Is retail learning and development relevant?

learning, classroom, education, trainingThe concept of a training department led by disassociated L&D personnel contradicts the very essence of employees developing themselves. It is an outdated premise of ambiguous agenda with a tenuous past of delivering an accomplished and engaged workforce, eventuating in today’s calamitous burden of a diminished talent pool in a transient retail industry.

The time for restructuring this vital component of personal advancement is long overdue. First up resist the compulsion to engage in silver bullet programmes in a futile effort to generate seasoned retailers by means of a fast-track schooling scheme, so to expel the notion of a puppeteer instructor contriving from a central hub in the belief one module fits all. A fanciful delusion by indoctrinated trainers most of whom are marginally aware the greatest challenge to retailers is applying theory into practice. Do these entities understand the detail within the business? Do they appreciate the mental and physical attributes required or even the fundamentals of shopfloor operations?

How consequential is the online tutorship? Human nature and fallibility dictate, most view the process as boring, low tech, and condescending – of little value other than compliance. Compromising the initial perception of the new recruit in a business with poor functionality and a low regard for personal interaction.

How effective is the classroom environment where attention spans are limited, time is critical and the modern brain is programmed to administer the simultaneous expectations of a technologically infused world. In your next meeting, presentation or training course take the time to observe the individual eye language of the audience then sit back and ingest the group’s demeanour. Most speakers pick up on the nuances (albeit some subconsciously) preferring to overlook the telltale signs of distraction – lollies, drinking, tapping, rearranging, doodling, stretching etc. By contrast, the uncoordinated waltz of a mobile group deep in a discussion can last hours that often result in detailed outtakes as they move around responding to multifarious stimuli.

Notwithstanding cease without exception the exclusionary behaviours of team building activities and the absurdity of role-playing for they embed questionable process and predetermined intentions often acquiescing to dominant or the engrained traits of bygones. Seldom revealing underlying sentiment or encouraging neurodiverse innovation.

800x-1Intercommunications through a definitive mentoring programme by efficacious coaches develop substantiated accomplishment and goals. It is about relating to people and the intimate consciousness of the task at hand. Enlivening the freshman to think, do and strive for mutual augmentation by following, observing and working with experienced and inspirational mentors. Who must possess a congruent understanding and emotional intelligence – an inner calm that embraces benevolence and integrity.

What is prescribed is tolerance and honesty, the removal of blinkers and the challenging of the current cultural status quo. The mentor supported by their own mentor guided by a purposeful culture and driven by sustainable objectives.

We say what we would do. We think about what we want to do. It’s only when we do something do we achieve.

Retail is and always will be about people, for people by people.

Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at Freelance Alliance NZ on


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