how knowing worker location can advance retail training

Can knowing a worker’s location advance frontline retail training?

Most of us use our phone map apps everyday – whether to find the best driving route or plan a new running or walking loop. Apps like Google and Apple Maps have gotten so accurate that in only eight years (or perhaps 12 years if you were an Android early adopter) we wouldn’t dream of using a paper map to find out “where’s the nearest gas station” or answer other daily questions.

Having GPS data for outside locations sparked a mobile app revolution. It’s about to happen again with indoor location data, and with considerable upside for retailers. 

location aware mapping app revolution

Indoor mapping was introduced by Apple in September 2017, and many retail malls have since jumped on board to provide mobile access to mall wayfinding as an upgrade to the physical maps at kiosks. There are whole businesses that have grown to provide indoor mapping for mall or big box customers and are now layering on data monitoring of foot traffic and customer behaviours. Retailers have discovered that knowing where customers are in the store is critical to provide information to make them productive shoppers. Imagine how we could harness indoor location data to make our retail frontline more productive? 

What can location data show us about frontline workers?

I wrote in another post about how I heard Frank Blake, former Chairman & CEO of The Home Depot say on a podcast “All truth is found on the floor of the store.”  Think of everything that location data can reveal about frontline workers on the store or warehouse floor:

  • Where do workers spend their time? Where do they congregate?
  • What locations are not visited?
  • Locations relate to tasks, so what tasks are consuming worker time, which are neglected?
  • Locations relate to equipment, so which is being used most?

What might location data mean for retail training? 

If you consider how indoor data is being used to engage customers with relevant product offers or help information related to where they stand in a mall – extend that to how we may better engage workers with learning. The same logic for information utility applies – I care about learning about something when I’m close to it, when I’m about to take some action.

Today’s modern learners are short on time, rush to learn, and want to learn their own way. For frontline and operations workers in retail, convenience stores and quick service restaurants, formal training programs are not meeting their needs. 

Current retail training is falling short for one or more of these reasons:

  • It only occurs at the start of a job or a few times each year, instead of when it’s needed most or on a continuous basis;
  • It’s boring, or not engaging because it lacks personalization and context;
  • It provides too much information at once, overwhelming the worker who doesn’t retain the learning. 
  • It doesn’t teach all the practical skills necessary to do the job.
  • It doesn’t recognize modern learning behaviour – how we access information as we need it on mobile, or use videos for learning.  

So how can we provide frontline workers with effective retail training they need that addresses these historic gaps? We’re at a moment in learning and development where we need to combine all that we’ve learned about microlearning and get more sophisticated in how we filter learning to a worker’s context.

Effective retail training needs to be less overwhelming

Mobile microlearning solves a number of the challenges we face in retail training. Learning and development leaders in retail are coming to terms with the fact we need to ditch lengthy SOPs and training manuals and transform the content into easily digestible, bite-sized content delivered to a worker’s mobile device. And on the format front, we need to move to quick checklists, task tips and how-to videos so learning is easy to consume in the flow of work. 

Microlearning on mobile apps isn’t enough though. Retailers still have to address the issue that workers are overwhelmed with too much information pushed to them at once. We have a filtering problem and search doesn’t solve it because we’re wasting workers time hunting for information and it’s costing us in time and productivity. 

How can we stop overwhelming workers as we try and train them? We need to deliver the right learning for their context and location.

Smart Access location-aware retail training platform

One mobile learning platform using location and other data to personalize learning so it’s more effective and less overwhelming for workers on the retail frontline is Smart Access

Imagine a grocery employee, Joel Mullins, shows up for a shift thinking he’s stocking produce but a colleague is sick and instead, he needs to work the deli. Trouble is, he’s senior enough that he’s worked at the deli station before but it’s been a few months, and sanitization rules and operations are always shifting. How can he get guidance quickly, respecting that higher-up managers are busy given they are short staffed? 

With Smart Access, Joel can use his mobile device to scan a Smart Access sticker next to the meat slicer to see task guidance and sanitization protocols personalized to that location and his role and experience. 

Another worker, Rory Walker, is a new employee at a distribution warehouse. He can scan for directions on inventory stocking specific to that aisle and because the technology recognizes  he’s new, he’ll see orientation checklists and 30-sec safety videos relevant to that role.

In pilots with Smart Access, workers spent just seconds to access task guidance that used to take three or more minutes to find, and often involved seeking out a manager. Smart Access’ biggest retail clients have experienced a 40x improvement in learning speed at the frontline.

Improve frontline productivity with location-based learning 

If you’re a retailer seeking to improve productivity with retail training that is tailored to the exact work situation, personalized to the individual, and can be consumed in seconds, we can help.

Find out how we train and reskill frontline workers faster, more effectively, and at scale. Contact us to learn more.