Last updated: 07.10.14

Retail industry 'needs to improve approach to staff training'

Executive managers in the retail industry would benefit from more business training to help them develop.

This is according to Elaine Wilson of ASK Europe, who says in a column for Retail Gazette that the rapidly evolving retail landscape - particularly in relation to the rise of online shopping - means more and more new managers within the sector are expected to learn on the job and receive relatively little training away from their daily work.

With charity People 1st publishing a report last year revealing that most of the expected employment growth within retail is in managerial jobs, this could be a concern.

“In a time-pressured sector, time away from day-to-day demand for learning and development is a logistical challenge that many organisations struggle to meet,” Ms Wilson explains, going on to add that personal coaching could be the way forward for training new retail managers.

She says: “In an operating environment that is both time-critical and increasingly dependent on customer service for differentiation, a time-effective and more bespoke approach to staff development provides a valuable alternative.”

The People 1st Labour Market Review for 2013 suggests that demand for retail managers with the skills to tackle the challenges created by changes in customer trends, supply chain management and technology is on the rise.

However, 17 per cent of retail employers report the existence of skills gaps within their organisations, compared with 13 per cent for all sectors. Furthermore, seven per cent of the retail workforce is thought to suffer from skills gaps, higher than the five per cent figure for the economy as a whole, while three per cent of retail businesses admit to having hard-to-fill vacancies.

With management positions specifically, 44 per cent of retail organisations say applicants tend to lack organisation and planning skills, with 40 per cent reporting a dearth of strategic management skills.

Role-specific training - whether delivered on a one-to-one basis or in a virtual learning environment - could help to fill these gaps and ensure retail managers are equipped for any future disruption to their industry.