Five years ago, EADA set up the Centre for Retail Leadership with the aim of generating and transmitting knowledge in this sector as well as promoting a range of activities including providing training to companies and professionals and research in retail.
How did you come up with the idea for this new project?
With our prior expertise in the retail sector, we detected a series of unmet training needs. We realised that there were many companies in this sector that were growing but that didn’t have professionals with the right training to take on positions of responsibility. So, we decided to set up this centre with a three-pronged objective: to generate knowledge in retail through academic and applied research, to share this information through training programmes, and to create a broader community to discuss retail related issues.
How have the first five years of the project gone?
The response has been good. Don’t forget that this is the first training centre focused exclusively on retail, which gives us a competitive advantage when it comes to speaking with companies. What’s more, we are supplementing this service by contributing new knowledge. In fact, we carry out a study every year. For example, last year’s study was on the environmental awareness of purchasers and this year’s is on consumer digitalisation. In addition to this, we want to organise workshops called Retail Leadership Workshops. These will be half-day workshops to share information with the sector’s main stakeholders.
What kinds of profiles do the professionals who come to the Centre have?
In the retail world, there are two types of profiles: students looking for a temporary job and who then leave the company; and people who stay on but do not have the appropriate training. Over time, the latter get promoted because of the practical know-how they have gained through years of experience. However, we have detected that they have a tremendous gap in certain areas such as decision-making, people management and financial expertise. Therefore, our Centre tries to address these needs by catering primarily to intermediate posts.
How do you train these people?
A year ago, we carried out a study on the essential competencies for working in retailing, which we grouped into three blocks: knowledge of the business (customer managements, finance, etc.); people management (motivation, team management, etc.); and knowledge of oneself (communication, flexibility, adaptability, frustration management, etc.). We then proceeded to develop each of these aspects, but always adapting them to the company culture.
What are the distinguishing characteristics of people management in this sector?
Nowadays this market is undergoing big changes — due to competition from e-commerce — to such an extent that the only way that stores can contribute added value is through the people who work in them. In other words, the human factor and dealing with customers make the big difference. In order to achieve this, however, these workers need to feel motivated to improve their customer service.
And how can you motivate these people when their working conditions are not the best?
It’s true that traditionally, the working hours, salary and geographical mobility of these types of positions didn’t make things easy, but I believe that this is changing. I am increasingly coming across retail firms for whom this has become something strategic. People are no longer regarded as a cost and are viewed more and more as a very important asset. And what they are doing is involving staff in the point of sale and making them feel identified with the brand and the company culture. Our role as a Centre is precisely that: to try to transmit excellence through transformation and to help companies to undertake this process properly.
What role does the store manager play in this transformation process?
It is absolutely essential that store managers identify with the culture and values of the brand. After that, the rest of the transformation can be accomplished through training. In this respect, retailers need to be clear about two things: coherence and consistency with their decisions. For example, one company that has accomplished this is Mercadona. Mercadona decided from the start to offer its workers full-time instead of part-time contracts. Just by doing this, it increased motivation in the store.
What does the sector have to offer that attracts people to work in it?
As a business school, we have many young students who love the sector for two main reasons: the internationalisation and the in-house promotion opportunities it offers. I would also like to point out that many of our students see their time spent in retail as another postgraduate course, because it involves such a variety of activities — logistics, operations, customer care, products and marketing — that help them to gain more experience for future career moves.
Article originally published 11/02/2016 in Equipos & Talento