How upskilling your staff can increase the success of your independent retail business

How upskilling your staff can increase the success of your independent retail business

How upskilling your staff can increase the success of your independent retail business

How upskilling your staff can increase the success of your independent retail business.

As an independent retailer, you face challenges from many fronts. Large retail competitors with considerable economies of scale, armies of staff with different skills and expertise, and the resources to build robust websites. Online retailers like Amazon that have sophisticated systems that can analyse buyer behaviour patterns. And not to mention, public policy costs such as skyrocketing business rates and the apprenticeship levy.

But, independent retailers also have several strengths. Being in charge of staffing, marketing, and merchandising allows you the freedom to be creative and build a unique brand. You’re smaller, agile, and fleet of foot so you can adapt quickly to changes in local tastes. You’re closer to your customers and in a great position to hear their suggestions and concerns, enabling you to consistently meet all their needs and wants. And you play a vital role in the community providing jobs for local people and boosting the local economy as a whole.

For an independent retailer, the key to remaining competitive is to play to all those strengths. Ideally, you would like to do this through taking on more employees but with limited resources at your disposal, it is not always possible. So the answer lies in getting more out of your existing employees and this can be achieved through upskilling.

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling is a method that managers use to teach or provide training for employees so that they develop new skills and become more productive members of their organisation. And with the development of technologies such as mobile devices and tablets, and customers expecting a seamless shopping experience both digitally and in store, upskilling has become more important than ever before in the retail industry.

Benefits of Upskilling to Independent Retailers

For independent retailers, upskilling can be great way to keep the business growing and evolving with the changing times, and equipping staff to deliver unique experiences for their customers whilst minimising costs. In the current retail environment it is no longer sufficient to just have ‘nice’ staff; they now must be commercial. More specifically, the benefits for independent retailers include:

Lowers costs

Upskilling has major financial benefits, especially for independent retailers with limited resources. Bringing in new hires comes at a considerable expense. Substantial costs incurred from having to pay for advertising for the new roles, conducting interviews with candidates, and inducting, training and developing new recruits.

Upskilling allows you to avoid those major recruitment costs whilst enabling your existing employees to become more effective members of your organisation. This is done at a much lower cost so will save you money in the long run and enhance your store’s profitability.

Keep up to speed with changes in the retail industry

By equipping your staff with much needed up-to-date skills, your retail store will be in a much better position to innovate, adapt to the latest trends within the industry, and improve customer service. For example, skills in the use of technology will enable employees to serve customers seamlessly across your store’s digital and physical channels.

Increase employee retention

When you encourage your retail staff to improve existing skills or retrain to develop new ones, you’re sending a clear message that you’re willing to invest in them and help them grow. What’s more, upskilling enables employees to perform their roles effectively, take on more responsibility, and obtain promotion. Employees will then feel more positively about your company and see a long-term future there, full of career opportunities. This enables you to retain employees and build a stronger team, capable of delivering high quality service, reinforcing your store’s brand.

Improves customer satisfaction

Upskilled employees that take on more challenging work and responsibility are more likely to find their jobs rewarding, leading to feelings of satisfaction and happiness. Happy employees are then driven to go above and beyond for your customers and promote your store’s brand. Patrons of your store will soon notice, leading to improved customer satisfaction. That satisfaction then turns to loyalty.

Are you a SME/Independent Retailer looking to:

– Increase traffic through online and in-store experiences

– Create a Performance Coaching culture

– Increase revenue and profitability

– Spend more time working on the business instead of in the business

Learn more about The Business Growth System

Designed specifically for retailers to help you plan and achieve the future growth ambitions you want for your business and yourself.

Action steps to upskilling your workforce

  • Establish goals for upskilling

The first step is to look at your overall store’s business objectives and identify the skills that are needed to fulfil those objectives, and enable the store to remain competitive and grow. In addition, look at your staff’s current skills and any new skills they need to develop.

  • Personal development plans

The key to successful upskilling is allowing employees to take charge of their own personal development. This involves letting them identify any skills they feel they need to improve or new skills they would like to develop. Employees will be more receptive to upskilling if they have a sense of ownership of the process. At the same time, make sure the skills they want to learn are relevant to your store so encourage job-specific upskilling. For example, digital skills have become important in the retail industry as customers shift towards online and mobile-based shopping so use upskilling as a way to encourage staff to develop those skills.

  • Allocate time for upskilling

Once you have all the individual personal development plans in place, the next task is to set aside time for staff members to learn. If they have to go away on a course, allow them a few hours in a workday or a few days in the working week to attend. If this is not possible, consider alternatives such as online learning, lunch and learn sessions, or micro learning where courses are divided into bite-sized modules that last only six minutes. (All available at RPS, contact us today to find out more)

  • Encourage top performers to become mentors

Another way of training your workforce is to encourage your best and most productive staff members to mentor upskilling employees. Not only do the mentees benefit but the mentors too as they will have the opportunity to develop leadership and coaching skills.

  • Role playing

Role playing is another great upskilling method, especially in a retail setting. Role playing sessions can be arranged where individual employees take on the role of customers and store team members. By playing out various scenarios of customer interactions, employees will gain confidence in dealing with a variety of problems and improve their customer service skills.

  • Coaching

Building a learning environment begins with the store’s leadership. You can achieve this by acting as coach to your retail staff members, teaching them the skills needed for the store’s successful operation, and providing them constant feedback and encouragement. As a manager of an independent retailer with a small team around you, you are in a great position to do this. Being part of such a closely knit team, you will know every member of staff very well and be able to easily communicate your passion for the store’s brand and inspire them.

As an independent retailer you have limited resources to be able to bring in new skills, but that needn’t stop you from making a significant mark in the industry. By putting the appropriate plans and resources in place, you will enable your staff to develop a wider range of skills and build your store’s brand in a way that makes you stand out from your competitors.

And this is what we at RPS help you with through our Business Growth System, especially designed for our independent retailer clients. As part of the system, we carry out the RPS Performance Diagnostic that benchmarks your retail business against the industry. One of the areas covered by the diagnostic is people performance, which will help you identify areas where your staff can develop and grow, and in turn enable them to be effective contributors to the growth of your business.

If you would like to know more about the RPS Business Growth System please contact us on 01344 849397 or email us at