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  • Joanne Neidorf

Results From Our Survey: Training Methods Across Topics

Merchant Insight Consulting recently conducted an online survey to gather input from individuals with deep experience of the Merchant and Planning functions on their experience of training and development "on the job."

We chose this focus because we believe there is an opportunity to improve both the quality and availability of training offered in retail buying and planning. We wanted to understand the current methods employed, how different types of content are covered, and how effective different methods are at achieving desired outcomes for training and development.

For a recap of the training methods employed, see our blog posting from October 4, 2017.

Comparison of Training Methods Across Topics

After looking individually at each type of training content (process, systems/tools, job-specific "hard" skills and general "soft" skills), we looked at how frequently different training methods were used across all content areas or topics.

Viewed in this way it is obvious how often "at desk" training with a peer dominates as the most regularly used method of training retail Buyers and Planners across process, system/tools and "hard" skills training.

What is also obvious from this chart is how "soft" skills (the purple bar) are not regularly trained using any method.

As we look at the training approaches used "sometimes" a different picture emerges.

We now see that instructor-led classroom or workshop training is more common and is particularly employed for process training and "soft" skills training.

Meanwhile, "at desk" training with a Manager is now more likely to be employed across all training topics. This is also the method most likely to be used for that critical "hard" skills training (the green bar).

"At desk" training with a peer is sometimes used for all types of training, but seems to be relied on most heavily for systems/tool training (the red bar).

Written instructions appear to be available at least sometimes across all types of training and online/e-learning training seems to be available at a few retailers, with a slight emphasis on systems/tool training and "hard" skills training.

Finally, we looked at which delivery methods were reported as "Never Used" for each area of training.

Online/E-learning is the least utilized method overall and across all training topics. Here, however, we should also note that our survey respondents all have more than 5 years of experience in their roles. As more retailers are launching online training and e-learning platforms, the availability of this type of training will increase in the future.

Therefore, the low degree of exposure to this method of training from our respondent pool may be a result of their tenure in their roles and the fact that they were trained prior to the roll-out of e-learning platforms at their respective firms.

Key Takeaway: "At desk" training - with a peer or a Manager - is the most common training method and Online/E-learning is the least common (often unavailable) across all training topics.

Given the time- and cost-effectiveness of e-learning, there is an opportunity to make high-quality online training available to more buyers and planners.

What Can You Do With This Information?

Take a moment to catalog and assess how your buyers and planners receive training and development in the four areas of: Process, Systems/Tools, "Hard" skills and "Soft" skills.

Is training delivered regularly? If not, what gets in the way of this delivery? A lack of time? A lack of resources? A lack of available content?

Could you employ new methods to deliver training more frequently - or cost-effectively?

In what topic areas do you most need to increase the frequency and/or availability of training?


To request a copy of the full survey report, please contact us at

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