The other day I met with a team of senior L&D leaders from a well-known chain. They’re looking for leadership development across all levels of the organization—store leadership, multiunit management, and the home office.

I knew they’d probably implemented some kind of leadership development programs in the past, so I wanted to get a better sense of what had been working and what hadn’t. It was an interesting discussion, and it reflects a pattern I’m starting to see again and again. See if this looks familiar to you.

This team told me that they’d previously implemented a highly respected leadership development program, a standard workshop with office scenarios and settings. They were assured that even though the training wasn’t retail specific, it would still get the job done.

But it didn’t.

In fact, there were numerous complaints, and participants were put off by the lack of relevance to what they actually face on a daily basis. As they looked at these office situations, the participants were told to “imagine” how it would work in retail. But this wasn’t a failure of imagination. The context was so off base, it just didn’t translate.

Is Your Retail Training Really Retail Training?

There are so many leadership development programs out there. Search online and you’ll get literally millions of hits. And we all know that the more choices you have, the harder it can be to make a decision. But here’s one instance where the decision doesn’t have to be so difficult.

Relevance and context are critical for achieving learning outcomes. And no matter what those outside the industry may think, retail really is unique. If you want to engage people in the experience and get the learning and business results you need, then make sure your participants are immersed in a world and learning the skills that resonate with them.

Relevance and coherence are also critical when you’re delivering learning for different populations of leaders, like this retailer is. Whether the person is leading from a distance, in the store, or in the home office, the foundational skills and messages that he or she learns should be connected and common. That’s how you build culture, attract and retain talent, and translate corporate values into a consistent customer experience.

Keep this in mind as you plan your own retail leadership development strategies. You can save a lot of time, effort, and expense by thinking about this upfront rather than dealing with the fallout and having to start all over again.

What do you look for in retail training programs? Tweet us @mohrretail.


About Michael Patrick

Michael held positions in retail management, merchandising, and human resources before joining MOHR Retail’s predecessor in 1986. In 1990 he purchased the retail division of that firm to form today’s MOHR Retail. Michael holds true to his retail roots by delivering learning that changes behavior—providing both immediate and lasting business impact. In addition to facilitating MOHR Retail training programs, he offers executive-level coaching in one-on-one sessions dealing with critical strategic issues such as succession strategies and executive team development. The author of “The New Negotiation Mindset: Guarantee A Bigger Slice,” Michael is a longstanding member of NRF as well as ISA: The Association of Learning Providers. He has a B.A. from San Diego State University, completed Master’s level work at Arizona State University, and lives with his family in New Jersey.