Table of Contents
Employee training and development is a rather broad term that encompasses programmes that enable employees to gain sufficient knowledge on a specific subject, which ultimately helps them to improve their performance in an organisation. The training provided helps them to be better at their current jobs, while the development programmes are more expansive in nature, and have their focus mostly on the growth and future undertakings of the individuals (Aguinis and Kraiger, 2009).
An efficient training and development programme enables the organisations to retain the best employees and earn more profits. The competition between employees is also increasing with every passing day, and this makes these training programmes even more important. The employee development programmes are not only competitive, but also lay the foundation for achieving the strategic goals of the organisation. Organisations that have innovative training programmes reportedly have a higher level of growth when it comes to their profits (Aguinis and Kraiger, 2009). This is mostly because efficient training programmes enable the workers to be up to date with the latest schemes and technologies and this results in a better performance output than the competitors.
A training program that can have the maximum impact is not a matter of chance; they are a result of a carefully planned and assigned process. The programmes must be so developed that they are capable of meeting the organisational goals. When the focus is on the business goals, the training process becomes measurable (AllenComm, 2017). A detailed analysis of the employee skill gap is also important for outlining the specific objectives of the entire process, and there are certain activities that help to frame the learning programmes. Employees need to feel motivated to perform their job efficiently, and they should have a mastery over the skills required for it. They should also be trained to critically think and distinguish between the information that is supplied to them.
Context of the organisation
The fashion retail industry had no schemes or training programmes for the employees in the recent past. However, the organisations currently are trying to keep up with the rapidly changing business environment, and this has led to an increase in the prevalence of effective training and development. This is the result of the realisation that training and development programmes have the capacity for improving employee productivity and performance, while also motivating them to work harder and better (Ure, 2014). This is mostly applicable for retail associates who are essentially the front-line employees and their interaction with the customers have the power to influence their buying decisions. This is evident in case of the fashion retail industry as well, since the sales assistants have a major contribution to the product choices of the buyers who visit the stores or outlets (Ure, 2014).
With the advent of technology, it has become very easy to capture and transfer information regarding the needs and demands of the consumers. The retailers from the fashion industry are exploiting this to track the behaviours and preferences of the people. The search history of the consumers is readily available to the retailers, and this has given rise to the expectation that sellers will know what the customers want or need, even in the physical stores. Fashion retail stores have to tap into the information that is accessible to them, and this has been made possible after technological advancements such as scanning, POS or Point of Sale systems, and the Back Office Systems (Skills Ireland, 2010). The retail organisation considered here, that is Zara, utilises POS scanning data to increase the production of the products that are selling the most, and has tailored its supply chain accordingly such that the response time is minimised and efficiency is maintained.
In the fashion retail industry, the sales assistants are the employees who are required to undergo training and development, as they are the people who have the scope of influencing the buying decisions of the consumers in a direct manner (Piotrowicz and Cuthbertson, 2014). They are responsible for ensuring the fact that the transactions with the buyers end smoothly, and their duty is to help the customers choose the correct product from the company’s goods portfolio. A sales assistant is also entrusted with the job of processing payments and maintaining a satisfactory level of customer service.
The retail environment requires that the sales assistants will help the customers with whatever they need, and the sector is a highly fast-paced one. They also have the responsibility of promoting the special offers that the store might be offering at that moment, along with arranging window displays and managing customer complaints. Their working hours are not fixed, since the sales rate is not constant throughout the year. People tend to shop more during the holidays, and sales assistants could thereby be expected to earn a hefty overtime payment. The sales assistants are supposed to make the shopping experience a memorable and enjoyable one for the customers, so that they come back repeatedly. This in turn increases the rate of sales for the retail store and generates more profits for the business. They are also expected to have detailed knowledge regarding the types and prices of the products that are offered by the retail store, and one of the most important tasks they have is to give the customers as much information as possible.
The first step that is undertaken by any retail organisation is the formulation of a training plan. The needs of the organisation are assessed, and the plans are developed accordingly so that it becomes possible to tailor the skills of the employees as per those requirements. The objectives are then defined, and the training is conducted for the selected employees. Each stage has the scope for feedback, which evaluates the level of success of the training programme and gives an insight to the changes that need to be incorporated into the processes.
The behavioural theory of job security deals with making an employee be aware of the fact that their jobs will be secure if they carry out the given tasks timely and efficiently. This theory is highly effective in the present job market, since the economy is volatile, and there are many people who are under the constant threat of losing their jobs. The reassurance that the organisation they are working with would not let them go or terminate them is thereby a strong motivating factor to make the workers give in their best for the jobs they are working at.
The staff can also be motivated by setting a specific array of goals, and the employees can be allowed to contribute in this regard. The listing of short-term goals has long been an effective way of motivating the workers to carry out their tasks efficiently. Since the short-term goals can be accomplished within weeks or months, it give the management the much-needed insight into where the company would stand in the future. There are studies that prove that individuals have the tendency to respond positively to set targets or goals, and they usually work to make sure that they are achieved properly.
More effective than job security is the system of internal promotions. This is because a much higher reward is promised in return for the completion of the task that the company wants. The main motivating factor is undoubtedly money, and the workers will not only feel accomplished after achieving the goals but also have the scope of being rewarded with a position that pays more than their present one (Danish and Usman, 2010). This will encourage the workers to stick to the organisation, and give them the assurance that their hard work is being noticed and recognised by the authorities. A similar tactic in this case would be the individualised system of rewards or the incentives. Employees could be given incentives on the occasion that they meet their targets or surpass them, and these are necessary to make them feel that their contribution is being valued.
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A worker who starts their career at Zara usually begins as a cashier or a sales assistant. The three sections of the company are menswear, women wear, and kids wear. There are separate managers for every section in addition to the store manager or general manager. The training for the sales assistants starts on the very first day of their recruitment, as they have a lot to learn. Zara intends to avoid any discrepancies and the training conducted is thus meticulously strict in its nature. They are the ‘floor staff’ and they are taught every little thing about the garments that are sold in the retail outlets, ranging from the products available to where they are displayed (Inditex, 2017). This is important to ensure that they have sufficient knowledge to answer the questions that the customers might have regarding the garments, and the managers of the different sections personally handle the training procedures.
The sales assistants are trained on how the products are delivered to the stores and how they are to be laid out for display in order to be appealing and attractive to the customers. They are taught everything in detail, including how to fold the clothes in the correct manner. Zara often conducts competitions where the employees are given specific tasks to complete. The individuals who manage to accomplish the tasks are rewarded accordingly, and there are provisions for incentives as well (Inditex, 2017). This gives the employees the chance to utilise their skills and put them to practice, and motivates them to perform to the best of their abilities.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Employees at Zara have to follow certain steps if they are to move up the ladder and become a part of the managerial posts. The sales assistants have to learn everything about the shop floor and the garments in detail, and have to be acquainted with the responsibilities involved in the ordering and management of product deliveries to the different stores. This is one of the strengths as it ensures that the workers have sufficient knowledge about what they are doing, and the regional managers conduct interviews to assess their progress. The fact that Zara has training and development programmes in place even for those in the managerial posts proves that the organisation believes that there is no limitation to learning. This helps the company to be at par with the competitors and keeps the workers on their toes.
One weakness that can be mentioned here is that the number of steps that the sales assistants have to cross before being selected as a manager are many, and hence the process is a time-consuming one. However, the appraisal systems and staff commissions make up for their efforts, and the workers thus get the motivation they need to improve and excel at their job.
Recommendations and limitations
The current scenario in the fashion retail industry is such that the managers are being increasingly overburdened with responsibilities, and thus, their scope of training the employees is being limited to a great extent. It can be recommended that the managers must find the reasons to train and coach their employees to help them develop at their jobs. Zara can have incentive schemes for the managers as well so that they are encouraged to train the sales assistants working under them. The limitation with this process is that the duties and tasks that the managers already are entrusted with are burdensome, and focusing on the coaching programmes might hamper that.
Another way of effective employee training would be provisions for flexible learning options. The sales assistants can adjust their training programmes in accordance with their workload, and this would make the learning process more readily accessible and convenient for them. The limitation with this approach is that the managers or the trainers responsible for their coaching might not be available at all times, and this system thus requires a more thoughtful and careful evaluation.
- Aguinis, H. and Kraiger, K., 2009. Benefits of training and development for individuals and teams, organizations, and society. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, pp.451-474.
- AllenComm, 2017. What is employee training and development? [online] Available at: <https://www.allencomm.com/resource/what-is-employee-training-development> [Accessed 26 November 2017].
- Danish, R.Q. and Usman, A., 2010. Impact of reward and recognition on job satisfaction and motivation: An empirical study from Pakistan. International Journal Of Business And Management, 5(2), p.159.
- Inditex, 2017. Professional development. [online] Available at: <https://www.inditex.com/our-commitment-to-people/our-employees/employee-development> [Accessed 26 November 2017].
- Piotrowicz, W. and Cuthbertson, R., 2014. Introduction to the special issue information technology in retail: Toward omnichannel retailing. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 18(4), pp.5-16.
- Skills Ireland, 2010. Future skills needs of the wholesale and retail sectors. [pdf] Available at: <http://www.skillsireland.ie/media/EGFSN%20Wholesale%20Retail%20ONLINE%20FINAL.pdf> [Accessed 26 November 2017].
- Ure, M., 2014. Retail training trends: The importance of front-line employees. [online] AllenComm. Available at: <https://www.allencomm.com/blog/2014/09/retail-training-trends-importance-front-line-employees> [Accessed 26 November 2017].