Inbrands targeted 1,800 retail staff with its new Online Retail Academy, aiming to instill a sense of belonging and develop key business competencies. Its noncompulsory blended learning courses have achieved significant uptake and excellent feedback from participants, and are giving Inbrands a new way to build the professionalism of its employees.
Currently, Inbrands has 172 corporate stores, 175 franchise stores and 5,356 multi-brand retail stores. This capacity and reach has made it the company of choice for international brands with operational activities in Brazil. However, with so many stores and acquisitions, Inbrands needed to find a way to unify and train 1,800 store employees within a reduced time frame, to tackle new challenges presented by the market.
Investing in capacity building
Although Brazil’s retail market has been evolving, it is still fragmented, informal and not yet fully professionalized. Inbrands sees investment in capacity building programs as the secret to developing crucial business competencies and creating a unified culture of belonging. “We want our employees to feel as if they own the company. We don’t want them to work at Inbrands, we want them to be Inbrands” says Patrícia Pugas, Director of People and Management.
Inbrands chose CrossKnowledge as its partner in the development of the Online Retail Academy, which uses the capabilities of the CrossKnowledge Learning Suite to support the rapid development of employee competencies. The Academy offers a range of blended learning paths and learning communities. Content is divided into basic and intermediate modules, which address key business competencies including leadership, communication, and sales techniques.
A winning strategy
As well as supplementing traditional classroom training with online courses, Inbrand’s salespeople and company leaders now have access to content from the CrossKnowledge Library to help them develop their soft skills and sales skills. CrossKnowledge content has already had a tangible impact on the conversations that Inbrands employees have with each other. “Our employees are now talking about things like personal development, change management and healthy relationships, because they’ve viewed content on these subjects presented by Harvard and Stanford Professors” says Patrícia Pugas. Managers are responsible for following up with their staff, and, thanks to the functionality of the CrossKnowledge Learning Suite, they can monitor progress and performance directly through the online platform. For example, managers can see when a team member was last active, which content they access most often, their last visited learning paths, and the total time spent on training. “There’s no doubt that these reports already play an important role in our strategy for talent management” says Patrícia Pugas. The CrossKnowledge solution has achieved a high level of learner engagement in the Online Retail Academy. The project is in its second year and, so far, over 1,500 users have accessed the learning paths, completing over 3,600 hours of training in 2014 and 1,750 hours in the first half of 2015. User ratings of the experience were either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in over 90 per cent of cases, and the platform was so well received that there are already plans to develop entirely new learning paths.
For one student, Priscila Silvério, a manager at the VR Oscar Freire store in São Paulo, online classes advance her knowledge and keep her up to date. “Sometimes we think we know everything, but we can learn something new every day” she says. All employees in the position of salesperson, store manager or supervisor were enrolled in the Academy. Since there is a high turnover rate in the fashion industry, as soon as people either left or joined the company, the system was updated to record the change. The result: last year over 1,000 people were registered, with over 40% of them completing the program.
“We consider this quite a significant statistic, especially for a new initiative that isn’t mandatory, says Patrícia Pugas. No one was required to participate in the training in order to receive benefits from the company. In addition, a large part of the capacity building happens outside of working hours.” Reasoning that employees’ personal interest in their own development has helped to generate the positive results. To further increase employee motivation, Inbrands held a graduation event at the end of the program in 2014, at which it revealed a variety of achievements. These included the brand with biggest percentage of participation and the employee with the highest grade, amongst others. “The graduation event increased interest in the next program, says Patrícia Pugas. Ours is quite a competitive team, and is motivated by a challenge, so everyone is excited about the next cycle.”
A promising future
According to Patrícia Pugas, the company is more than content with CrossKnowledge’s solution: “We plan to extend the project to include our network of clients in the wholesale channel, creating a new learning path alongside those we already have, and to make a new path available to anyone who has completed the first one. The project has been so well accepted, and has had such positive results, that we’re going to reinforce our entire communication process to encourage more and more professionals to take part.”