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Ask a Trainer: How Can I Support Learners in a Retail Setting?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Hello, Tim,

I’ve been in L&D for a while, primarily working for companies whose employees are based in small, centralized offices and working standard nine to five business hours. During that time, I took for granted how much direct access I had to my learners.

I just started a new job in L&D at a large retail company. I’m excited—this job is definitely a step up in responsibility for me. However, I’m nervous about adapting my previous experience to this new environment. I’ll now be designing learning content for thousands of geographically dispersed employees. I know I can’t pull all the retail workers out of their stores for day-long trainings or even off the sales floor for a short e-learning module.

Do you have any advice about how to I can create meaningful learning experiences for these types of busy remote employees that I won’t have direct access to?

What a great question and what a common issue. When I first entered the world of learning and development, it was also in a retail environment. Like you, I struggled to figure out how to reach many different people located in many different locations without the luxury of giving them time off their jobs.

This isn’t something unique to retail. Whether employees are working in a call center, warehouse, or other working environment where time equals money, it’ll always be a challenge to make learning a priority.

Here are some tips that may help.

Explore Microlearning Strategies
After reading your question, the first thing that popped into my head was microlearning. When you’re creating learning content for employees with little or no availability to participate in traditional training events, microlearning may be an option.


For example, if your employees have access to a mobile device, see if you can’t deliver short (five minutes or less) videos, interactive modules, or articles. If this isn’t an option, it still doesn’t mean you can’t apply the practice of microlearning to your formal content. For example, if you have a 30-minute e-learning course that employees take each year, see how you can shorten it to 10 minutes or fewer. In any situation, the more efficient you can make the learning, the more likely you’ll be able to successfully deliver it.

Focus on Performance Support
Next, I would encourage you to find ways you can rely on performance support rather than formal training events. Outside of their initial onboarding, most retail employees are required to learn on the job. Find ways to make those trial-by-fire learning experiences a bit easier by embedding performance support where it matters the most.

Whether it’s projecting a job aid that can be used at the cash register or an infographic that can be posted in the stockroom, seek those small opportunities where you can make your learners’ jobs easier by providing just-in-time support.

Identify Unconventional Opportunities
My final tip is to identify any unconventional opportunities that you can use to embed learning content. For example, when I worked in retail learning, our stores included large flatscreen television in the breakroom. We discovered we could produce short videos on various topics that could be blasted to all the stores and broadcast to the screens.

Another opportunity is to use team meetings and huddles, which typically occur during shift changes or at the end of the day. One option might be to create a “meeting-in-a-box,” where you provide content and materials for the store leaders to facilitate during those huddles.

It can seem difficult to create learning solutions for employees who are busy and geographically dispersed; however, once you start thinking outside of the box (or the classroom), you’ll discover there are endless opportunities for you to embed learning.


I hope these tips help. Best of luck.


P.S. If you’re reading this and have a helpful idea, share it by commenting below.

Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected] Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.

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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

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