Training Application Exercises for Retail Employees

Having likely worked in retail in our younger days, many of us know that most retail jobs are very process-oriented.

They’re usually pretty simple for the most part.

Clear instructions for how to best complete these simple tasks have are explained and the employee’s first week on the job involves reviewing those instructions, which they’re supposed to commit to memory until they can perform them in their sleep.

Most employees are able to do that for tasks they perform every time they are on the job. Frequent repetition makes it easy to memorize those processes quickly. But let’s look at some training challenges retail establishments encounter with employees:

  • a brand new—or recently changed—process needs to be taught to current employees
  • an underperforming employee needs some help learning and remembering the correct processes
  • some processes aren’t performed regularly (perhaps weekly or even monthly) so opportunities for application aren’t frequent

In each of these situations, what’s needed is practice. The more an employee can practice the steps of a process, the better they will get and the more likely they will remember it. Training alone—the transfer of knowledge—doesn’t allow for practice.

Training is important, but in order to drive real behavioral change (in this case, helping all employees complete current processes correctly) we need to place emphasis on application and practice.

Impactful Exercises for Knowledge Application

Scenarios and simulations are powerful tools to test whether learners are able to take what they are learning and turn it into actionable on-the-job results. After initial training, if we send employees back to their jobs in the real world, we can’t be certain they’re applying what they’ve learned – correctly or even at all.

Studies Prove the Importance of Practice

Edgar_Dales_cone_of_learning Source: “Edgar Dale’s cone of learning” by Jeffrey Anderson

It’s been well-documented by models such as Edgar’s Cone of Experience that “people generally remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see…and 90% of what they do.” The case for adding application and practice exercises to training courses is strong.

Scenarios, simulations, and real-time application are not created equal, however, and each come with their own set of reasonable expected outcomes.

It’s important to know the differences so you can choose the right type of exercise for your audience.

Understanding the Difference Between Scenarios, Simulations, and Real-time Application

Scenarios are often completed as part of a training course, and often describe a fictional, realistic-but-simplified situation an employee might find herself in on-the-job. The employee is then asked questions to assess her ability to choose the correct course of action. They are beneficial in their ease of measurement and relative ease of inclusion in a training course – whether eLearning or ILT (instructor led training).

Simulations more closely resemble the real world, and can be built electronically using games or virtual reality or a staged, physical environment. The point is to—as accurately and detailed as possible—recreate a situation an employee has or will encounter and ask her to work through it. There is more involved in building a simulation than a scenario, but it’s the closest you can get to real, on-the-job experience without associated risk.

Rather self-explanatory, real-time application occurs when the employee is actually on the job. The case can be made that this is the best way to learn a process, but it does come with a certain degree of risk letting an employee practice on real customers, systems or machines.

Even the best crafted scenarios and simulations can’t fully replace real-world experience. However, there are many processes and procedures that are too important to not use any kind of applied learning.

You’ll want to consider these factors before choosing an applied learning approach for your retail employees.

Does your company use scenarios or simulations in employee training? What results and feedback have you realized from your retail employees who have participated in these types of applied learning exercises? Leave us a comment below; we’d love to hear about your experience.

photo credit: via photopin (license)