A recent survey by Investors in People UK shows that 41% of managing directors and senior managers in the retail sector believe high staff turnover affects productivity. Despite this, they fail to see the important link between staff retention, productivity and developing their employees ­ only a third (34%) consider staff training a very important aspect of business.
Another startling revelation from the survey is that one in four retailers still only invest in short-term training for their staff. In a sector known for high staff turnover and uncertainty in sales, taking a more long-term commitment to training and raising skills could be part of the solution for improving business performance.
Indeed, a reluctance on behalf of senior figures to marry people-focused strategies with broader business objectives, undermines the potential of the workforce. Investors in People aims to provide organisations with a means of translating this potential into tangible results.
As indicated by the survey, a key part of the process is ensuring that best practice recruitment and retention measures are undertaken. Staff turnover is particularly high among sales assistants and retail cashiers who play a vital customer-facing role and are pivotal to ensuring customer satisfaction. Managers could motivate and incentivise employees by demonstrating a commitment to their development. This would increase their ability to contribute to the success of the organisation and provide career progression opportunities.
Inevitably, concerns will vary according to the size of the organisation. For example, smaller retail organisations sometimes dismiss training on the basis that neither time nor financial resources are available. Larger organisations, on the contrary, may offer a wide ranging but often ad hoc selection of training options, but this does not equate to a tick in the training criteria met' box.
The most effective results are when the individual needs of an employee are met.
The leadership skills which a manager might aim to cultivate differ from the day-to-day customer service skills required by employees on the shop floor.
All sizes of organisation need to take a broad look at the objectives of the business and consider how the development of each individual will enhance their skills and meet the demands of the business on a higher strategic level.
Yet still too often the "what if we train them and give them new skills and then they leave?" question is raised by employers unaccustomed to the benefits of training.
I believe that the "what if we train them and improve their potential and they stay" approach is healthier and likely to deliver business results.
In the present economic climate, retail organisations need to pull out all the stops to enhance productivity and profitability.
At a time when every group with a voice is offering a plethora of solutions on how to boost productivity, it can be hard for business to know the right steps to take.
Yet there can be no doubt that placing training on a business platform, that is to say aligning people development strategies with business objectives, is a simple yet highly effective action that can be taken to create concrete business results.