Our Champions discuss how they organise staff training and why they think time and money spent on it is beneficial to their business
Sunder Sandher, owner of One Stop Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Sunder sees training as a valuable investment and uses e-learning software from the One Stop group.
Paul Stone, owner of five Spar stores across Manchester
With help from his wholesaler James Hall, Paul gives staff incentives to complete training courses.
Amish Shingadia, Londis Caterways (Post Office), Horsham, West Sussex
Training is fundamental for Amish and helps him build up a good working relationship with staff.
Louise Sui, managing director CPL Training Group
CPL is committed to helping retailers, providing a wide range of face-to-face and online training resources.
How important is training in the convenience channel?
Sunder: Training is an investment that’s really important. Everyone can put money towards shop refitting and merchandising, but training should be part of the package. The way we manage our training is through e-learning modules that staff can complete in the back office. All the results are sent to me so we can go through everything with each member of staff.
Paul: Training is vital to the development of staff and making sure that you retain them. I think most employees enjoy it and feel like you are investing in them personally.
Amish: Training is a massive part of business because it covers so many different areas. Staff need to have an understanding of everything from working in the post office, to managing stock and customer service. About 90% of the time it is staff who are dealing with customers face to face so they have to treat them in the best way they can. Even if you have the best store, with all modern fixtures, if the staff are bad then people won’t shop with you.
Louise: Any business that wants to ensure their team is informed and empowered to deliver the best service possible should see training as crucial. Team members need to have the skills and knowledge to carry out their role to the highest ability and training is the way to achieve this. Customer service, product knowledge and merchandising help drive sales and loyalty, and by taking some time to engage and train your team members in these areas you will see the benefits. However, you also need to ensure your compliance training is up to date and fit for purpose. Making sure your team members have the appropriate training in areas such as underage sales prevention, health and safety, first aid and food safety will ensure you are trading safely and legally.
Do you offer regular training? What impact does it have on staff?
Sunder: You have to do training little and often – we do ours on a quarterly basis and if staff need any additional sessions I will offer them. Each of our training modules can usually be done during the day so if staff have a spare 10 to 15 minutes or are on their break then we encourage them to complete any outstanding training. The most important thing is to sit down with them afterwards and explain what they did well and what areas they need to improve on.
Paul: I review each store’s training every quarter, but it is an on-going task. I think staff view it positively and come back energised from regular sessions. We do both external and internal courses. We have access to TAP (The Training Academy Programme) from James Hall (Spar) so those modules are loaded onto the back office computer.
Amish: When staff start we give them a three-month training plan so they can work in every area of the store, whether that is promotions, stacking shelves, on the till or locking up. This helps to keep staff loyal and gives them the skills they need. Running a three-month training plan helps to identify what staff are good at and that determines which shifts and times of day they work. We try to run mini reviews every three months, but sometimes we have to hold sessions more often depending on the member of staff and their position in the business.
Louise: Regular training helps to keep your employees engaged and motivated. It shows that you value them and that you want to help them to improve both professionally and personally. By providing regular training you encourage your staff to reflect on how they approach their role and constantly improve. By showing how they can progress through various levels of training also shows how they can progress within your business. Regular training also helps improve retention.
How can you ensure you deliver effective training?
Sunder: We have four tiers of training, ranging from basic to store manager and owner. Depending on where the member of staff works in the store, whether that is on the till or managing stock, then they can see which level of training they need to complete as part of their role. Sometimes you need someone to come in from the outside to judge what you are doing. My wife Pam and I have been running the store for 30 years, but who is to say that we are doing everything perfectly? That’s why everyone needs to be assessed so the whole team maintain high standards.
Paul: For each new member of staff we pay an extra 14 hours of wages on top of their normal hours to give them time to complete their training. Because they are getting paid, they don’t feel under pressure to rush off and do their training while they are working and it is an extra incentive for them to keep up to speed. All staff can access the TAP system remotely so they can do it from home. We also work with training firm Aspire to send people out on training to become a manager, and work with other companies to run courses on food hygiene and licensing, for example.
Amish: We like to give staff feedback so have our own customer observation sheet to judge staff on their customer service. We give them a score based on a list of 20 points, such as whether they dealt with a customer correctly and smiled at them while serving them. Staff feel like they are always making progress and it helps to maintain standards.
Louise: Creating a culture where training and development are seen as integral is the first step. Showing that you believe in the benefits of training encourages your team members to see them too. Looking at the various ways training can be delivered is the next step to creating a blended solution. E-learning is a great way to deliver and impart knowledge in a low-cost and effective manner, while face-to-face lends itself to more in-depth and technical subjects. Face-to-face also allows for more direct engagement. Then there are more informal methods which are great for day-to-day training such as knowledge sharing among colleagues and stores. Product category champions are something which can be driven daily by your teams.
What challenges are faced when it comes to training?
Sunder: Finding time to complete the training when people are working can be challenging because you have to make sure staff are motivated to complete each module as efficiently as possible. They can do the training at home if they prefer, so we try to be as flexible as possible.
Paul: The biggest challenge is making sure that all the managers keep on top of everything and don’t fall behind.
Amish: The main issue is finding the time to do all the training, which means we have to factor everything in one month in advance.
Louise: Time, cost and access to training are the most common. We always look for ways to overcome these and that is why we invest so heavily in continually creating online solutions which can be easily accessed at an affordable cost from any location. We also hold face-to-face training courses in over 70 locations across the UK to ensure our clients can access training at a location close to them.
Do you feel well supported by suppliers when it comes to training?
Sunder: One Stop has been excellent and suppliers have also given us some good support for our vaping range. Both Real Trading and Juul have come in to talk directly with staff to get them trained up on the category.
Paul: James Hall has its own training team so they can respond to any of our requests and update their programme to suit our needs.
Amish: There is definitely support out there. Third-party training companies and brands are really good for getting ideas and it works to network with other retailers to see what they do. Country Choice has been particularly good at training staff on food to go, and Vape Base has created resources for their vaping products.
What advice would you give to retailers who want to improve their training?
Sunder: As a retailer, you have to manage training properly so that you have enough time to give staff constructive feedback. That way they feel like they know where they can do better. It is also important to reward their success because you want to keep hold of them. Always be calm and collected about training because it doesn’t help anyone if you get angry. I know some retailers who get really annoyed if a member of staff makes lots of mistakes in their training, but if you sit someone down and explain everything in a measured way then it will be better for everyone in the long run.
Paul: My advice would be to create some space in store where staff can get on with their training without distractions. This space can also be used as a meeting place to give staff feedback on their training. If they feel comfortable in the environment where they are doing their training then they will complete each module more efficiently.
Amish: The first thing to do is speak to your main suppliers. It can be difficult to know where to go for training advice but once you ask the question then you will see that there is a lot of support out there. I would also make the most of events and awards, to speak with others in the industry and get a different perspective on things.
Louise: The first step would be to review what training you have in place, then compare this against your objectives. This allows you to see what areas need more focus and begin to start thinking of solutions. Having one central solution that manages and records all training allows you to efficiently track, monitor and see progress. I would also suggest speaking to experts in the field to see how they can help you achieve your goals.
Who is in charge of training in your business?
Sunder: We share the responsibility between us. All the data from any of the training assessments and modules are sent through to me, but after that we discuss any success or improvements as a team. It’s not just about running through the answers, but it is also important to clarify whether anyone needs any extra support.
Paul: The store managers take charge of what training goes on in each of the stores so that everyone completes the necessary courses and they put forward those who want to move on in the business. I keep track of what’s going on in each store and chase managers if anyone falls behind or if we need to discuss anything as a team. We run refreshers every six months so we are retraining at all times.
Amish: It is up to me and the supervisors to manage the training. I think it works well because I trust and value my team so that when I’m away from the business they can look after everything themselves. We keep track of sales using our epos data so if sales drop on a particular shift then we can find out why and if any of the staff need any extra support. It’s not strictly training, but making sure that staff are okay and identifying some of the personal reasons why they might be a bit off at work is really important.
How much do you spend on training every year?
Sunder: It’s included as part of the package that we get with One Stop and we can run everything from the back office so the cost for us is minimal. The eight modules offered by One Stop cover everything from age-restricted sales to GDPR, so it is a good platform for staff. There is no denying that it is a good investment for people working in retail.
Paul: We have an annual budget for training. We have to pay for TAP so that costs us about £700 per store per year. We usually spend about £1,000 on extra courses for each store every year, so all in all it costs us about £2,000 in total for each of our five stores. It is a relatively small number when you compare it with the cost of all our staff wages.
Amish: It is part of the budget and something you can’t really put a number on because much of it depends on the individual. You have to invest in staff in any business so we have to factor that cost into everything we do. It pays for itself anyway because when you have staff who have an NVQ qualification in retail, as we do, then you really want to keep them and look after them. We have a staff fund in the store that we put towards celebrating any successes that the staff may have in the store. We usually spend about £500 a year on this and so it is something we plan for. We recently took the whole team out for a meal to celebrate them winning an industry award.