Great retail sector learning needs a tailored approach, one that takes into account the unique aspects of the fast-paced retail environment. In this blog, we’ll look at eight proven strategies to create great blended learning for the retail sector.
How to Get Started With Blended Learning for the Retail Sector
There are many reasons why retail organizations 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 programs 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 for the retail sector.
But where do you start when it might all feel a little overwhelming?
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 programs. His second habit—‘Begin with the end in mind’—is invaluable advice before starting any blend.
When designing a blended learning program, there are some fundamental questions that you will need to answer before you even begin:
- What are the objectives/goals of the program?
- What skills do you expect learners to gain through completing the program?
- Is this the best way to deliver this particular learning need to the business?
- What does the learner journey look like?
Analyze the business problems before recommending a solution and align the learning initiatives with the four critical levers of business:
Once you have these questions answered, you can start creating the blueprint of your program.
2. Break It Down
There is no failure in starting small. A lot of organizations 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 organization. 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 learning programs 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 program 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 program.
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 practice 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.
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 practice 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.