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Manish Mohan, EVP, SDN quoted in ‘Images Retail’ magazine

How Skill Training Assures Brand Growth

Developing skills through further training provides significant benefits not only to the employees but to the retail brand as well. To match the requirement of skilled manpower in the retail sector, retail brands these days are actively engaged in providing skill development training to aspiring individuals. Domestic as well as international brands are proactively looking at ensuring a steady supply chain of trained manpower while building new skills to meet the ever-growing customer demands. These days retail brands are recognising the importance of in-house skill development and investing heavily on the same. The phenomenon is catching up with international as well as national brands alike.

Speaking on the same, Sahil Malik, MD, Da Milano says: “Working on the skill-sets of employees is extremely important. Untrained or poorly trained employees cost significantly more to support than well-trained employees do. Training affects employee retention and is a valuable commodity. This aspect, if viewed as an investment rather than as an expense, can produce high returns.” Speaking in the same vein, Ashu Malhotra, Head – HR, Jabong says: “The e-retail industry being so dynamic, it is imperative that the employer brand is protected and the core values of the company should remain intact. As organisations evolve, it is easy for the employee value proposition to be compromised but by focusing on cultivating a strong, open and an employee-friendly culture, HR departments can best ensure employee satisfaction, attraction, development and retention.”

“Of course it is very important as you can have all your systems and machines updated but until and unless the employees involved are not skilled, it is impossible to get the desired results,” opines Ishaan Sachdeva, Director, Alberto Torresi. Echoing his opinion, Manish Mohan, Executive Vice President – Skills Development Network, Wadhwani Foundations says: “Skill and talent development are keys to success in today’s extremely competitive retail industry.

In spite of promising growth, the retail industry in India faces a major challenge in terms of lack of quality talent and increased attrition. Hence, undertaking skill development should be one of the core focus areas for the retail sector. This is all the more important as retail brands have a substantial number of employees in customer facing roles. In this age of social media connectivity, it is critical for retail brands to provide the best possible customer service as a key business differentiator.” “The educated youth now-a-days prefer an easy life with comfort as its basic necessity and hence, we did not leave any stone unturned to provide an exotic collection of theme-based furniture with intricate detailing and finesse,” says Kshitij Talwar, Managing Director, Alex Daisy. There is no doubt about the fact that a skilled workforce plays a key role in the success of this retailer.

Steps taken by retailers

Speaking on in-house skill development, Asheeta Chhabra, Director, Chhabra555 says: “For the convenience of our customers, we always believe in training our staff before they meet the customers in person as we want our customers to walk out of the store not just with a shopping bag but with a satisfactory sigh too. So in order to accomplish this motto, we train almost every employee when they join us.” Highlighting the same, Jignesh Mehta, Founder & MD, Divine Solitaires says: “All employees under direct supervision of their department heads are continuously monitored for their performance; they are also given a feedback. Employees are systematically taken through the various functions and facets of the diamond and jewellery industry functions, such as grading, stock management, business policy guidelines with specific focus on their respective functional areas and so on.

More than 30 employees were trained last year.” Saurabh Gadgil, Chairman & Managing Director, P.N. Gadgil Jewellers points out: “Being a retail jewellery brand, we also focus on training our employees on technical skills, soft skills and interpersonal skills for better customer relationship management Apart from this, considering their fast-paced lives, we also help our employees achieve worklife balance to ensure a stress-free life and healthy working environment.” Speaking on the same, Ishu Datwani, Founder, Anmol Jewellers says: “ We conduct in-store workshops and training workshops periodically and specially before the festive season for our sales staff to refresh their product and sales knowledge. We also conduct grooming sessions for our sales staff and share important tips on grooming, which is essential for the retail staff.”

“We get our employees trained on the job through continuous mentoring and coaching. Our training department performs the training need analysis based on feedback,” informs Rahul Singh, Founder & CEO, The Beer Café.

“Along with in-house training, we also take our employees on off-sites. This gives them an opportunity to bond and also helps them learn about team work,” says Prasad Kapre, CEO & Director, Style Quotient Jewellery.

As per the findings of Dilip Chenoy, Managing Director & CEO, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC): “These days, retail brands are following certain practices commonly:

– Active engagement with Retailers Association’s Skill Council of India (RASCI) has led to realigning training to match the competencies as prescribed in the National Occupational Standards (NOS). This has shifted the focus from peripheral training aimed at performing tasks to training aimed at improving overall competency of the staff.

– Many retail brands have also partnered with RASCI and training partners like IL&FS, Centum WSI, etc. to deliver these programmes, which focus on overall development of the trainee (knowledge, skills and attributes) leading to improved productivity.

– Companies, both Indian and international, have started to incentivise training by providing ongoing learning and development opportunities. They have institutionalised, structured communication and mentoring or coaching processes. Many have also invested in dedicated academies to offer formal learning pathways that lead to overall development of the employees.

– Companies are focusing on self assessment for all associates so that they can monitor their own progress and choose ongoing training courses that best fi t their skill development needs; this results in additional motivation to stay with the company.”

Chenoy further informs: “Brands like AB Minacs, Future Group, Spencer’s, Shoppers Stop, McDonalds, KFC, and Republic of Chicken have extensive trainings for their frontline and sales staff. Quite a few have also tied up with IIMs, IITs and other premier institutes to deliver specialised training. However, given the nature of the industry, entry-level workforce, high attritions and employability, these initiatives can never be enough.”

War between front- and back-end

Speaking on same, Harkirat Singh, MD, Woodland, says,”We believe both front-end and back-end has equal important functions and responsibilities. At woodland we devote significant resources in training employees for all departments.

However, the required skill sets for the two types of employees varies significantly. The front end staff is the first and the only point of contact for customers and since they are considered the face of a business, we spend considerable resources in training and honing the skills of our representatives regularly.

Regardless of departments, any new staff member needs to be able to employ his skills in the specific ways required by his new position and by the organization. He also may need to learn new skills related to what he already knows, since the demands of the position may be somewhat different from what he’s done in the past.”

Overall, training impacts organizational competitiveness, revenue and performance. Speaking on this, Shilpi Shukla, Head Strategist, says: “Both, front-end and back end staffs have to work together in perfect sync to make things happen in an organisation. In an e-commerce set-up, the front-end staff is the only point of contact with the customer. Hence, there is a need for them to be customer-centric .They have to undergo soft skills training for the same. Keeping this parameter in mind, for the first fifteen days a new employee is not allowed to go for deliveries alone. Instead, the employee is accompanied by a senior,which is also an on-the-job training mechanism. As far as back-end staff is concerned, it is important to train them because they are involved in multiple operational activities.”

“In jewelry industry, we give more importance to the front-end staff as they are the ones who represent the brand’s services and products in front of the customers. Retail salespersons are the ones who deal with the customers pertaining to most of the issues on behalf of the brand. That is the reason why it has been particularly focused on broadly three areas that impact a retail salesperson’s ability to provide stellar customer service – operations, product knowledge and selling skills,” says Ashutosh Sharma, Designer & Managing Director, Shreem Jeweler.

“Our USP of providing personal managers is pretty challenging. For this the personal managers have to be trained regularly as they are the face of the company,” feel Nitish Roy, Chief Visionary Officer and Rahul Sethi, Marketing Head, Clearly, retail brands must focus on strategy and subject matter expertise with their in-house skill development teams. In addition, the in-house skill development team must be adept at project management to ensure implementation and monitoring of skilling initiatives across multiple locations.

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