New independent research from Towards Maturity, supported by Kallidus, reveals that the retail sector may be wedded to formal learning and has yet to explore the benefits of social and informal learning despite its growing commitment to investing in learning technologies and building its internal learning team.

Launched today, Towards Maturity’s In-Focus Report, Embracing Change in Retail Businesses, shows high aspirations for learning and development among leaders in the retail sector with 100% looking to increase productivity, improve the application of learning back at work and reduce time to competency. In addition, 47% of retail organisations have increased their training budget in the last two years and predict a further increase in the next two years to achieve that. However, their current attention is focused on developing capabilities to deliver traditional learning modules, often at the expense of other learning approaches.

The report highlights that retailers have not yet explored a broader mix of technology-driven learning techniques. Only 13% of retailers are investing in blended learning while the average across all sectors is double that figure (26%), with top learning companies nearly three times more likely to be using blends than retail companies (35%). This may be due to a lack of required skills and knowledge, as the research indicates over half lack the confidence in incorporating new media in learning design and only 4% believe their L&D teams have the skills for facilitating collaboration. What is more 71% do not believe that their own staff lack skills to manage their own learning.

As a result, retailers are struggling to improve productivity and customer satisfaction through learning and development, both of which are key drivers for success in the retail industry. Just 13% are able to demonstrate productivity improvements and only 14% have seen an improvement in customer satisfaction, compared with a cross-industry average of 38% in both cases.

Commenting on the findings, Laura Overton, Managing Director of Towards Maturity said: “It’s encouraging to see the retail sector is increasing its investment in learning, but it also needs to invest in new approaches to learning and new skills for the L&D team. Our research with employees in this sector show that staff are more able to learn for themselves than L&D give them credit for. This report gives insight into the new approaches and tools being used by top learning companies to help L&D leaders in the retail sector explore new ways to connect with, support and engage their learners.”

Rob Caul, CEO of Kallidus, which specialises in providing learning and talent solutions and has supported the report added: “Retail is rapidly changing and so must learning too. Just as the marriage of clicks and bricks brings together the best of online and offline shopping experiences for consumers, retailers able to blend formal learning with today’s modern approaches and tools stand to deliver far greater value to their learners and the business.” 

The report provides details of how retail organisations can evolve their learning practices by working more closely with business leaders, motivating self-directed learners and building an L&D team confident in incorporating the use of new media in learning design.

Key findings from the report

Over 600 leaders in learning and development completed the Towards Maturity Benchmark™ review in 2015.[1] 40 business from the wholesale and retail trade sector took part – 63% of these were multi-national organisations. Specific analysis of the retail sector shows that:

  • Budgets are rising: 47% have increased their training budget in the last two years and predict a further in increase in the next two years. 79% plan to increase the proportion of training budget spent on technology and 43% expect their L&D team to grow.
  • L&D teams are skilled at content development in house (28% are developing content in-house), but lack skills for facilitating social media or supporting workplace performance with only 4% and 22% possessing these skills respectively.
  • Just 13% of retailers are investing in blended learning while the average across all sectors is double that figure (26%) and almost triple for top learning companies (35%).
  • Only 14 of the 45 learning technologies tracked in the study are being used by over 50% of retail organisations compared to 18 across the sample as whole and 31 in use by top learning companies.
  • Retailers are especially struggling to improve productivity (just 13% have had success) and customer service (only 14% are achieving improvements) through learning (compared to the cross-industry average of 38%).
  • Retail organisations are realising significant impact from modernising their learning in terms of behavioural change (33% strongly agree they have noticed positive changes in staff behaviour) and in engagement (64% have increased the proportion of staff engaged in L&D programmes).

The specific analysis of retail businesses and full access to the findings has been made possible through the support of Kallidus. The study can be downloaded for free from and from

[1] L&D data taken from Embracing Change – the 2015 Towards Maturity Industry Benchmark Report, research with over 600 L&D leaders around the globe. See:

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