Staff training and development is a strategy for the store here in Southwater and has always been a pet topic of mine.

Ours is an Investors in People accredited store, and has been since 2004. Our next review is at the end of November, so I’m putting this year’s application together, but there’s no denying that the past seven months have been a real challenge.

When it was a small store we had a large pool of staff and life was pretty relaxed, but we have changed the store a lot and the tempo is different now. With an increased focus on fresh and chilled, food to go and the post office there’s a big change in the skills required as well.

We were closed for three weeks for the refit, so we sent staff out to get as much training as possible. The Budgens store in nearby Billingshurst was a mentor store for us, and staff learned a lot about fresh and chilled by working there. We also sent five staff to work in the local post office before it moved into our store.

It was a big change and we lost six members of staff – which was about 30% of the workforce. The good thing is that all of our core staff remained; they were loyal and prepared for the change. We have recruited eight new team members, a lot through word of mouth, who have brought new energy and enthusiasm.

We’re building up the pool of people who can work in the post office. We have two fortress positions and a combi counter that is open 7am to 10pm, so there is a big requirement for post office training. It can be tricky to switch from the PO to the retail side: the conversations are different, the upselling is done in a different way, the whole mindset is different. But if they pick up good skills at the post office then hopefully they can use them on the shop floor, too.

The post office income is commission-based, so some form of performance-related pay makes sense, and we’re looking to see if we can bring it in across the board. We are reviewing pay scales because of the National Minimum Wage increase, but we are also looking at incentives.

The key is to have regular meetings so you can set targets and explain the expectations, coupled with regular reviews and personalised career development paths.