The start of a new year serves as an opportunity for many to set new goals and commit to better habits. That means January kicks off with grand plans and best intentions. But what about now, four weeks into the new year, as January winds down and the everyday pressures creep back in?
Research shows that while 38% of adults will make a New Year's resolution, only 9% of people stick to them all year long. And here’s how quickly those good intentions fade away: By February, 80% of resolutions are forgotten.
There’s a corollary to what we know about learning and behavior change in the workplace. Just think about some of the great training sessions or conference presentations you’ve attended. You probably took lots of notes and nodded throughout. You smiled, were engaged, maybe told someone that this was the best session you’d ever attended.
And then it was over. And you went back to work. And you struggled to remember the key points. You tried your best to implement at least one of them, but gradually, the experience shifted to the back of your mind and you carried on, business as usual.
Getting someone to learn something or get insights from a training session is fairly straightforward. Getting that person to actually use what they learned after the training is far more challenging and complex.
As you look at your talent development plans, commitments, and expectations for 2024, it’s important to recognize that the training sessions themselves are only the beginning of the developmental journey. Behavior change is a process. Without ongoing support, reinforcement, coaching, and follow-up, skills learned can quickly be forgotten.
When you send multiunit leaders, store leaders, buyers, store support leaders, and other team members to a retail training workshop, it’s an investment of time, money, and effort. It’s also a down payment on the results and impact you expect to see when they return. With everything that goes on in the typical retail day, this is a good time to shore up your commitments and ensure you’re putting in place the structure to get results all year round. That includes things like:
- Senior leadership commitment and follow-up (tip: download the free Senior Leader’s Guide to Retail Training and Reinforcement)
- Self-directed microlearning to integrate learning into the workday
- Post-training, mobile-enabled reinforcement exercises and learning reminders that are quick, easily accessible, and engaging
- Coaching for associates as well as leadership coaching and development for leaders and emerging leaders
Here are some more strategies for increasing the ROI of your retail training initiatives.
Retail Talent Development 2024: Key Trends and Themes
As we look ahead this year, here are some of the key retail talent development trends and themes to keep an eye on:
Recruiting as a Lifestyle, Not an Event: Talent acquisition is key. Leaders need to think of recruiting as a continual process. Build your recruiting networks, leverage referrals, and refine your behavioral interviewing skills. Going on your “gut” isn’t enough, particularly when you’re trying to attract the talent you need to meet critical goals. More skillful interviewers lead to better hires and will decrease turnover within the first 90-120 days.
Bridging the Talent Succession Gap: Once you have successfully onboarded a new hire to your team, you need to retain and sustain them. Provide ongoing learning and development through structured training, idea sharing, coaching, and asking for feedback on a consistent basis. Create the space for them to learn and grow in their careers, recognizing that this sometimes involves taking risks — but that they will learn by making mistakes. Encourage and support team members to stretch outside their comfort zones, because that’s where growth happens. Building a learning culture (vs. a proving culture) requires allowing people the space and autonomy to try things on and discover new ways to achieve goals.
Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Trust: When leaders encourage and seek ways to open a dialogue and communicate effectively with their team, it builds trust. Associates at all levels of the organization, and especially the front line, need to feel heard and need to feel safe. They need to be confident that their leaders and the company have their back and that their wellbeing is top of mind. Not sure how your leaders and organization stack up? There’s an easy way to find out: Feedback truly is a gift.
Getting More from Coaching: Coaching in real time isn’t just good for the associate; it provides powerful insight moments for the leader. This isn’t about counseling or fixing something that’s broken. To be effective, coaching must be targeted and focused on “shaping” behaviors, and it must happen on an ongoing basis. Think of it as live microlearning.
Stronger Teams = Stronger Profits: Despite the rise of ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) digitally native brands, people still shop in physical stores. That means your biggest overlooked superpower is your store associates. Axonify research found that shoppers rank store associate knowledge as the #1 factor in making the shopping experience better. By hiring the right people, developing the interpersonal behaviors that build brand loyalty and drive conversion, and coaching associates effectively, you can cement your competitive edge in the age of frictionless retail.
Lasting Results Require Reinforcement: Training’s an investment, but without a reinforcement strategy in place, many retailers will never get a full return on that investment. Especially in retail, where you’re likely to get pulled back into the day-to-day whirlwind as soon as the structured training session has ended (if not before), it’s all too easy to slip back into old habits. The senior leader must take responsibility for ensuring the frontline team puts their learning into practice. They need to model what is expected, recognize efforts and changes in skills and behaviors, and reinforce and reward when associates demonstrate what they have learned in the classroom back on the job.
Addressing Key Retail Challenges in 2024 and Beyond
With all of this in mind, the MOHR Retail team is continuing to elevate service levels and enhance the quality and timeliness of our training solutions. Just as important, we’re also expanding the essential learning, reinforcement, and coaching components that surround and support our virtual and live classroom workshops. In 2023, we learned that 100% of our session participants would recommend MOHR Retail to others in their organization for retail talent development. We’re resolving in 2024 to continually live up to that high bar—and do MOHR!
Here’s a high-level view of what we have on tap for the year ahead:
- Adding more retail-experienced talent to serve our clients through our newly expanded business development/client success and facilitation teams
- Increased investment in self-directed microlearning training solutions to support and supplement our virtual and live classroom workshops
- Expanding post-training reinforcement content and capabilities with our mobile-engaged app (in collaboration with our strategic partner Axonify) to meet participants where they are, when they can invest the time, and when they need the jolt, the reminder, after the training class is over to try on the new skills and strategies to achieve continuous learning and results
- Expanding capabilities with Everything DiSC Workplace® on Catalyst™ and other DiSC profiles to create standalone availability and custom team strengthening training sessions as well as one on one coaching around DISC™
- Expanding our Retail Coaching services for standalone or post-training strengthening and career development.
- Experimenting with and leveraging AI where appropriate in summarizing our thought leadership, key learning points, meeting summaries, and content design.
- Hosting and participating in more industry expert webinars and events, including joining more panels in retail industry conferences (for example, LEAP HR)
Let’s keep looking for ways to learn and grow together this year and to continue improving the retail industry. We hope this year finds you emphasizing your talent and their ongoing development, because that’s how you’ll create the financial results, customer loyalty, and energized team that will help your organization thrive. While retail is an ever-changing industry, investing in strategies that prioritize your customers and your associates will always yield high results and rewards.