Developing a career path in retail A Harrods case study
Page 2: The importance of training and development
Training and development is vital to any business. Its purpose at Harrods is to better the performance of employees to enable Harrods to meet its business goals. For example, at Harrods the Sales Academy develops employees’ sales skills, leading to increased sales when they return to the shop floor. Allowing employees to acquire new skills, expertise and qualifications supports employee progression which leads to increased motivation. This supports Harrods’ retention strategies.
Training is about gaining the skills needed for a job. These may be learned at the place of work (on-the-job) or away from work (off-the-job). On-the-job training tends to be more cost-effective and relevant. However, off-the-job training is usually carried out by professional trainers. It also occurs away from the distractions of work. Training tends to have very specific and measurable goals, such as operating an IT system or till, understanding a process, or performing certain procedures (for example, cashing up).
Development is more about the individual – making him or her more efficient at a job or capable of facing different responsibilities and challenges. Development concentrates on the broader skills that are applicable to a wider variety of situations, such as thinking creatively, decision-making and managing people. In short, training is typically linked to a particular subject matter and is applicable to that subject only, while development is based on growing broader skills which can be used in many situations.
Harrods employees come from diverse backgrounds and different nationalities. They have differing levels of competency, education and experience. Harrods offers comprehensive Learning & Development opportunities. These opportunities are offered at a variety of levels to suit the needs of all Harrods employees. These range from workshops for Sales Associates and Warehouse Operatives to developmental programmes for senior managers.
Amber is a Harrods Retail Manager who started as a Sales Associate at Harrods through an online application. Harrods has created a web site www.harrodscareers.com to enable candidates to apply for roles easily.
‘I wasn’t sure I would get the job but it seemed a really challenging role and I was keen to try. I had only a little background in retail and none at all in the luxury retail market. Mostly I had been working in the hospitality sector.’Amber
However, Harrods Learning and Development ensured Amber acquired the skills she needed to carry out her role. Development at Harrods is linked to the company’s Business Competencies which fall under four headings: Working at Harrods, Your Impact on Others, Making Things Happen, Focus on Improvements.
Each Business Competency is supported by workshops so that every skill can be improved. Learning is offered off-the-job in ‘bite-size’ sessions. These sessions give employees the chance to learn more effectively over a much shorter period, reducing time away from work and bringing a tightly focused approach to skills development. They have been described as concise and punchy and a workshop typically lasts 90 minutes. All the Business Competencies are supported by self-help guides which are run either on-or off-the-job and include activities such as observation and review, reading, and ‘one minute guides’ offering top tips and tactics.
Identifying key competencies also helps Harrods to design its recruitment process to ensure that it attracts the best candidates. They must have the right approach to sales, customer service and decision-making and support the ‘theatre of retail’ that underpins Harrods’ reputation. This is about flair, showmanship and expertise. Harrods Learning and Development department must be proactive in responding to changing customer needs. For example, Harrods has introduced cultural awareness training for employees better to serve the increasing number of customers from the Middle East, China, Brazil and Russia.