to their own strategic vision and individuals who are motivated through alignment with the organization’s higher purpose.

The ability to prioritize these traits isn’t a common find for retailers with complex and ever-changing product sets. This often puts a focus on hiring individuals with specialized knowledge on key verticals, or extensive experience from similar industries. In order to supplement these requirements, retailers need an onboarding solution that can stimulate development from hire to retire. With an effective tool like this in place, you can spend your time finding the right people with the tangible skills that truly differentiate candidates from one another.

My Advice for Retail Management

As you set out to build or deploy a learning and knowledge management solution for your organization, it’s important to make content small enough to digest and allow for learning in short-increments of time. With this format, you can easily maximize productivity during periods of slower traffic by having associates pick up a mobile device and quickly get through content without getting so bogged down that they can’t quickly engage a customer as traffic patterns change. Combine this approach with a method of validation that allows an associate to submit answers or even videos that can be reviewed by a leader when it’s convenient (during scheduled admin time, for instance) and you now have a way to increase your team’s ongoing learning capabilities while also saving time and productivity.

One of the most effective tools for adoption and engagement involves elements of gamification and friendly competition. With gamification, you also encourage collaboration and streamline peer-to-peer knowledge transfer by making it easy for team members to identify peer resources. This also contributes to customer experience by helping associates answer more difficult, or obscure questions that otherwise could have led to a frustrating trip to your store and an overall lack of confidence in your brand.

Ultimately, if you the time to build a solution that improve your employees’ access to knowledge, you can focus on putting the right people in the right roles based on their interests and personalities. They will reward you with engagement, effort, and increased individual performance across the board.

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