The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

by Katie Sawyer, 10 minutes read
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The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

What is on-the-job training?

On-the-job training is a hands-on way to teach employees the skills they need in the workplace. This type of training takes place in the work environment and often happens while employees are doing their job.

The importance of on-the-job training

On-the-job training has many benefits for both the retailer and their employees, which include:

  • Increased sales – On-the-job training provides your retail employees with the skills to deal with real-life situations. This equips them with the necessary product knowledge as well as the experience of dealing with different types of customers. Trained employees can provide better customer service, which translates into happier customers and an increased likelihood of repeat sales.

  • Reduced employee turnover – Retail has one of the highest levels of employee turnover of any industry. Given that a lack of training is one of the top two reasons that employees leave a job, on-the-job training can help to boost employee morale, so they will remain with your retail business for longer.

  • Positive reputation impact – Your employees are the representation of your retail business. Effective on-the-job training enables your employees to show your business in the best light, which will increase the reputation of your brand.

  • Better equipped future leaders – On-the-job training helps you create and retain highly skilled retail employees. Providing on-the-job training helps you promote from within your business. This is advantageous because you will save on the costs associated with recruiting new employees. Additionally, your employees will already have a good understanding of your culture and what you expect.

In order for your retail business to reap the benefits, you need to follow specific rules when building on-the-job training. Along with that, you also need an efficient way to build and send out your employee schedules so you can get back to focusing on bettering your business. To help you out with this, click on the link below to begin your free trial of Deputy.

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**Fundamentals of on-the-job training**

Before you begin to build your on-the-job training, the following are two basic principles that you should keep in mind:

  • Tailor your training to what your retail employees need – Your on-the-job training should be customized to what your employees need, to avoid wasting time and money. Training your employees in unnecessary tasks takes their time away from doing actual work.

The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

  • Keep training scenarios realistic – Providing training for too many scenarios may be counterproductive because your employees may become confused and are less likely to retain any of the training. Provide training for situations that are most likely to happen and offer guidelines about how to handle scenarios outside of the norm.

The following seven rules will help you build a fit for purpose on-the-job training for your retail business.

Rule 1. Decide when you need to start on-the-job-training

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You can start building on-the-job training at any stage of your retail business. However, it is important to deliver on-the-job training when your business has gone through a period of change.

The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

Your retail employees will benefit from on-the-job training after the following changes have been implemented:

  • Business practice changes – This is where your retail business has had a shift in relation to its goals and objectives.

  • Technological changes – Employees will need to be trained when you have introduced new technology, for example new scheduling software.

  • Human resources changes – If you have hired a large number of new employees, you will need to provide them with on-the-job training to get them up to speed with your other employees.

Rule 2. Make a conscious effort to understand your retail employees’ needs

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Your on-the-job training will be effective when you address the needs of your retail employees and put in measures to address those needs.

Common employee needs include:

  • Realistic and useful training – While it may be useful to provide theoretical background to your training, your employees have the expectation that the on-the-job training will give them real skills to perform their job better.

  • Credit and appreciation – Your retail employees need to feel like you understand their existing level of skills and knowledge. They want you to appreciate the good work they already do and the on-the-job training should build on this foundation.

  • Motivation and incentives – Provide your employees with motivation for completing on-the-job training, for example, you can praise them or show your appreciation by buying snacks for the break room.

Rule 3. Create an on-the-job training strategy

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You should have a clear plan to create, deliver and measure your on-the-job training.

The steps below will assist you in creating an on-the-job training strategy:

  • Review your employees’ needs – You should be clear on the gaps in knowledge that need to be filled in order for your retail employees to carry out their work successfully.

Answer the following questions to gain a deeper insight into your retail employees’ training needs:

  • What is your employees existing level of knowledge?
  • What gaps in knowledge need to be filled?
  • What does your retail business require from its employees?
  • What are your employees’ expectations in relation to training?
  • Who is best qualified to deliver the training?

You will need to conduct a skills audit of your retail employees to ensure that the on-the-job training is effective. Your skills audit should include both soft and hard skills. Soft skills are normally centered around dealing with people, for example, suggestive selling. On the other hand, hard skills are those that deal with hardware, such as operating the cash register.

  • Develop your on-the-job-training – At this stage, you need to decide the tools and resources you will use, as well as how you will deliver your on-the-job training. It will be useful for you to assess your current tools and systems to determine whether they can adequately meet your on-the-job training needs. Where you have identified that you have inadequate resources, you will need to plan to source the necessary tools.

  • Design your on-the-job-training – You need to have a concept of what your on-the-job training will consist of. This part of your on-the-job training strategy will specify details such as:

  • The format of the training.

  • Where the training will be held.

  • The person or people who will deliver the training.

It is advisable to break your retail employees’ on-the-job training into several modules. This will increase the engagement levels as your employees are less likely to get overwhelmed.

The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

The on-the-job training can be as simple or as complicated as you choose. A simple on-the-job training module can be a checklist of tasks that need to be completed.

You should take the following into consideration when making a decision about the format of your on-the-job training:

  • Will your employees be practicing actual tasks?
  • Would taking tests and reading be adequate?
  • Would role-playing and group activities be the best way to deliver the training?

Ideally, you should provide as many options as possible because your employees will have different learning styles.

Rule 4. Make an outline of the on-the-job training program

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The outline of your on-the-job training program for your retail employees should include your objectives for the training. You should also set out the steps of a job in sequence, to ensure that your employees are trained on all aspects of their work. The outline should include the methods you will use to determine whether your on-the-job training is successful.

The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

The outline of your on-the-job training program should also identify where your retail employees can exercise their discretion. This is important because your employees will want to feel that you trust them to exercise good judgement. This autonomy helps to boost your retail employees’ morale. However, there are policies that should always be followed and are not subject to negotiation. For example, you could have a non-negotiable involving a no refund policy after 60 days.

Rule 5. Create a timetable of the on-the-job training

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On-the-job training should be a continual aspect of your retail employees’ development. Providing training for only new hires fails to take into consideration the changing needs of existing employees.

The following are occasions when on-the-job training will be required:

  • Updates on new legislation that affects retail employees, for example predictive scheduling.
  • Changes to your company policy.
  • Innovative approaches to selling.
  • Updates about new inventory.
  • Reminders of previous training.

Rule 6. Identify trainers

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A key factor of building a successful on-the-job training program is to identify the best people to deliver the training. It is not always the case that the business owners and managers are best suited to deliver training.

The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

You may need to recruit the services of an external and independent company to deliver your on-the-job training.

Answering the following questions will help you determine whether you should outsource your on-the-job training:

  • Do you or your managers have experience in delivering training?
  • Are any of your employees qualified to carry out the training?
  • Does the person you have in mind for the training have exceptional communication skills?

You can also use the following to assist you in delivering the training:

  • A coordinator – This person could be from Human Resources and will be responsible for organizing and scheduling the on-the-job training.
  • A buddy – Your current employees could be a useful resource in helping new employees learn about your retail business.

Rule 7. Collect feedback about your on-the-job training

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After spending time and resources creating and implementing on-the-job training for your retail employees, you need to assess whether it has been effective. One of the best ways to determine whether your on-the-job training has been effective is to ask your employees for feedback.

You can find out what your employees think about the on-the-job training they have received by asking them to complete a questionnaire. To encourage honest feedback, responses should be anonymous. It is also recommended that you request feedback immediately after the training has been provided and also several months afterwards.

This is to determine whether your employees have retained and are implementing what they have learned.

Getting honest feedback from your employees will give you insights into their expectations before the training and whether these expectations were met.

What does an effective on-the-job training program for your retail employees look like?

The Rules for Building On-the-Job Training for Retail Employees

After you have followed the rules above, your on-the-job training should have the following features:

  • It creates more skilled retail employees.
  • It fits your defined requirements and meets your business objectives.
  • It saves time and money.
  • It assesses whether the program is successful and takes corrective action (if necessary).
  • It evolves to account for changes in your business and in legislation.
  • It creates a retail business where employees want to remain and want to progress in their careers.

On-the-job training goes beyond on-boarding new retail employees. Instead, it’s a continuous process that equips your employees to meet the needs of your business. As your business continues to change, your on-the-job training should be designed to help your employees make the necessary adjustments.

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