View from the frontline

T21’s Paul Laville reviews the incoming results from his latest survey that investigates the training needs of electrical retailers across the industry.

Paul Laville, managing director, T21This summer, in partnership with ERT and with an extra reach-boost from Retra, we invited retailers to give us their opinions on the subject of training within the electrical retail industry. Some might say this was asking for trouble, but we felt it was something long- overdue.

As I’m writing this, the survey still has a little more time to run, so it’s entirely possible that we may see a few responses skewing all the results to date. If that happens I’ll let you all know, however, some clear trends have been building on the responses received so far.

Here they are in a nutshell…

  1. Training Delivery

Traditional face-to-face training is still preferred by more retailers than e-learning. In fact e-learning as a stand-alone option is scoring surprisingly low, with less than 10 per cent of the vote.

However, the majority (42 per cent) of our respondents in this category told us that they preferred a training solution that blended both face-to-face training and e-learning together. For what it’s worth we also believe that this is the ideal solution, since there are certain elements of a face- to-face training that you can’t currently replicate online (we know, we’ve tried).

  1. Manufacturer Training

When asked ‘Do you or your staff attend manufacturer training?’ the responses are so far evenly split. 33 per cent have answered ‘Several times a year’ and 33 per cent ‘Never’. Of those who said they do attend manufacturer training, 43 per cent admitted that it was difficult for them but they did it anyway, clearly recognising the benefits of having product experts in stores trained by the people who design, build and sell those products.

  1. Training Objectives

We wanted to know what gaps retailers felt training should attempt to fill in order of importance, so we asked them to rank five key learning and development areas commonly associated with soft-skills training courses. It’s a close race.

‘Learning new skills’ is currently ahead, but only half a point behind it is ‘Motivating staff to achieve results’, which is interesting because this is usually a secondary benefit of training, largely dependent on the style of the training delivery than the primary content itself.

‘Addressing knowledge gaps’ is next, followed very closely by ‘Eliminating old habits’ and ‘Installing a proactive attitude’. All are very worthy benefits of training and any one of them could surge ahead as more results pile in.

  1. Challenges for Training Providers

When asked for their opinions on the quality of training available in the industry, a few of our respondents admitted to managing their own training in-house. One honest soul told us that they won’t use an external company to provide their training because they are all “too expensive and overrated”.

Interestingly, many of our respondents expressed indifference, some saying “it’s fine” or just “OK”, and some left the question blank.

To me this means that all of us who provide training to the industry need to rise to the challenge of exciting more retailers to partake in training and, importantly, ensure that their training works.

  1. Training Advocates

Thankfully the majority of our respondents value the training they’ve had and want to see it continue playing a vital role within the industry. Common amongst the positive feedback were comments such as ‘We liked the personal and bespoke service offered’ and ‘we liked the knowledge level of the training provided’. One retailer even used the space to write an in-depth response on what they would like to see from a training provider and we’ll be taking that feedback, indeed all the feedback, very seriously going forward.

By the time you read this, the survey will have concluded and we’ll be crunching the numbers again. We’ll publish the full results in a white paper soon so keep an eye out for that.

At this point I’d like to say ‘Thank You’ to everyone who took the time to respond to the survey, and to Retra for boosting our reach via their Bytes newsletter. And especially to Jack Cheeseman for partnering with us on this and for distributing the survey across ERT’s online platforms.