September 2021

Smeg's training facility at the Abingdon HQ, with Ms Edwards right.

38 When launching new appliances, online

training has allowed Smeg to reach retailers much more quickly than waiting for a store visit, or inviting people to its head office training facility (near Oxford). “Our sessions are easily accessible, being held

at appropriate times and with staff numbers that fit around the retail environment,” continues Ms Edwards. “We see the new style of online training as an additional resource to our training offering – a blended approach with snapshot sessions online, and a fully immersive experience at our HQ in Abingdon.” Taking the ideas further, Smeg has also started

offering live virtual events to consumers as well; these include a mixture of appliance demonstrations and ‘cook-alongs’. Ms Edwards says the events have supported consumers in their purchase of their Smeg appliances, and often help the up-sell. “This interaction has also given us a chance to

‘hang out’ with our customers and share our passion for cooking,” she adds.

Micro learning Future-facing businesses are embracing digital as a key part of their transformation, seeking platforms that not only offer a digital space for their teams to operate, but also create forums that enable cross-functional collaboration to drive innovation, creativity and learning. The content on such platforms should be considered micro- learning; easy to consume in five minutes or less, with a focus on real world application. “Insightful retailers understand that an

investment in learning is vital to get keep their business on track in a post-pandemic world,” says Mr Bhardwaj, picking up on the point that combined capabilities are needed for this digital age – that’s technical abilities, and human abilities, like agility and emotional intelligence. “As the world returns to some sense of normal,

many customers will still be apprehensive about face-to-face interactions, and look to store staff to

support them with their adjustment to a new way of shopping. Training will almost certainly be integral to managing that in an empathetic and confident manner. Couple that with the plethora of new or returning faces on the shopfloor, post- furlough training will likely be high on most retailers’ agenda.” On a similar note, Ms Clarke adds that

employers will also want to utilise a blend of online and face-to-face learning moving forward. She says: “I believe it’s still really important for

newer staff members to have hands-on training with products, but for more experienced colleagues who are au fait with industry technologies, online training may be all that is necessary to introduce new models or highlight certain focus features and benefits.”

A hybrid world Mr Bhardwaj believes that video is key in this new, hybrid world… “More and more retailers are reaching out to us and requesting we film our product demonstrations to share with their teams,” he explains. “Gone are the days of expensive, polished

production. The content we get the strongest response from is our team shooting product training on the shopfloor or at home in their kitchen, with just a phone and a microphone. These are edited to meet current video trends found on the likes of TikTok or Instagram. It’s fun, on point and evokes an emotive response that the colleagues can connect with – that really drives a message home.” However, there are some experiences that the

Internet cannot replicate. The in-store shopping journey – browsing, experimenting, measuring, seeking advice. Since shops reopened after lockdown consumers have been very keen to get back out there. And the ability of a staff member to confidently engage in product demonstration is key in the overall buying experience, and remains a strong reason to allow time for training within any retail business.

Ms Clarke goes on: “Consumer focus has shifted

and the key product features that attracted them previously may not be the highest priority in today’s world; for example, hygiene is central to this, but also an awareness for sustainability has grown too. “Shifts in emphasis mean that sales staff will

need to talk in more detail about certain product features that previously they might not have had as much knowledge of, and so training will play a key part in equipping them with the tools to meet their customers’ needs. “I think training is increasingly important as

we gradually emerge from this pandemic. For many staff members who may have been on furlough or working in drastically altered circumstances, it’s crucial to support them with refreshing their skills and knowledge as they return to normal conditions.”

Above, Smeg's HQ near Oxford. And Beko's Digital First Trainers

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