Using an LMS for Highly Effective Retail Training: Part Two

My last entry provided a setup scenario for using an LMS in retail. I’d like to now get into some practical examples of how you can use an LMS effectively to solve some of the common training challenges faced by retailers.

Here are five common training challenges faced by retailers, and some examples of how using an LMS can address those challenges:

1. SCALE: We all know that employee turnover in retail is extremely high. This means that there are ALWAYS new hires in need of training. Getting many people trained quickly, so that they can start being effective in a short period of time will have a major, positive, business impact. Obviously, not doing this effectively will have a major, negative business impact; you just may not see it this way if this is your status quo.

A good LMS can be used to automate a lot of your learning processes. For example, we typically integrate the Absorb LMS with our client’s HRIS (Human Resource Information Systems) in order to automatically create LMS Learner accounts.  Using the automation available in our LMS, new hires can be automatically notified of their LMS login credentials, sent to the correct branded area of the LMS, put into the proper department for reporting and approvals, enrolled in courses, course bundles, curricula and assessments and provided access to resources specific to their job, department and/or location.  In short, once you create a new employee record in your HR system, the LMS can completely handle initiating the training process and even sending reminders to the learner and their manager to complete required training.  In terms of scalability, this can be automated for dozens of new employees per week or thousands. Can you imagine manually on-boarding 1,000 new users into your learning program in time for the Christmas rush?

2. TIME TO MARKET:  Depending on the nature of your business you may be introducing new products on a weekly basis. Let’s take mobile phone retailers as an example. The technology is constantly evolving and new devices with new features and operating system updates are coming out all the time. How can you possibly hope to have your staff stay on top of the latest products?

Some of our smartest clients have rediscovered the power of video-based training. What they’ve effectively done is cut out the middle-man (e-learning designer) so to speak. By having product or category managers discuss new product features in short (3 to 8 minute) videos, they are able to get effective training content into the LMS and out to Learners in a matter of hours, not days or even weeks. As a best practice, these videos are presented as short courses which require the learner to complete a quick quiz in order to complete the course. In some cases, (using our SMARTLAB LMS), the Learners also receive points for completing training. These points can be used as incentives in a number of ways, e.g.  to qualify for contests or to be redeemed for merchandise or product discounts. The added benefit of delivering short video-based courses is that the Learners start to recognize the product or category managers and may start to build a connection with the individual as well as the brand. This idea of brand immersion in an LMS could be a topic for a short book so I’ll stop there and let you use your imagination.

3. BUDGET: Even if we have a firm grip on what it would take to stay on top of these challenges, we simply may not have the money to implement our ideal plans.

Once you’ve got your LMS in place (presumably, having built a business case and proven out a great ROI) you will still have your ongoing challenges with training budgets. Doing more with less ($) can be frustrating at best.  Using the video example above, you can utilize any number of under $200 HD video cameras to create great looking training videos. You don’t even need an authoring tool. Just shoot, edit (using free or inexpensive editing software) and upload into the LMS as an online course. Adding a quiz at the end as a knowledge test will ensure that they’ve watched and understood the content.  In our Absorb LMS you can follow this process to create a quick and effective course without an authoring tool, by simply uploading and sequencing one or more short videos, adding a quiz and including some downloadable resources (such as product brochures or sales sheets).

4. AUDIENCE SEGMENTATION: While you will have general on-boarding training that all retail employees must take, your employees are probably specialized to some degree. Targeting and segmenting training content can be a formidable challenge.

Your LMS should allow you to assign courses based on any aspect of the Learner’s account or profile such as their job title, department, location. Our customers use our Absorb LMS enrolment filters to enable self-enrolment and/or automated enrolment of training based on these common filters as well as adding custom fields to the profile through the Absorb Survey tool.  By renaming custom fields and populating them through surveys you can build rich and powerful Learner profiles that go beyond the information pulled in from the HRIS. For example, our client Oakley engages learners by capturing who their favourite Oakley sponsored athletes are and then pushing out news and twitter feeds from those athletes, targeted only to those Learners who have an expressed interested in that athlete (another great SMARTLAB feature). The bottom line is, you can really only enable product specialization if you have a way to target content at the right people.  Simply creating a wide variety of courses and making them available via self-enrolment is often not effective.

5. MEASURING THE ROI OF TRAINING: We all want to do this but it’s nearly impossible without having accurate training data that can be tracked and correlated with store performance (sales) data.

Over time, you will have built up a meaningful amount of historical training and sales performance data. Typically, this will come from two systems, the LMS (training data) and your Financial system (sales data). If you’ve set up your LMS with measuring ROI as one of your end goals, then you should already be tracking things like, total training by course, by learner, by product, by location and by department as well as training costs per course and per learner. With good financial data, you should be able to then correlate training on a specific product at a specific store (or even a specific team of employees) with sales data for the following 3 to 6 months (for example). If you do this properly, you will be able to identify which training content/activities are having an impact on sales. Of equal importance is that you will be able to see which activities are having little to no (or even negative) impact. Not only will you be measuring the impact of your training investment but you will also be able to continuously enhance your programs each quarter or fiscal year. Who knows, you may finally be in a position to confidently request a budget increase!

As I said in Part One of this post, retail is a complex science (with a bit of art thrown in from time to time) and I have tried to keep this practical and specific. I do hope that I’ve generated at least one or two ideas for you to explore further.

Please contact us if you want to discuss any of these ideas. We’d love to hear from you!