In July 15, 2015, Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi launched the Skill India program which announced the aim to skill 402 million people by 2022. Out of all sectors, retail emerged as second most important sector with a requirement of 10.7 million people to be skilled. India’s retail market is also expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10 per cent to US$ 1/6 trillion by 2026 from US$ 641 billion in 2016.  

This makes the retail sector stand among the top three employers in India. This represents several opportunities as well as challenges for retail giants. To stay ahead of their competitors, retailers have to stay ahead of their game. Their strength lies in their workforce. Training their frontline staff well to retain and groom their for building a career in the retail sector is a priority for most businesses in the long run.

This need for training becomes all the more critical because the retail sector has the highest turnover rates as compared to other industries. In 2017, the staff turnover in the Indian retail industry was the highest with about 19.4 percent. This is why jobs in the retail industry are also synonymously referred to as being “dead-end” since workers do not find anything interesting in them to stick around for long.

Following are the challenges that the retail industry presents when it comes to training its large workforce:

      India is currently experiencing a demographic dividend, which means most of its population is very young. As per a study by Ernst and Young, about 64% of India’s population is expected to be in the working age group of 15-59 years by 2026. India is also expected to have the largest workforce in the world by 2025. Skilling this untapped potential is more vital than it ever was. Failure to do so can throw India in the lap of a humongous crisis.

  This young workforce has the most basic of qualifications. These are people who are just Class 10th or 12th pass, without any kind of professional training or work experience. To add to this problem, 30% of India’s youth are neither employed nor in education or training.

  The retail workforce is scattered in stores all across the country, which makes training them a huge challenge. The cultural background and language preferences are different in each state, which creates further hurdles in delivering uniform training.

  Retail is one of the most dynamic sectors with new products coming in every month, and processes changing every now and then. Keeping up with such latest developments and including them in the training in a classroom scenario seems utopian.

For retail, it is not only the compliance and product training that is required. Being in this sector and succeeding in it requires training in an array of soft skills such as communication, selling techniques, ensuring customer satisfaction, etc. Along with this, a number of technical skills are also essential, such as financial knowledge for handling cash in stores and keeping sale records, carrying out various store operations etc. Even a slight mistake in any of these areas can lead to huge losses. This is why organizations need to find a way in which they can train their retail workforce in all the areas concerned, and achieve the best out of them. This will not only help the retail industry, but also enable India to close the skill gap in the retail space.

Owing to the vastness of the Indian geography and the number of professionals who need to be skilled, classroom training is not the answer. Skilling needs to adopt the digital route in order to penetrate into the remotest of locations where trainees might exist. A key opportunity exists here – the usage of mobile devices to train the scattered workforce.

India’s mobile phone subscriber base touched the 1 billion mark in 2017. Such wide reach of mobile phones makes it the most relevant channel to create a window to a world of opportunities, education, employment and entertainment. With 125 million smartphone users currently, the opportunity for growth is huge in the training sector. Everybody can afford a smartphone today and wants to get on the internet. Smartphones are used for video streaming, chats and social media. Such are the engagement levels that almost everyone can be seen glued to a mobile screen, especially the youth.

There is compelling and proven connection between smartphone growth and economic growth.

~ Amresh Nandan, Research Director, Gartner, India

Training also needs to keep up with this rising trend in the use of mobile devices. What is the best way to conduct and deliver uniform training across a distributed workforce in the most cost effective and efficient way possible? Fortunately, there is an answer to this question – using microlearning as a tool.

Microlearning has taken the world of training by storm and has also proved to be one of the most effective ways to engage learners. There are several ways in which microlearning solves the retention problems in the training industry.

  • By offering bite sized courses in the form of interactive elements, microlearning helps achieve training objectives by keeping learners engaged and excited. Microlearning enables delivering training through smart and sophisticated ways on mobile devices, thereby accessing a wider reach in the shortest time frames possible.

 

  • Microlearning content ensures that content is made mobile compatible and engaging through superior graphics. This keeps the learners glued to the screen, making learning a fun process rather than a form of drudgery. The same content can also be deployed in a variety of languages across different geographies, and also updated as when required. Technology enables automatic updates across everyone’s courses. Since mobile device screens are small, engaging becomes an even bigger challenge, especially to the highly distracted workforce. But with visually appealing and interactive elements being incorporated into the training, learning becomes all the more fun and addictive.
  • One key feature that sets microlearning apart from other training tools is gamification. Gamification is an excellent way to help engage learners in a way that information becomes easier to digest and retain. It also takes place in a relaxed and informal environment of learning which makes trainees less anxious and more likely to be responsive. Gamification acts on the human senses of curiosity and discovery and allows for learners to have an immersive experience. Gamification employs elements such as points, badges, certificates, cash incentives etc. in microlearning which motivates learners to stay engaged and work harder to reach goals. Creation of badges or point leaderboards within the training ignites the competitive spirit of the learners.
  • Microlearning also helps organizations set clear learning paths for learners which takes care of the unique needs of each learner. which takes care of the unique needs of each learner. The flexibility or rules of the learning path can be custom-defined by the instructional designer on the basis of learner needs. Specific criteria can be assigned to complete the learning path and get certified or increase knowledge in a particular domain. Learning paths make the training much more structures and continuous. It also fosters a learning culture by putting learners in the driver’s seat and ensuring continuous feedback as a part of the training.

Even though training in retail comes with a host of challenges, mobile-based microlearning can help tackle them all through its unique features. Microlearning can also change the way retail is looked at by the country’s young workforce, and make it a sought-after job rather than a dead-end one. Retail organizations can enjoy the benefits of a higher ROI and also help create a workforce characterised by confident professionals.

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