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Creating a blended learning strategy for the retail sector

There are many reasons why retail organisations might want to use a blended learning approach for their training needs. A blend, traditionally seen as a mix of face-to-face training and online learning, is a popular solution for large-scale training programmes that require several hours, if not days, of learning. Historically, the retail sector still chooses to deliver a lot of face-to-face training on, for example, onboarding and leadership development. There is, however, huge scope to create effective blended learning solutions.

But where do you start when it might all feel a little overwhelming?

Man working in a fashion store in the retail sector

1. Begin with the end in mind

Dr Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, has inspired millions with his universal principles but perhaps he also knew a thing or two about creating blended learning programmes. His second habit – ‘Begin with the end in mind’ – is invaluable advice before starting any blend.

When designing a blended programme, there are some fundamental questions that you will need to answer before you even begin:

  • What are the objectives/goals of the programme?
  • What skills do you expect learners to gain through completing the programme?
  • Is this the best way to deliver this particular learning need to the business?
  • What does the learner journey look like?

Analyse the business problems before recommending a solution and align the learning initiatives with the four critical levers of business:

  • Growth
  • Transformation
  • Productivity
  • Profitability/Commerciality

Once you have these questions answered, you can start creating the blueprint of your programme.

2. Break it down

There is no failure in starting small. A lot of organisations may not have the time, resources or budget to create extensive blended learning for retail straight away but that’s not to say that something isn’t possible. Blends take on all shapes and sizes.

Find an area where you know you can make a difference and use this to show how you can positively transform the retail sector landscape in your organisation. Once you are able to prove it in one area, you may be surprised what that can lead to.

3. Involve learners from the start

This is by no means a new concept but the best blended programmes are those that are designed with learners at their heart. The most effective way to do this is to involve end-users in the learning design process – and from the very beginning, too.

This could be in the form of focus groups or a selection of key individuals whose views you value and whom you feel could enhance the programme for all.

4. Show learners the way

Share the learning journey with them, so they know where they are going and understand what they are going to get out of the programme.

At LEO Learning, we believe that learning journey design is key to creating learning impact. Creating a learning journey is quite different from creating an isolated session, so it’s vital to remember that the timeframe for a learner journey might be weeks, months or even years. The payoff, however, is worth the wait.

5. Integrate digital elements but don’t lose the face-to-face

Blends allow you to get the best of both worlds. At LEO Learning, we prefer to think of blends as mixes of learning approaches and activities. Only then do we consider where technology might appropriately support those activities.

There is a reason that the retail sector still chooses to do much of its training in face-to-face environments. Digital learning has many benefits, but there is a lot to be said about working with a professional trainer or coach to practise and hone skills.

Workshops in a blend can focus on practice but much of the knowledge acquisition can easily be moved to elearning tutorials. This ensures that workshops are meaningful and valuable to the learners who attend.

A group of people enjoying face to face training as part of a blended learning programme for the retail sector

6. Make it social

As Towards Maturity’s Jane Daly and I mentioned during our webinar, retail learners are extremely open to sharing their experiences with others. Not only does this allow them to share their expertise but it also allows them to benefit from the skillsets of others.

For disparate populations – learners in satellite stores, for example – this is hugely important. They may not have the benefit of seeing a trainer or their peers in other locations very often, so this brings everyone closer together and provides ‘on demand’ information. It allows learners to ask questions and receive feedback at the point of need.

7. Make it practical

It’s useful to provide your learners with the opportunity to put their knowledge and training into practice in a safe environment. This ‘safe space’ should include activities to help practise outcomes and support learning transfer. This allows learners to make mistakes and see the consequences of that in a simulated environment – without the real-world risks.

Retail sector employers often operate on a ‘sink or swim’ approach to learning and development. But wouldn’t it be better to know that your staff have mastered the key principles of your brand and sales techniques before putting them in front of your customers, for instance?

After all, you wouldn’t launch a customer-facing campaign without knowing that you had covered all bases and that everything was perfect.

8. Be curious

You’re never too old or too smart to stop learning. In fact, with technology changing the way we work, there’s a near-constant need for most industries to be continually upskilling to stay abreast of new developments.

The same goes for training professionals. Create a culture of continuous improvement – not just for learners only but for L&D teams too. High-performing Learning and Development teams are also on a learning journey and are keen to extend their knowledge and skills.

An open road to signify a learning journey

To find out how a blended learning programme can benefit your L&D initiatives in the retail sector, contact us today.

Want to know more about blended learning? Download our free ebook, ‘Why blended learning works (and can work for you)’ today.

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